Research Projects
Protein Nanoparticles for Organ-Targeting Delivery of Drugs

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Many herbal medicines appear to be promising drugs for the treatment of obesity, NAFLD, T2DM and CNS disorders. However, few herbal compounds are approved for clinical uses due largely to poor water solubility, limited intestinal absorption and low oral bioavailability. The aim of the present project is to develop biocompatible and organ-targeting protein nanoparticles for controlled release of water-insoluble and chemically unstable drugs. Our previous studies have demonstrated that protein nanoparticles could enhance drug loading, promote the passage through the epithelial barrier, facilitate intracellular diffusion, allow organ-targeting delivery, improve pharmacokinetics and reduce gastrointestinal toxicity. Human serum albumin (HSA)/bovine serum albumin (BSA) is the most abundant plasma protein with a molecular weight of 66.5 kDa and holds numerous advantages including good water-solubility, biodegradability, excellent biocompatibility, absence of toxicity, without immunogenicity, and ready availability. Thus, serum albumin is widely used to form protein-based nanoparticles with a narrow range of particle size (50-300 nm) under versatile conditions while no toxic reagents are involved. In fact, several drug-loaded albumin nanoparticles (e.g., Abraxane) have been recently prepared and approved for clinical applications. The present project will focus the selection of receptor-binding ligands for cell surface coating of albumin-based nanoparticles. 

Professor JH Rong, School of Chinese Medicine

Professor Jianhui Rong is currently an Associate Professor in molecular pharmacology on Chinese medicine at School of Chinese Medicine, University of Hong Kong. Professor Rong received his PhD in Medical Biochemistry from Uppsala University, Sweden, conducted postdoctoral research at University of Alberta, Canada and visiting scholar research at School of Medicine, Yale University, USA. Since 2005, he has served as Research Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and School of Chinese Medicine, University of Hong Kong. Professor Rong’s research focus on the research and development of drug candidates from Chinese medicines and the discovery of basic molecular mechanisms for the treatment of neurological diseases, myocardial infarction and obesity. Professor RONG mainly use modern transcriptomics, proteomics, cell signalling technology and biotin-labelling of small molecule probes to study the protein targets and biological activity of Chinese medicines. For example, Professor RONG has discovered specific Chinese medicine compounds for regulating heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), leukotriene B4 12-hydroxy dehydrogenase (LTB4DH), arginase 2 (Arg2), and pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) and endoplasmic reticulum stress protein GRP78. He has chaired over or participated in more than 30 research grants from Hong Kong Research Grants Council, Hong Kong Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Fund, National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Seed Research Fund of the University of Hong Kong; obtained several international patents, US patents, Chinese patents; and published more than 70 SCI papers in internationally renowned journals such as Cell Chemical Biology, Chemical Science, Journal of Controlled Release, International Journal of Biological Sciences, Molecular Neurobiology, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Molecular Immunology, Neuropharmacology and Biochemical Journal. Professor Rong also serves as the executive member or committee member for several academic organisations, and reviewer for several international academic journals.

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For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.