Molecular Imaging & Nanomedicine
Dr. Zheng’s research is focused on the development of novel technology platforms for molecular imaging, photodynamic therapy (PDT) and nanomedicine.
The main interest of the Zheng group is to develop two new drug platforms to combat cancer: 1) light-activated intelligent molecules and 2) nature-inspired theranostic nanomedicine. Our lab introduced the concept of activatable photodynamic therapy agents which enable these photoactive drugs to be silenced in normal cells but toxic to cancer cells expressing specific signatures. This can great mitigate the collateral damage that often limits in cancer therapy. By mimicking how lipoproteins assemble and function, we created new drug delivery vehicles that imitate the structure and behavior of natures own nanoparticles. Such biomimetic design has enabled direct cytosolic transport of cancer therapeutics thus bypassing endosomal trafficking that is detrimental to drug efficacy. Our lab also discovered an unprecedented class of phototransducing lipid nanoparticles that expand the role of conventional organic nanoparticles beyond traditional drug delivery vehicles to powerful and versatile biophotonic tools.
To navigate through the challenges of translating discovery into clinical benefits, three factors come into play: 1) the Zheng lab attracts researchers and trainees from diverse educational backgrounds to work dynamically and synergistically to create an integrated and coherent amalgamation of ideas and concepts. 2) We created unique in-house capabilities to implement these ideas in all phases of discovery research (ranging from the small molecule or macromolecule synthesis to their evaluation in cancer cells and in advanced animal models). 3) We establishe productive collaborations with leading imaging technology labs and clinical translational labs across Toronto.
Our lab has recently played a leading role in the successful funding of the CFI Nanomedicine Fabrication Center, which will help to close the gap between fabricating nanoparticles for pre-clinical research and agents suitable for first-in-human trials. Indeed, with quantum leaps in imaging science and nanotechnology advancement, we are entering the exciting era of personalized medicine. With this point in mind, the Zheng group is committed to creating, validating and translating our discoveries for patient benefits.
I am currently recruiting graduate students. For more information, please visit my lab website.