Our Mission

We are dedicated to developing novel bioengineered tools to address unmet biomedical needs and biological questions, and to quickly translate them to the clinic to help patients. Through working at the interface of pharmaceutical sciences, biomedical engineering, biology, and medicine, our interdisciplinary and collaborative team aims to develop next generation stem cell-based and immuno-therapeutics and miniaturized diagnostics (Research). We are also fully committed to the professional development of the personnel in the laboratory and do everything we can to ensure successful career paths (Education).  If you are interested in joining the team, collaborating, donating, or are interested in what our research expertise can do for you, please contact Dr. Weian Zhao (weianz@uci.edu).

Immunotherapeutics Discovery

Immunotherapeutics including antibodies and T cells hold great promises to be next-generation treatment for cancer. We have been developing single-cell technologies including droplet-based systems to facilitate rapid and cost-effective discovery of immunotherapeutics.



Cells constantly interact with their surrounding niche. Physical and mechanical properties of cellular microenvironments regulate essential cell functions. We have demonstrated that tissue biophysical cues can be harnessed as a novel target to develop next generation cancer treatment.


Engineering Cell Therapy

Cell therapies including stem cells and immune cells have offered great hope for treating many tragic diseases. We have mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and immune cells in various stages of clinical development to treat autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders and cancer.


In Vitro Diagnostics

We have been developing rapid diagnostics to diagnose diseases at early-stages, when intervention is most effective. We developed the Integrated Comprehensive Droplet Digital Detection (IC 3D) technology for rapid detection of low-abundance biomarkers from complex biological samples.



May 2020 A Modular Microarray Imaging System for Highly Specific COVID-19 Antibody Testing. Per Niklas Hedde, Timothy J Abram, Aarti Jain, Rie Nakajima, Rafael Ramiro de Assis, Trevor Pearce, Algis Jasinskas, Melody N Toosky, Saahir Khan, Philip L Felgner, Enrico Gratton, and Weian Zhao. Biorxiv. (2020); https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.22.111518

Dec 2019 –  Rapid bacterial detection and antibiotic susceptibility testing in whole blood using one-step, high throughput blood digital PCR. Timothy J. Abram,* Hemanth Cherukury, Chen-Yin Ou, Tam Vu, Michael Toledano, Yiyan Li, Jonathan T. Grunwald, Melody N. Toosky, Delia F. Tifrea, Anatoly Slepenkin, Jonathan Chong, Lingshun Kong, Domenica Vanessa Del Pozo, Kieu Thai La, Louai Labanieh, Jan Zimak, Byron Shen, Susan S. Huang, Enrico Gratton, Ellena M. Peterson, and Weian Zhao*. Lab Chip. (2019); DOI: 10.1039/C9LC01212E. 

July 2019 – Combinatorial targeting of cancer bone metastasis using mRNA engineered stem cells. Aude I. Segaliny, Jason L. Cheng, Henry P. Farhoodi, Michael Toledano, Chih Chun Yu, Beatrice Tierrai, Leanne Hildebrand, Linan Liu, Michael J. Liao, Jaedu Chog, Dongxu Liuh, Lizhi Sunh, Gultekin Gulseng, Min-Ying Sug, Robert L. Sahi, Weian Zhao. EBioMedicine 


Latest News

July 8, 2020: Congratulations to Dr. Weian Zhao for being promoted to a Full Professor rank!

March 9, 2020: Congratulations to Audrey Fung! She was accepted into the Amgen Scholars Program at UCLA!

December 18, 2019: Congratulations to Dr. Zhao for being selected as a UCI Beall Applied Innovation’s inaugural Faculty Innovation Fellow!

Aug. 29, 2019:
Our collaborator, Amberstone Biosciences, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding grant for their research and commercialization of a new immunotherapy technique that targets tumor cells. Congrats!

Aug. 24, 2019: Congratulations go out to two of our hard working graduate students, Jayapriya Jayaraman who has received a UC Drug Discovery Consortium workshop fellowship and Josh Gu who was selected for the SOM PhD Student Fellowship App Incentive Award. These awards are well deserved!

More news…