Lei Wang, PhD

Phone: +1 415 502-3383
Fax: +1 415 502-4690
555 Mission Bay Blvd South, Rm 452X
UCSF Box 3122
San Francisco, CA 94158
United States

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, my lab probes biological processes in their native settings and engineer unique biomolecules to understand disease mechanisms and to develop new protein drugs.

My research expertise

unnatural amino acids, expansion of the genetic code, Protein engineering, protein drugs

Professional background


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, a 2008 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award recipient, and the 2021 Emil Thomas Kaiser Award recipient of the Protein Society.

Research keywords

  • unnatural amino acid
  • Protein engineering
  • Expansion of the genetic code
  • biotherapeutics
  • Signal Transduction
  • E. coli
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Amino Acids
  • Optogenetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Tyrosine
  • Protein engineering
  • Phenylalanine
  • Genetic Code
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases
  • proteins
  • Indolequinones
  • Lysine
  • Cross-Linking Reagents