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"Westlake University is a place full of exploratory spirit. Here I hope that I can join energic colleagues to explore the mystery of live, with courageous students."
Professor Sun graduated from Fudan University with BS in biology and was trained at the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, as a graduate student, postdoctoral and research scientist. He was an assistant, associate, full and distinguished professor from 1997 to 2020. He served as Associate Dean of David Geffen School of Medicine and Associate Vice Provost of UCLA from 2009 to 2019. In the past two years, he was a professor and chair professor in systems biology at the School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), when he also served as senior advisor to the President of HKU. Prof. Sun joins Westlake University as a chair professor and Director of Center for Infectious Disease Research.
Professor Ren Sun takes systems biology approaches to address critical questions in two areas: virology and immunology. His lab has integrated genomics, proteomics, structural biology, microfluidics, mathematical modeling, and deep learning to characterize biological processes at both population and single virus/ cell levels. For example, his team has developed a method that can generate functional maps of entire viral genomes at single nucleotide resolution. It lays the foundation for comprehensively defining virus-host interactions, and enables engineering virus for rational vaccine design. The approach was demonstrated with influenza virus in vitro and in vivo: when the immune-evasion functions were systematically identified and removed from the viral genome, the engineered viruses became more immunogenic than the wild type, but severely attenuated in vivo. Thereby, it can be a general rational approach to develop therapeutic or prophylactic vaccine for many pathogens.
Recently his team has been integrating synthetic biology and microfluidics to develop technology platforms to profile the adaptive immune responses (antibodies, B cells and T cells) in a high-throughput manner. At Westlake University, he will continue using systems approaches to investigate host adaptive immunity with high-throughput and quantitative measurement, incorporated with multi-omics data and deep learning. The long-term goal is to comprehensively define the host immunome thus developing novel vaccines and anti-cancer therapies.
Direction 1. Define the functions of viral genome at high resolution and develop new vaccines. Our goal is to develop and use systems biology approaches to comprehensive investigate the functions of viral genome and viral-host interactions of important human viruses (such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza A virus, HBV, tumor-associated herpesviruses, and HIV). The functional genomic maps will enable precision design of viral genomes to engineer novel vaccines.
Direction 2. Systematically profile adaptive immune responses post infection or vaccination. Our team is developing and using high-throughput technology platforms to map epitope-specific antibody, B cell and T cell responses, to systematically define the immunome of hosts post infection or vaccination. These technology platforms will be also applied to studies on cancers, auto-immune diseases and neuroimmunology.
Direction 3. Define protein structures and engineer protein binders for diagnosis and therapies. We have integrated in vitro evolution, protein structure characterization and mass spectrometry technologies to engineer proteins and to understand the principles of protein-protein interactions. Our goal is to generate or further improve protein binders for disease diagnosis and therapies.
1. Yuan S, Yin X, Meng X, Chan JF, Ye ZW, Riva L, Pache L, Chan CC, Lai PM, Chan CC, Poon VK, Lee AC, Matsunaga N, Pu Y, Yuen CK, Cao J, Liang R, Tang K, Sheng L, Du Y, Xu W, Lau CY, Sit KY, Au WK, Wang R, Zhang YY, Tang YD, Clausen TM, Pihl J, Oh J, Sze KH, Zhang AJ, Chu H, Kok KH, Wang D, Cai XH, Esko JD, Hung IF, Li RA, Chen H, Sun H, Jin DY, Sun R*, Chanda SK*, Yuen KY*. Clofazimine broadly inhibits coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. Nature. 2021 May;593(7859):418-423. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03431-4. Epub 2021 Mar 16. PMID: 33727703.
2. Du Y, Hultquist JF, Zhou Q, Olson A, Tseng Y, Zhang TH, Hong M, Tang K, Chen L, Meng X, McGregor MJ, Dai L, Gong D, Martin-Sancho L, Chanda S, Li X, Bensenger S, Krogan NJ, Sun R. mRNA display with library of even-distribution reveals cellular interactors of influenza virus NS1. Nat Commun. 2020 May 15;11(1):2449. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16140-9. PMID: 32415096; PMCID: PMC7229031.
3. Gong D, Dai X, Jih J, Liu YT, Bi GQ, Sun R*, Zhou ZH*. DNA-Packing Portal and Capsid-Associated Tegument Complexes in the Tumor Herpesvirus KSHV. Cell. 2019 Sep 5;178(6):1329-1343.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.07.035. Epub 2019 Aug 22. PMID: 31447177; PMCID: PMC6753055.
4. Thaker SK, Chapa T, Garcia G Jr, Gong D, Schmid EW, Arumugaswami V, Sun R*, Christofk HR*. Differential Metabolic Reprogramming by Zika Virus Promotes Cell Death in Human versus Mosquito Cells. Cell Metab. 2019 May 7;29(5):1206-1216.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.01.024. Epub 2019 Feb 28. PMID: 30827860; PMCID: PMC6818653.
5. Du Y, Xin L, Shi Y, Zhang TH, Wu NC, Dai L, Gong D, Brar G, Shu S, Luo J, Reiley W, Tseng YW, Bai H, Wu TT, Wang J, Shu Y, Sun R. Genome-wide identification of interferon-sensitive mutations enables influenza vaccine design. Science. 2018 Jan 19;359(6373):290-296. doi: 10.1126/science.aan8806. PMID: 29348231.
6. Dai X, Gong D, Lim H, Jih J, Wu TT, Sun R*, Zhou ZH*. Structure and mutagenesis reveal essential capsid protein interactions for KSHV replication. Nature. 2018 Jan 25;553(7689):521-525. doi: 10.1038/nature25438. Epub 2018 Jan 17. PMID: 29342139; PMCID: PMC6039102.
7. Qi H, Chu V, Wu NC, Chen Z, Truong S, Brar G, Su SY, Du Y, Arumugaswami V, Olson CA, Chen SH, Lin CY, Wu TT, Sun R*. Systematic identification of anti-interferon function on hepatitis C virus genome reveals p7 as an immune evasion protein. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Feb 21;114(8):2018-2023. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1614623114. Epub 2017 Feb 3. PMID: 28159892; PMCID: PMC5338388.
8. Dai X, Li Z, Lai M, Shu S, Du Y, Zhou ZH*, Sun R*. In situ structures of the genome and genome-delivery apparatus in a single-stranded RNA virus. Nature. 2017 Jan 5;541(7635):112-116. doi: 10.1038/nature20589. Epub 2016 Dec 19. PMID: 27992877; PMCID: PMC5701785.
9. Wu NC, Dai L, Olson CA, Lloyd-Smith JO, Sun R. Adaptation in protein fitness landscapes is facilitated by indirect paths. Elife. 2016 Jul 8;5:e16965. doi: 10.7554/eLife.16965. PMID: 27391790; PMCID: PMC4985287.
10. Olson CA, Nie J, Diep J, Al-Shyoukh I, Takahashi TT, Al-Mawsawi LQ, Bolin JM, Elwell AL, Swanson S, Stewart R, Thomson JA, Soh HT, Roberts RW, Sun R. Single-round, multiplexed antibody mimetic design through mRNA display. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2012 Dec 7;51(50):12449-53. doi: 10.1002/anie.201207005. Epub 2012 Nov 4. PMID: 23125174; PMCID: PMC3832244.