Prof. Zhang Shuguang (USA)

Zhang Shuguang is at Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his B.S from Sichuan University, China and Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from University of California at Santa Barbara, USA. He was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Whitaker Foundation Investigator at MIT. He was a 2003 Fellow of Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS fellow). His work of designer self-assembling peptide scaffold won 2004 R&D100 award. His and his colleagues’ work on direct harvesting biosolar energy was selected as one of the 10 finalists of the 2005 Saatchi & Saatchi Award for World Changing Ideas. He won the 2006 Wilhelm Exner Medal of Austria. He was a Guggenheim Fellow. He is a Fellow of American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors. He is a Foreign Corresponding Member of Austrian Academy of Sciences. He published over 160 scientific papers that have so far been cited over 28,000 times and with an h-index of 81. He is also a co-founder and board member of the Molecular Frontiers Foundation that encourages young people to ask the best questions in order to win the Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize. 

Zhang Shuguang made a serendipitous discovery of a repetitious and ionic self-complementary peptide segment in yeast protein Zuotin in 1990. This is the discovery of the first self-assembling peptides that eventually led to the development of a new field of peptide nanobiotecnology.  Furthermore, his discovery inspired numerous people around the world to design a variety of self-assembling peptides for widespread uses including peptide hydrogels in materials science, 3D tissue cell culture, 3D tissue printing and tissue engineering, nanomedicine, sustained molecular releases, clinical and surgical applications.  He co-founded a startup company that has made significant contributions to bring the self-assembling peptide materials to human clinical and surgical use. He founded a biotech company 3-D Matrix in 2002 that went to IPO in October 2011. It had a US$1 billion market capitalization in 2013.

Zhang Shuguang in 2011 invented a simple molecular QTY Code to engineer proteins, particularly membrane proteins and perhaps other aggregated proteins. Not only do these engineered membrane receptor proteins become water-soluble with little changing molecular weight and pI, but these detergent-free (water-soluble) membrane proteins also retain their biological function, namely bind their natural ligands. His invention of the QTY Code technology will likely have a big impact in engineering a variety of membrane proteins and perhaps some water-insoluble and aggregated proteins. He is a co-founder of a biotech company OH2 Laboratories that will commercialize the technology. It will likely transform many aspects of drug discovery and new therapies.

Furthermore, recently during large gene library synthesis and due to an imperfect DNA assembly (a technical mistake), he made an unexpected discovery in 2014 that some non-full-length membrane receptors can still bind their natural ligands.  This discovery has far reaching implications for the so-called pseudo-genes in genomes.  Some of such pseudo-genes may code for non-full-length proteins that may still be involved in biological regulations. Similar to microRNA, this discovery may alert scientists to carefully study the overlooked widespread pseudo-genes in genomes.