• Research

    “We are in urgent need of sustainable, innovative, and potent solutions to advance engineering, reduce illness, and enhance human health.”

    Our research philosophy:

    The central paradigm of our research is using interdisciplinary approaches in engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics to manipulate biomolecules and complex biological systems. The main focus lies on developing cell-free synthetic biology and other cutting-edge technologies to engineer biological macromolecules and networks for addressing most daunting challenges in human health.

  • Ongoing research

    Hey, Future! We are ready.

    Cell-free Platform

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    Develop cell-free synthetic biology as an enabling technology by expanding the genetic code, controlling the translation, and diversifying post-translational modifications.

    Artificial Virus

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    Build a versatile, defined and robust virus-like particle (VLP) platform by imitating viral life cycle for drug/gene delivery, imaging, and material science applications.

    Biomolecule Origami

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    Advance the “protein origami” technology to provide inspiration for scientists hoping to create ‘smart’ materials or simply explore our understanding of the forces that control molecular interactions.

    Molecular Machine

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    Make incredibly tiny diagnostic and therapeutic “nanorobot” that smartly navigate under their own power to a specific disease target in the human body.

    Artificial Cell

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    Assemble an artificial cell for employing a new biosynthesis philosophy to overcome problems associated with multi-enzyme synthesis in living cells.

    Paper Diagnostics

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    Develop a method for embedding cell-free transcription/translation biosystem and synthetic genetic network onto paper for in vitro disease diagnosis.

    Artificial Nervous System

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    Construct artificial high-resolution sensory system for environmental, industrial, medical, and AI applications.

  • Past research

    Dear Past, thanks for all the lessons.

    Universal Vaccine

    Flu, HIV, Ebola, Zika, etc.

    The rapid dissemination of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus emphasizes the need for universal influenza vaccines which would broadly protect against multiple mutated strains. The discovery of neutralizing antibodies that block influenza infection by binding to the hemagglutinin (HA) stem domain raised the hope for broadly protective vaccines. These could avoid the need for annual vaccinations and reduce pandemic threats, and the stem subdomain of the trimeric HA ectodomain would be an ideal antigen.

    Virus engineering

    Virus-like particle, etc.

    Virus-like particles (VLPs) are probably the most precisely defined and therefore potentially the most useful complex nanometer-scale scaffolds. They have been extensively explored as vehicles for many applications in biotechnology (e.g., vaccines, drug delivery, imaging agents, biocatalysts). However, particle instability, antigen fusion limitations, and intrinsic immunogenicity greatly limit their development. Amino acid sequence plasticity relative to subunit expression and particle assembly has not been explored.

    Immunostimulant

    Flagellin, GM-CSF, CpG DNA, etc.

    Flagellin, a principal component of bacterial flagella, stimulates host defense in a variety of organisms, including mammals, insects, and plants. As a natural agonist of human toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), flagellin activates the innate immune response, which is considered important for priming and regulating the adaptive immune response. Over the past several years, a strong interest has emerged in developing flagellin as an adjuvant for use in human vaccines to stimulate humoral and cell-mediated immune responses.

    Cancer therapy

    Medical diagnostics

    Especially, biomedicine could benefit from nanotechnology, due to its potent applications for cancer imaging and therapy. Two emerging platforms have shown promise, including magnetic nanoparticle and ultrasound-activated nanoparticle. With specific relevance to cancer diagnosis and therapy, magnetic or ultrasound-activated nanoparticle-based treatment represents an important alternative to conventional chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.

    Biohydrogen

    Systems and synthetic biology

    Hydrogen (H2) is an ideal and clean energy carrier for the future with many environmental and economic benefits. Among different ways of hydrogen production, biological hydrogen production by dark fermentation has been considered to be the most practical because of low energy requirement, high hydrogen production rate, wide substrate range (e.g., lignocellulosic biomass and wastewater), and simple reactor technology. However, current approaches now have run into a bottleneck that makes the hydrogen productivity hard to be further improved.

    Natural pigment

    Antibacterial, antitumor, antiviral.

    In the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, due to serious environment and safety problems caused by many artificial synthetic pigments, research has focused on processes for the production of safe and natural pigments from natural resources. Natural pigments can be obtained from ores, insects, plants, and microorganisms. Red, yellow and blue are basic pigments. Most research has focused on the yellow and red pigment production. However, study of the blue pigment is limited, probably because not many organisms are capable of producing blue pigments.

    Biohythane

    From lignocellulosic biomass

    Biomass-based biorefinery will be a platform for producing different biofuels from renewable biological feedstocks. As gas biofuels, hydrogen and methane are two important energy carriers, which can be produced by anaerobic fermentation from various organic wastes. Because hydrogen fermentation from organic substrates is incomplete, the integration of hydrogen with methane fermentation will benefit the total energy recovery from the renewable biomass. Moreover, compared with ethanol or other liquid biofuels, hydrogen and methane are easily separated from liquid phase, which can contribute to the reduction of the process costs.

    Sugar & Bioethanol

    From chitin wastes

    About 100 billion metric tons of chitin are produced annually in the ocean waters, 109 tons from copepods alone, the most abundant animals on earth. The ecological significance of chitin degradation has been recognized for over a century. The carbon and nitrogen cycles would cease if this highly insoluble polysaccharide was not returned to the ecosystem in biologically useful form. The commercial significance of chitin breakdown has also been recognized in the context of production of bioavailable sugars and in medicine for the treatment of arthritis, and other joint problems, such as production of ethanol.