Zhen Gu

Zhen Gu


Professor, California Nanosystems Institute

4121J Engineering V

Email: guzhen@ucla.edu
Phone: (310) 206-3114
Fax: (310) 795-5956


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Dr. Zhen Gu is an adjunct professor in the Department of Bioengineering. Dr. Gu received his B.S. degree in Chemistry and M.S. degree in Polymer Chemistry and Physics from Nanjing University. In 2010, he obtained Ph.D. at UCLA, under the guidance of Dr. Yi Tang in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He was a Postdoctoral Associate working with Dr. Robert Langer at MIT and Harvard Medical School during 2010 to 2012. Before he moved to UCLA in 2018, he had been appointed as a Jackson Family Distinguished Professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

Dr. Gu’s group studies controlled drug delivery, bio-inspired materials and nanobiotechnology, especially for cancer and diabetes treatment. He has published over 160 research papers and applied over 50 patents. He is a co-founder of five start-up companies. He serves as an Associate Editor for Nano Research and Focus Group Chair of Bioinspired and Biomimetic Drug Delivery (BBDD) in the Controlled Release Society (CRS). Dr. Gu is the recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship (2016), Biomaterials Science Lectureship Award (2018), Young Investigator Award of CRS (2017), Alcoa Foundation Research Achievement Award (2017), Pathway Award of the American Diabetes Association (ADA, 2015) and Young Innovator Award in Cellular and Molecular Engineering of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES, 2015). MIT Technology Review listed him in 2015 as one of the global top innovators under the age of 35 (TR35). He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in 2019.
Our research laboratory is interested in exploring transformative strategies that apply stimuli-responsive systems for delivering therapeutics in dose-, spatial- and temporal-controlled manners. By accumulating and integrating tools of biomolecular engineering, materials chemistry and micro/nano fabrication, we are adapting the concept of “artificial vesicles”, which are inspired by effective approaches found in natural particulates, from viruses to cells. Drug delivery through such vehicles can be specifically regulated by physiological signals, such as glucose, ATP and reactive oxygen species, the level or activity of which is often closely associated with many diseases, including diabetes and cancer. In particular, we are studying glucose-responsive synthetic formulations and devices for delivering insulin in a self-regulated manner, which mimics the function of pancreatic beta cells. We are also developing the “programmed” anticancer drug delivery systems that can respond upon the elements within tumor microenvironment or subcellular environment and sequentially release multiple drugs to their most active destinations. In addition to endogenous triggers, we are also interested in utilizing exogenous triggers, such as ultrasound and light to achieve spatiotemporal administration.
  • Key Words:Bioresponsive Materials/Formulations; Cell Therapy; Smart Insulin Delivery; Cancer Immunotherapy; Bioinspired and Biomimetic Design
  • Featured Inventions:Bioresponsive Microneedle Patches (Smart Insulin Patch; Browning Patch; Melanin Patch; Blood Thinner Patch; Cell Patch); Platelet-Mediated Checkpoint Blockade; Platelet-Mimicking Nanomedicine; Liquid-Metal Nanomedicine; Elastic Drug Delivery

