Our research interests include understanding the mechanism of antisense RNA mediated gene regulation using bacteria as the model and developing RNAi-based technology and therapeutics.
By serendipity we discovered that ectopic expression of p19 plant viral siRNA binding protein in bacteria stabilizes a ~21 nt siRNA-like small RNAs, named pro-siRNAs (for prokaryotic siRNAs, www.pro-siRNA.com). pro-siRNAs are RNase III degradation products of wide-spread bacterial overlapping sense and antisense transcripts (Fig. 1). And this phenomenon was exploited to make gene specific pro-siRNAs in bacteria which can efficiently and specifically knockdown genes in human cells. The pro-siRNA technology is the world’s first cell-based method of making pure siRNAs (Fig. 2).
Our lab is continuing to develop pro-siRNA-based technologies for research applications and RNAi therapeutics. We have developed bioprocess-based production method for large scale production of pro-siRNAs. In the future, pro-siRNAs could be used to make personalized RNAi drugs.
We have also invented tools for performing genome-wide RNAi screens using the pro-siRNA technology. Our approaches are taking advantage of an in-house high content screening facility. Our tools have been applied to discover important genes involved in human diseases including cancer and infectious diseases. The disease associated genes, that we have discovered, can become therapeutic targets of precision medicines.
Our projects utilize a wide range of techniques from biochemical approaches to high-throughput technology. We study a few model organisms from bacteria to mammalian systems. Our lab is also equipped with various state-of-the-art instruments.
Our technology has been commercialized by Xiaomo Biotech at Hong Kong Science Park: www.xiaomobio.com