Guizhi Julian Zhu, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmaceutics
Faculty/Staff picture
  •   Smith Building, Room 454D
  • School of Pharmacy - Dept of Pharmaceutics
    410 N 12th Street
    P.O. Box 980533
    Richmond, VA 23298-0533
  •  804-828-1609
    804 828‐8359
Openings for postdocs, graduate students (PhD, MS), visiting students and scholars, undergraduate students, and high-school students are available in the lab to work on projects in areas of immunotherapy of cancer and autoimmune diseases, immunoenginering, gene editing, nanomedicines/nanovaccines, and nucleic acid drugs. Animal work experience and other related research experiences are preferred. Perspective postdocs and visiting graduate students, please send CV/Research Experience/Research Plan in one PDF file to  ? Perspective graduate students are welcome to contact me at, and apply through VCU Department of Pharmaceutics or the Program of Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences.


  • B.S., Biotechnology (Nankai University, 2008)
  • Ph.D., Medical Science - Physiology and Pharmacology (University of Florida, 2013)

Post-Graduate Training

  • Postdoc - Nanomedicine and bioimaging for cancer immunotherapy (National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), NIH, 2018)

Professional Experience

  • (2018 - Present) Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • (2018 - Present) Associate member, VCU Massey Cancer Center
  • (2019 - Present) Member, VCU Institute for Structural Biology, Drug Discovery and Development

Professional and Scholarly Interests

  • Research interests: Nanomedicine and nanovaccine; ImmunoEngineering and ImmunoTheranostics; Nucleic acid therapeutics and probes; Cancer and immune disorders.
  • Teaching pharmacy and pharmacoengineering courses
  • Mentoring for students and postdoctoral trainees.

Research Interests

  • My research interests lie at the interface of immune-oncology, nucleic acid therapeutics, nanomedicine, pharmacoengineering and pharmacoimaging. My current focus is to develop “off-the-shelf” nucleic acid nanomedicines to modulate the immune system to treat cancer, and to interrogate the immuno-nano interfaces by super-resolution imaging. My long-term goal is to implement immunotherapy to a broad population of patients. These interests often involve the following areas:
  • ImmunoEngineering and ImmunoTheranostics
  • Nucleic acid therapeutics and probes
  • Nanomedicine and nanovaccine
  • Cancer and immune disorders


Books/Book Chapters

  • Book chapter: Zhu G, Qiu L, Meng H, Mei L, Tan W.: Aptamers-guided DNA nanodevice for cancer theranostics. Aptamers Selected by Cell-SELEX for Theranostics (Editor: Dr. Weihong Tan) 2015, 111-37


  • Chen X, Zhu G. Albumin binding immunomodulatory compositions. (PCT application) 62/331, 890.

