Francis Szoka, PhD

Phone: +1 415 476-4676
Fax: +1 415 476-2744
513 Parnassus Avenue, MSB, Rm 822A
UCSF Box 0912
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Joint appointments

Educational programs

UCSF centers, institutes, and research programs

What I do

I apply biophysics, chemistry, and immunology to understand and devise better ways to deliver drugs, proteins, and nucleic acids to treat cancer and infectious diseases.

My research expertise

physico-chemical properties of phospholipid bilayers, biomembrane fusion, phospholipid bilayer vesicles (liposomes) for pharmaceutical applications, macromolecule delivery across membrane, genetic disease, cancer, HIV vaccine, cell-based therapies


PhD, Biochemistry, University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), 1976
MS, Microbiology, University of Maryland, 1971
BA, Liberal Arts, Johns Hopkins University, 1965


The Szoka group applies chemical, biophysical and molecular biology approaches to devise vaccine, drug and nucleic acid delivery systems to treat cancer or infectious diseases. These systems can incorporate lipids, peptides, polymers and proteins. These drug carriers are composed of lipids, polymers, peptides or proteins. His group has extensively investigated the role of lipids in membrane fusion and his designed, synthesized and studied the mechanism of fusogenic peptides. With group members, he has published over 220 manuscripts and has received 35 U.S. patents. One FDA approved drug product Amphotec™ and one biotechnology product Superfect™ have been commercialized from the patents. In addition to his University commitments, Dr. Szoka is a founder of Sequus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. owned by Johnson & Johnson and GeneMedicine, Inc. now known as Valentis, Inc. Sequus introduced sterically stabilized liposomes for anti-cancer drug delivery (Doxil™).

Research keywords

  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • HIV vaccine
  • Drug Carriers
  • liposomes
  • Lipids
  • Cell-based Therapies
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • drug delivery systems
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Drug Carriers
  • doxorubicin
  • cholesterol
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Nitrilotriacetic Acid
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • liposomes
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41
  • Polymers
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Lipids