B.S.: Nankai University, China
Ph.D.: University of Florida, USA
Postdoc training: National Institutes of Health, USA

The research in my lab lies at the interface of immunology, nucleic acid engineering, and functional biomaterials. Our current focus is to develop novel circRNA/mRNA/oligonucleotides immunotherapeutics and vaccines and their delivery systems for the prophylaxis and immunotherapy of cancer, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders. Our research has been funded by federal and foundation grants from National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DoD), and American Cancer Society (ACS).

Research Interests

  • Circular RNA (circRNA) and mRNA vaccines for cancer immunotherapy and infectious disease prophylaxis;
  • Nucleic acid immunotherapeutics for cancer immunotherapy (circRNA, immunomodulatory DNA/RNA, gene-editing gRNA);

  • ADAR-related nucleic acid theranostics and immunomodulators;

  • cGAS-STING-targeted immunomodulation for the immunotherapy of cancer and autoimmune diseases;

  • Delivery of nucleic acid immunotherapeutics and vaccines. 


  • 2022 Nanoscale Emerging Investigator, Nanoscale journal
  • 2022 Mary Ann Liebert publishers Young Investigator Award, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society (OTS)
  • 2022 Excellence in Research Award, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy
  • 2022 Emerging Leader Award, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS)
  • 2022 Breakthrough Award – Level II , Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP)
  • 2021 Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA) , National Institute of General Medical Science
  • 2021 Emerging Faculty Scholar Award, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy
  • 2021 Early Career Investigator Award, METAvivor
  • 2021 AAPS Best Abstract Award, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
  • 2019 KL2 Scholar, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), NIH
  • 2014 Travel Award, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society
  • 2013 Early Career Investigator Fellowship of Nanotechnologies in Cancer Diagnosis, Therapy, and Prevention, New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2013 Dr. Alan M. Gewirtz Memorial Scholarship, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society
  • 2008 Grinter Fellowship, University of Florida

Selected Publications

  • 20. Zhang Y, Liu X, Zhang B, Zhou S, Shen T, Mei L, Chen L, Wang XY, Tyc K, Liu J, Zhu G. Small circular mRNA vaccines for tumor immunotherapy. (in revision, Nature Biomedical Engineering)
    19. Zhou S, Su T, Cheng F, Cole J, Liu X, Zhang B, Alam S, Liu J, Zhu G. Engineering cGAS-agonistic oligonucleotides as therapeutics and vaccine adjuvants for cancer immunotherapy. (in revisionMolecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids). See preprint in bioRxiv (
    18. Zhou S, Cheng F, Su T, Zhang Y, Zhu G. cGAS-STING immunomodulation based on oligonucleotides and biomaterials. Accounts of Chemical Research. (accepted
    17. Cheng F, Shurong Zhou, Su T, Xiang Liu, Suling Yang, Lin S, Guo W, Zhu G. Single-dose injectable nanovaccine-in-hydrogel for robust immunotherapy of large tumors with abscopal effect. Science Advances. 2023. 9(28):eade6257
    16. Cheng F, Su T, Liu Y, Qi J, Guo W, Zhu G. Targeting lymph nodes for systemic immunosuppression using cell-free-DNA-scavenging and cGAS-inhibiting nanomedicine-in-hydrogel for rheumatoid arthritis immunotherapy. Advanced Science. 2023. e2302575
    15. Su T, Cheng F, Humble N, Zhang F, Yu G, Bos DP, Valerie K, Zhu G. Lymph node-targeting albumin-binding DNA scaffold for the codelivery of adjuvant and neoantigens in combination tumor immunotherapy. Theranostics. 2023. 13 (13), 4304
    14. Su T, Xiang Liu, Cheng F, Zhu G. Ionizable polymeric nanocarriers for the codelivery of bi-adjuvant and neoantigens in combination tumor immunotherapy. Bioactive Materials. 2023. 26:169-180
    13. Dain L, Zhu G. Nucleic acid immunotherapeutics and vaccines: a promising approach to glioblastoma multiforme treatment. International Journal of Pharmaceutics. 2023. 638:122924
    12. Su T, Cheng F, Zhou S, Mei L, S Fu, F Zhang, Lin S, Zhu G. pH-responsive multifunctional polymer nanovaccines of STING agonist and neoantigen for cancer immunotherapy. Advanced Science. 2022. 9(23):e2201895
    11. Liu X, Zhang Y, Zhou S, Dain L, Mei L, Zhu G. Circular RNA: an emerging frontier in RNA therapeutic targets, RNA therapeutics, and mRNA vaccines. Journal of Controlled Release. 2022. 348:84-94
    10. Tang W, Zhu G. Pulmonary delivery of mucosal nanovaccines. Nanoscale. 2022, 14, 263-276
    9. Shen T, Zhang Y, Mei L, Zhang X, Zhu G. Single-stranded circular DNA theranostics. Theranostics. 2022; 12(1):35-47
    8. Su T, Cheng F, Pu Y, Cao J, Lin S, Zhu G#, He B. Polymeric micelles amplify tumor oxidative stresses through combining PDT and glutathione depletion for synergistic cancer chemotherapy. Chemical Engineering Journal. 2021, 411: 128561.
    7. Hu L, Chen W, Zhou S, and Zhu G. ExoHCR: a sensitive assay to profile PD-L1 level on tumor exosomes for immunotherapeutic prognosis. Biophysics Report. 2020, 6:290–298
    6. Zhang Y, Shen T, Zhou S, Wang W, Lin S, Zhu G. pH-responsive STING-activating nanovaccines for cancer immunotherapy. Advanced Therapeutics. 2020 3(9): 2000083
    5. Ni Q, Zhang F, Liu Y, Wang Z, Yu G, Liang B@, Niu G, Su T, Zhu G#, Lu G#, Zhang L#, Chen X#. A Bi-adjuvant Nanovaccine that Potentiates Immunogenicity of Neoantigen for Combination Immunotherapy of Colorectal Cancer. Science Advances. 2020, 6 (12), eaaw6071 (#: equal contribution; @: Undergraduate student)
    4. Su T*, Zhang Y*, Valerie K, Wang XY,  Lin S, Zhu G. STING activation in cancer immunotherapy. Theranostics. 2019 9(25):7759-7771.
    3. Ni Q, Pham N, Meng W, Zhu G#, Chen X#. Advances in the immunotherapy of type I diabetes. Advanced Drug Delivery Review. 2019, 139:83-91.
    2. Zhu G, Lynn GM, Jacobson O, Chen K, Liu Y, Zhang H, Ma Y, Zhang F, Tian R, Ni Q, Cheng S, Wang Z, Lu N, Yung BC, Wang Z, Lang L, Fu X, Jin A, Weiss ID, Vishwasrao H, Niu G, Shroff H, Klinman DM, Seder RA, Chen X. Albumin/vaccine nanocomplexes that assemble in vivo for combination cancer immunotherapy. Nature Communications. 2017, 8(1):1954.
    1. Zhu G, Mei L, Vishwasrao HD, Jacobson O, Liu Y, Yung BC, Fu X, Jin A, Niu G, Wang Q, Zhang F#, Shroff H, Chen X#. Intertwining DNA-RNA nanocapsules loaded with tumor neoantigens as synergistic nanovaccines for personalized cancer immunotherapy. Nature Communications. 2017, 1482.