Recent Publications

  • See full publication list in
  • 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)
  • Su T*, Zhang Y*, Valerie K, Wang XY, Lin S#, Zhu G#. STING activation in cancer immunotherapy. Theranostics. 2019 9(25):7759-7771. (Invited review).
  • Zhou S, Chen W, Cole J@, Zhu G#. Delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics for cancer immunotherapy. Medicine in Drug Discovery. 2020. (Invited review; @: Undergraduate student)
  • Shen T, Zhang Y, Zhou S, Lin S#, Zhang XB#, Zhu G#. Nucleic Acid Immunotherapeutics for Cancer. ACS Applied Bio Materials. 2020. (Invited review)
  • Zhang Y, Lin S, Wang XY, Zhu G. Nanovaccines for Cancer Immunotherapy. WIREs Nanomedicine & Nanobiotechnology. 2019 (Invited review. Accepted for publication)
  • Yang W, Zhu G, Wang S, Yu G, Yang Z, Lin L, Zhou Z, Liu Y, Dai Y, Zhang F, Shen Z, Liu Y, He Z, Lau J, Niu G, Kiesewetter DO, Hu S, Chen X. In Situ Dendritic Cell Vaccine for Effective Cancer Immunotherapy. ACS Nano. 2019. 13(3):3083-3094
  • Zhu G, Lynn G, Jacobson O, 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 HD, 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
  • 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. DOI:10.1038/s41467-017-01386-7
  • Zhu G, Zhang F, Ni Q, Niu G, Chen X. Nanovaccine for efficient vaccine delivery in cancer immunotherapy. ACS Nano 2017, 11 (3), 2387–92 (Perspective)
  • Ni Q*, Zhang F, Wang Z, Niu G, Lu G, Zhu G#, Zhang L#, Chen X#. (author list may vary) Nanotemplated synthesis of neoantigen-delivering nanoadjuvants for personalized cancer immunotherapy. (In prep.)
  • Ni Q*, Zhang F*, Zhang Y*, Zhu G#, Wang Z, Teng Z, Wang C, Niu G, Lu G, Zhang L#, Chen X#. In situ synthesis of poly-shRNA on nanoparticles for synergistic delivery of shRNA and Doxorubicin to treat multidrug resistant breast cancer. Adv. Mater. 2018. 30(10) (Inside Cover Paper)
  • Zhang F*, Ni Q*, Tian R, Jacobson O, Yu G, Zhu G#, Zhang L#, X Chen#. Polymeric Nanoparticles with Glutathione-Sensitive Heterodimeric Multifunctional Prodrug for In Vivo Drug Monitoring and Synergistic Cancer Therapy. Angew. Chem. Inter. Ed. 2018, 57(24):7066-7070.
  • Zhang F, Zhu G#, Jacobson O, Liu Y, Chen K, Yu G, Ni Q, Fan J, Yang Z, Xu F, Fu X, Wang Z, Ma Y, Niu G, Zhao X, X Chen#. Transformative nanomedicine of an amphiphilic camptothecin prodrug for long circulation and high tumor uptake in cancer therapy. ACS Nano 2017, 11(9):8838-48
  • Zhu G, Chen X. Aptamer-based drug development. Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev. (Invited review. In revision)
  • Chen H, Zhang W, Zhu G, Xie J#, Chen X#. Rethinking cancer nanotheranostics. Nature Reviews Materials 2017, 2, 17024
  • Cheng S, Jacobson O, Wang Z, Niu G#, Zhu G#, Zhu X#, X Chen#. (author list may vary) PET molecular imaging of EGFR in cancer using a chemically stabilized RNA aptamer. (In revision. European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging)
  • Zhu G, Zhang H, Jacobson O, Wang Z, Chen H, Niu G, Chen X. Combinatory screening of DNA aptamers for molecular imaging of HER2 in cancer. Bioconjug. Chem. 2017 28(4):1068-75
  • Zhu G, Liu Y, Yang X, Kim YH, Zhang H, Jia R, Liao HS, Jin A, Lin J, Aronova M, Leapman R, Nie Z, Niu G, Chen X. DNA-inorganic hybrid nanovaccine for cancer immunotherapy. Nanoscale. 2016 8(12):6684-92
  • Zhu G, Cansiz S, You M, Qiu L, Han D, Zhang L, Mei L, Fu T, Chen Z, Tan W: Nuclease-resistant synthetic drug-DNA adducts: programmable drug-DNA conjugation for targeted anticancer drug delivery. NPG Asia Mater. 2015 7, e169
  • Zhu G, Niu G, Chen X. Aptamer-drug conjugates. Bioconjug. Chem. 2015 26(11):2186-97
  • Trinh TL*, Zhu G*, Xiao X, Puszyk W, Sefah K, Wu Q, Tan W, Liu C. A synthetic aptamer-drug adduct for targeted liver cancer therapy. Plos One 2015 10(11):e0136673
  • Mei L*, Zhu G*, Qiu L, Wu C, Chen H, Liang H, Cansiz S, Lv Y, Zhang X#, Tan W#: Self-assembled multifunctional DNA nanoflowers for the circumvention of multidrug resistance in targeted anticancer drug delivery. Nano Res. 2015 8(11) 3447-60
  • Zhang L*, Zhu G*, Mei L, Wu C, Qiu L, Cui C, Liu Y, Teng IT, Tan W. Self-assembled DNA immunonanoflowers as multivalent CpG nanoagents. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 2015, 7(43):24069-74.
  • Wang R, Zhu G, Mei L, Xie Y, Ma H, Ye M, Qing FL, Tan W. Automated modular synthesis of aptamer-drug conjugates for targeted drug delivery. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136(7):2731-4
  • Sefah K*, Yang Z*, Bradley KM, Hoshika S, Jiménez E, Zhang L, Zhu G, Shanker S, Yu F, Turek D, Tan W, Benner SA. In vitro selection with artificial expanded genetic information systems. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2014, 111(4):1449-54
  • Zhu G, Zheng J, Song E, Donovan M, Zhang K, Liu C, Tan W. Self-assembled, aptamer-tethered DNA nanotrains for targeted transport of molecular drugs in cancer theranostics. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2013, 110(20):7998-8003 (** Highlighted by NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, Nanomedicine, Nano today, University of Florida, Gainesville Sun, etc.)
  • Zhu G, Zhang S, Song E, Zheng J, Hu R, Fang X, Tan W. Building fluorescent DNA nanodevices on target living cell surfaces. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52(21):5490-6 (** Frontispiece cover paper)
  • Zhu G*, Hu*, Zhao Z, Chen Z, Zhang X, Tan W.: Noncanonical self-assembly of multifunctional DNA nanoflowers for biomedical applications. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135(44):16438-45 (Highlighted by Nature’s Science-Business Exchange (SciBX), etc.)
  • Zhu G, Meng L, Ye M, Yang L, Sefah K, O'Donoghue MB, Chen Y, Xiong X, Huang J, Song E, Tan W. Self-assembled aptamer-based drug carriers for bispecific cytotoxicity to cancer cells. Chem. Asian J. 2012, 7(7):1630-36
  • Zhu G, Ye M, Donovan MJ, Song E, Zhao Z, Tan W. Nucleic acid aptamers: an emerging frontier in cancer therapy. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48(85):10472-80
  • Representative Publications (*: co-first author; #: co-corresponding author):