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Professor Sun, Ren

Professor, Chair of Systems Biology
Professor (by courtesy) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information
Professional Qualifications
YearAwarding InstitutionQualification
Fudan UniversityBSc
Yale UniversityMPhil
Yale UniversityPhD

Professor Sun graduated from Fudan University with BS in biology in 1985. From 1986 to 1997 he was trained at the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, as a graduate student, postdoctoral and research scientist. After that he joined UCLA as an assistant, associate and then full professor. In year 2018, he was honored as Distinguished Professor at UCLA. He served as Associate Dean of David Geffen School of Medicine and Associate Vice Provost of UCLA from 2009 to 2019.

Professor Ren Sun takes systems biology approaches to address critical questions in two areas: virology and cell biology. His lab has integrated genomics, proteomics, structural biology, microfluidics, mathematical modeling, and deep learning to characterize biological processes at both population and single virus/cell levels. Has previously studied herpesvirus, influenza virus, Zika virus and human immune-deficient virus, he will shift towards coronavirus, Epstein-Barr Virus, and hepatitis B virus at HKU. He will build a team to use systems approaches to define viral host interactions, in vitro and in vivo, with quantitative measurement incorporated with deep learning. Similar approaches will be utilized to address fundamental questions in cell biology, including the control of gene expression and translation in biological processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation and immune responses.

For example, his team has recently developed a method that can generate functional maps of entire viral genomes at single nucleotide resolution. It lays the foundation for comprehensively defining virus-host interactions, and enables engineering virus for rational vaccine design. The approach was demonstrated with influenza virus in vitro and in vivo: when the immune-evasion functions were systematically identified and removed from the viral genome, the engineered viruses became more immunogenic than the wild type, but severely attenuated in vivo. Thereby, it can be a general rational approach to develop therapeutic or prophylactic vaccine for many pathogens. Furthermore, this approach can be used to engineer viruses that preferentially replicate in cancer cells and strongly stimulate immune responses against tumor antigens, thus function as cancer vaccines.

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