Gang Bao combines genetic, nano and imaging techniques to fight disease

Posted: December 17, 2014 at 8:42 am

Gang Bao will bring a host of new expertise to Rice Universitys part in the fight against cancer and many other diseases when he joins the faculty March 1.

The highly regarded Robert A. Milton Chair in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University is the latest recruit to move to Houston with $6 million in funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Bao and his colleagues, nine of whom will join him at Rice, cover a wide range of research linked primarily by their interest in the genetic roots of disease and the promise of nanotechnology and biomolecular approaches to treat them.

Among their ongoing projects, lab members are working on targeted genome modification using engineered nucleases, the development of magnetic nanoparticles for use as contrast agents and for ablation of tumors and the application of fluorescent molecular beacons for specific RNA detection in living cells.

Dr. Bao has an outstanding track record of center leadership in developing and applying nanomedicine for disease diagnosis and treatment, and is a fantastic addition to the Rice effort in translational nanomedicine, said Michael Deem, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and the John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical and Genetic Engineering.

His work in the mid-2000s involved groundbreaking contributions to the molecular imaging field, and he has turned to nanomedicine and nanomaterials-based interventions, for example, with special contributions to the isolation of specific cell types from differentiating human pluripotent stem cells. Most recently, Dr. Bao has made major contributions to the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for genome editing, Deem said.

The opportunity to work at Rices BioScience Research Collaborative, with its close connections and proximity to the Texas Medical Center, made the offer too good to resist, said Bao, who will be the Foyt Family Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and the CPRIT Senior Scholar in Cancer Research at Rice.

One thing I really like is that this building is right in the Texas Medical Center, very close to (the University of Texas) MD Anderson (Cancer Center), Texas Childrens (Hospital) and Baylor (College of Medicine), he said. For cancer research, this will make it much easier for me to work with colleagues at MD Anderson, a few blocks away, or at Baylor.

Another attraction, really, is that the undergraduate programs at Rice are super strong. I always want to attract undergraduates to my lab to do research, he said.

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. The mutation causes the body to make sticky, crescent-shaped red blood cells that contain abnormal hemoglobin and can block blood flow in limbs and organs.

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Gang Bao combines genetic, nano and imaging techniques to fight disease

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