Lei Wang, PhD
What I do
I am interested in building proteins in living cells using new amino acids. By designing novel properties into the new amino acids, we probe biological processes in their natural settings and engineer unique biomolecules to understand mechanisms of cellular function and to develop new treatments of diseases.
My research expertise
Lei Wang received BS and MS from Peking University mentored by Zhongfan Liu, and PhD from UC Berkeley mentored by Peter G. Schultz. His graduate research resulted in the first expansion of the genetic code to include unnatural amino acids (Uaas) in 2001, for which he was awarded the Young Scientist Award by the journal Science. After postdoctoral training with Roger Y. Tsien, Wang started his group at the Salk Institute in 2005, and moved to UCSF in 2014. Wang’s group has developed new methods for the expansion of the genetic code in a variety of cells and model organisms, including mammalian cells, stem cells, C. elegans, and recently embryonic mouse. His group discovered that release factor one (RF1) is nonessential in E. coli, and engineered autonomous bacteria capable of incorporating Uaas at multiple sites with high efficiency. By developing the concept of proximity-enabled bioreactivity, Wang’s group designed and demonstrated that a new class of Uaas, the bioreactive Uaas, can be genetically encoded in live systems. These bioreactive Uaas enable novel covalent bonding abilities to be specifically introduced into proteins and biosystems, opening the door for new protein engineering and biological research in vivo. Wang is a 2006 Beckman Young Investigator, a 2006 Searle Scholar, and a 2008 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award recipient.