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Gang Bao

Gang BaoFoyt Family Professor in Bioengineering
Director, Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines 
CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research

Laboratory of Biomolecular Engineering and Nanomedicine

Postdoctoral Fellow, Materials Department, University of California, Santa Barbara (1988-1991)
Ph.D., Applied Mathematics, Lehigh University (1987)
M.Sc., Applied Mathematics, Shandong University (1981)
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Shandong University (1976)

Bio Sketch

Gang Bao is a pioneer in nanomedicine, molecular imaging, and the emerging area of genome editing. The nanoscale structures and devices engineered in his lab have broad-based applications in basic biological research toward the understanding of underlying causes of disease, as well as in the translation of nano-scale tools for disease diagnostics and treatment, such as targeted drug/gene and cell-based therapies.

Bao joined Rice University’s Department of Bioengineering in March 2015. In addition to his outstanding track record in basic and translational research as a principal investigator at Johns Hopkins and at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, he brings two decades of significant experience in the development of leading research and education programs in biomedical engineering. Three multidisciplinary centers, directed by Bao at Georgia Tech, have focused on the detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the development of engineered nucleases for treating single-gene disorders such as sickle-cell disease, and pediatric nanomedicine approaches for improving children’s health.

Along with his lab, Bao brings his Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines to Rice. The National Institutes of Health-funded center is developing gene correction techniques to address an estimated 6,000 single-gene disorders. Their first target is sickle-cell disease, caused by a single mutation in the beta-globin gene. Bao’s ground breaking work in designing and optimizing engineered nucleases plays an essential role in this nanomedicine center. Using DNA-cutting enzymes, such as CRISPR/Cas9 systems, Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENs) and Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs), Bao is developing tools for precise gene editing. He has also been developing nanotechnologies for multimodality molecular imaging, sensitive detection of RNA and proteins, and for targeted drug delivery.

Investigations in the Bao lab are highly collaborative, interrelated, well-suited for medical and life-science applications. In 2003, he co-founded Vivonetics, Inc., a biotechnology company that aims to develop kits and custom products to enable the visualization of gene expression in living cells. In addition, 10 of his nanotechnologies have U.S. patents or provisional patents. They include nanostructured probes such as fluorescent molecular beacons, semiconductor quantum dots and magnetic nanoparticles for use as contrast agents to study diseases and to analyze the underlying biological processes.

Grants from the NIH Common Fund, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and from the National Science Foundation are supporting Bao’s development of molecular imaging probes, and engineered nucleases and nanocarriers for drug/gene delivery. These technologies have been applied to a broad range of disease studies, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sickle-cell disease.

New research in the Bao lab is supported by a $6 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The work will focus on a high level of integration and synergy between physician-scientists and clinicians as well as in the development of programmatic, education and cross training components for a highly specialized workforce in biology, clinical medicine, and the quantitative sciences.

Bao is the author of more than 150 refereed publications, two books and four book chapters. He is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2007), of the American Physical Society (2007), of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009), and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2009). He has served as a member of the Society of Engineering Science’s Board of Directors (2006-2009).

Research Statement

Research in the Bao lab is centered at developing nanotechnologies and biomolecular engineering approaches for basic biological studies and medicine, which spans the spectrum from chemical synthesis to small animal studies. Current methodology development includes the superparamagnetic nanoparticle probes, quantum dot bioconjugates, activitable molecular probes and molecular beacons for cellular and in vivo imaging, with applications in disease detection and mechanistic studies. The Bao lab also develops novel strategies for drug/gene delivery using targeted nanoparticles, gene targeting approaches for treating single-gene disorders and other diseases using engineered nucleases, as well as bioinformatics tools and engineered nanodevices driven by biomolecular motors. The development of the methodologies involves nanoprobe and nanodevice design and validation, synthesis of biomolecules and nanoparticles, bioconjugation, specific tagging and targeting, cellular delivery, surface modification, protein production and purification, as well as addressing issues such as sensitivity, specificity, spatial and temporal resolution and signal-to-background ratio in molecular imaging, and efficacy in disease treatment. These novel technologies and methods have a broad range of applications, both in basic biological research, and disease studies.