Zhengrong Cui, Ph.D.

Zhengrong Cui Profile Pic

Professor of Molecular Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery
Alfred and Dorothy Mannino Fellow in Pharmacy

Research Interests

The Cui group is interested in pharmaceutical formulation development, drug delivery, and tumor experimental therapy. Below are two representative projects:

Engineering and characterization of dry powders of biologics and nucleic acid-based products. We apply thin-film freeze-drying technology to prepare dry powders of peptides, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), messenger RNA-lipid nanoparticles (mRNA-LNPs), small interfering RNA (siRNA), antisense oligos (ASOs), plasmid DNA, various types of vaccines, as well as live organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria, and bacteriophages). The dry powders increase the thermostability of the products. They can be reconstituted for injection or used directly for efficient pulmonary or intranasal delivery due to their unique aerosol properties.

Synthesis and evaluation of antitumor compounds: We synthesize immunogenic cell death inducers. For example, we have synthesized 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2’,2’-difluorodeoxycytidine (DHA-dFdC), a compound with potent, broad spectrum antitumor activity. Recent data confirmed that the compound is a bona fide immunogenic cell death (ICD) inducer. We are elucidating the mechanism underlying the ICD-inducing activity of the compound and applying the compound to sensitize immunologically ‘cold’ tumors to immunotherapy.

More peer-reviewed publications can be found at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=zhengrong+cui&sort=date


University of Kentucky, Ph.D., Pharmaceutics, 2002
University of Pittsburgh, Postdoc, Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2004

Selected Publications

  1. K AboulFotouh, H Xu, C Moon, RO Williams III, Z Cui, Development of (inhalable) dry powder formulations of AS01B-containing vaccines using thin-film freeze-drying. (2022) Int. J. Pharm. 622(25) doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2022.121825.
  2. CJ Emig, MA Mena, SJ Henry, A Vitug, CJ Ventura, D Fox, XH Nguyenla, H Xu, C Moon, S Sahakijpijarn, PJ Kuehl, D Revelli, Z Cui, RO Williams III, DJ Christensen, AUG-3387, a human-derived monoclonal antibody neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 variants and reduces viral load from therapeutic treatment of hamsters in vivo. (2021). BioRxiv doi.org/10.1 101/2021.10.12.464150.
  3. S Hufnagel, H Xu, S Sahakijpijarn, C Moon, LQM Chow, RO Williams III, Z Cui, Dry powders for inhalation containing monoclonal antibodies made by thin-film freeze-drying. (2022) Int. J. Pharm. 618:121637.  doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2022.121637
  4. H Xu, T Bhowmik, K Gong, T Huynh, RO Williams III, Z Cui, Thin-film freeze-drying of a bivalent Norovirus vaccine while maintaining the potency of both antigens. (2021) Int. J. Pharm. 609:121126, doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2021.121126.
  5. J Wang, MS Hanafy, H Xu, J Leal, Y Zhai, D Ghosh, RO Williams III, HD Smyth, Z Cui, Aerosolizable siRNA-encapsulated solid lipid nanoparticles prepared by thin-film freeze-drying for potential pulmonary delivery. (2021) Int. J. Pharm. 596:120215. doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2021.120215.
  6. SG Thakkar, Z Warnken, R Alzhrani, SA Valdes, AM Aldayel, H Xu, RO Williams III, Z Cui, Intranasal immunization with aluminum salt-adjuvanted dry powder vaccine. J. Control. Release (2018) 292:111-118
  7. X Li, S Thakkar, TB Ruwona, RO Williams III, Z Cui, A method of lyophilizing vaccines containing aluminum salts into a dry powder without causing particle aggregation or decreasing the immunogenicity following reconstitution. J. Control. Release (2015) 204:38-50.
  8. S Hufnagel, H Xu, MF Coleman, SA Valdes, KA Liu, SD Hursting, Z Cui. 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2’,2’-difluorodeoxycytidine induces immunogenic cell death in colon and pancreatic carcinoma models as a single agent. (2021) Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 89(1):59-69.
  9. SA Valdes, RF Alzhrani, D Lansakara, Z Cui, Effect of a solid lipid nanoparticle formulation on the bioavailability of 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2′,2′-difluorodeoxycytidine after oral administration. (2020) AAPS PharmSciTech 21, Article 77.
  10. S Sen, S Hufnagel, EY Maier, I Aguilar, J Selvakumar, JE DeVore, VM Lynch, K Arumugam, Z Cui, JL Sessler, JF Arambula, Rationally designed redox-active Au(I) N-heterocyclic carbene: An immunogenic cell death inducer. (2020) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142(49): 20536-41. 
  11. SA Valdes, RF Alzhrani, A Rodriguez, DSP Lansakara-P., SG Thakkar, Z Cui, A solid lipid nanoparticle formulation of 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2’,2’-difluorodeoxycytidine with increased solubility, stability, and antitumor activity. (2019) Int. J. Pharm., 570:118609.
  12. S Valdes, YW Naguib, WB Baze, RA Finch, CA Jolly, Z Cui, Preclinical evaluation of the short-term toxicity of 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2’,2’-difluorodeoxycytidine (DHA-dFdC). Pharm. Res. (2017) 34:1224-1232.
  13. YW Naguib, D Lansakara-P., LM Lashinger, BL Rodriguez, S Vales, M Niu, AM Aldayel, L Peng, SD Hursting, Z Cui, Synthesis, characterization, and in vitro and in vivo evaluations of 4-(N)-docosahexaenoyl 2’,2’-difluorodeoxycytidine with potent broad-spectrum antitumor activity. Neoplasia (2016) 18(1):33-48.

For a complete list of publications, please search on www.pubmed.gov.

Contact Information
Campus location:
DPRI 3.804

US Mail Address:
The University of Texas at Austin
Pharmaceutics Division
2409 University Ave., A1900
Austin, TX 78712-1113

FEDEX Address:
107 W. Dean Keeton St.
BME 3.510C
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712