1. Qian Chen, Chao Wang, Xudong Zhang, Guojun Chen, Quanyin Hu, Hongjun Li, Jinqiang Wang, Di Wen, Yuqi Zhang, Guang Yang, Yifei Lu, Chen Jiang, Gianpietro Dotti, Jun Wang, Zhen Gu*, “In situ Sprayed Bioresponsive Immunotherapeutic Gel for Post-Surgical Cancer Treatment”, Nature Nanotechnology, 14(89), 2019. (Cover Feature) 2. Quanyin Hu, Wujin Sun, Jinqiang Wang, Huitong Ruan, Yanqi Ye, Chao Wang, Weiyue Lu, Ke Cheng, Gianpietro Dotti, Joshua F. Zeidner, Jun Wang, Zhen Gu*, “Conjugation of Haematopoietic Stem Cells and Platelets Decorated with Anti-PD-1 Antibodies Augments Anti-Leukemia Efficacy”, Nature Biomedical Engineering, 2(831), 2018. 3. Zhaowei Chen, Jinqiang Wang, Wujin Sun, Edikan Archibong, Anna R. Kahkoska, Xudong Zhang, Yue Lu, Frances S. Ligler, John B. Buse, Zhen Gu*, “Synthetic β-cells for Fusion-Mediated Dynamic Insulin Secretion”, Nature Chemical Biology, 14(86), 2018. 4. Chao Wang+, Jinqiang Wang+, Xudong Zhang, Shuangjiang Yu, Di Wen, Quanyin Hu, Yanqi Ye, Hunter Bomba, Xiuli Hu, Zhuang Liu, Gianpietro Dotti, Zhen Gu*, “In Situ Formed Reactive Oxygen Species-Responsive Scaffold with Gemcitabine and Checkpoint Inhibitor for Combination Therapy”, Science Translational Medicine, 10(eaan3682), 2018. 5. Naveed Bakh, Mabel Cortinas, Michael Weiss, Robert Langer, Daniel Anderson, Zhen Gu, Sanjoy Dutta, Michael Strano*, “Glucose-Responsive Insulin by Molecular and physical Design”, Nature Chemistry, 9(937), 2017. 6. Chao Wang, Wujin Sun, Yanqi Ye, Hunter Bomba, Zhen Gu*, “In situ Activation of Platelets with Checkpoint Inhibitors for Post-Surgical Cancer Immunotherapy”,Nature Biomedical Engineering, 1(0017), 2017. 7. Wujin Sun, Wenyan Ji, Quanyin Hu, Zhen Gu*, “Leveraging Physiology for Precision Drug Delivery”, Physiological Reviews, 97(189), 2017. 8. Yue Lu, Alex Aimetti, Robert Langer*, Zhen Gu*, “Bioresponsive Materials”, Nature Reviews Materials, 2(16075), 2016. 9. Yuqi Zhang, Jicheng Yu, Hunter Bomba, Yong Zhu, Zhen Gu*, “Mechanical Force-Triggered Drug Delivery”, Chemical Reviews, 116(19), 10. Jicheng Yu, Yuqi Zhang, Yanqi Ye, Rocco DiSanto, Wujin Sun, Davis Ranson, Frances Ligler, John Buse, Zhen Gu*, “Microneedle-Array Patches Loaded with Hypoxia-Sensitive Vesicles Provide Fast Glucose-Responsive Insulin Delivery”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. (PNAS), 112(8260), 2015. 11. Yue Lu, Quanyin Hu, Yiliang Lin, Dennis B. Pacardo, Chao Wang, Wujin Sun, Frances S. Ligler, Michael D. Dickey, Zhen Gu*, “Transformable Liquid-Metal Nanomedicine”, Nature Communications, 6(10066), 2015. 12. Wujin Sun, Wenyan Ji, Jordan M. Hall, Quanyin Hu, Chao Wang, Chase L. Beisel, Zhen Gu*, “Efficient Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Editing via Self-Assembled DNA Nanoclews”, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 127(12197), 2015.

  • B.S., Nanjing University, 2003
  • M.S., Nanjing University, 2006
  • Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 2010
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT | Harvard Medical School, 2010-2012
  • Biomaterials Science Lectureship Award, 2018
  • Young Investigator Award, Controlled Release Society (CRS), 2017
  • Research Achievement Award, ALCOA Foundation, 2017
  • Annual Health Care Hero, Triangle Business Journal, 2017
  • 2nd Prize of APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research, and Education (ASPIRE) Competition, U.S. Dept. State, 2017
  • National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers in Engineering Invitee, 2016
  • Sloan Research Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 2016
  • GOOD 100- “100 Global Creative Individuals”, GOOD Magazine, 2016
  • TR35-Global Top Innovator under 35 (Pioneer in Biomedicine and Materials), MIT Technology Review, 2015
  • Top 10 Science Images in Science Magazine, 2015
  • Young Innovator Award of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), 2015
  • Pathway Award, American Diabetes Association, 2015
  • Young Faculty Research Award, Sigma Xi Chapter of the Scientific Research Society, 2014
  • Junior Faculty Award, American Diabetes Association, 2014
  • Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Students Abroad, 2010