Frank Gu

WIN Fellow, Canada Research Chair in Advanced Targeted Delivery Systems

Research interests: nanoparticles in medicine; therapeautic applications; targeted drug delivery


Professor Frank Gu received his PhD at Queen’s University in Canada, where he majored in chemical engineering and was awarded with Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

During his PhD program, he was awarded the Japanese Society the Promotion of Science (JSPS) summer fellowship to work under the supervision of Professor Kazunori Kataoka at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

In 2006, he was award with NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship to join the Institute Professor Robert Langer laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In July 2008, Gu joined Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. His current research interests are in the development of biomaterials for nanomedicine and biopharmaceutics applications.


  • PhD, Chemical Engineering, Queens University
  • BSc, Trent University

Frank Gu


Our laboratory specializes in the development of self-assembled polymeric nanoparticles for the delivery of conventional small molecule therapeutic agents. Our technology aims to improve the therapeutic index of currently available drugs by optimizing their efficacy and toxicity, and to improve the solubility and stability of drug entities that have been stalled in preclinical trials because of suboptimal biochemical properties.

  • Development of biomaterials for nanomedicine and biopharmecuticals
  • Targeted nanoparticles for differential delivery and controlled release of drugs

The central challenge in administering polymeric nanoparticles in vivo lies in the rapid particle clearance from the systemic circulation by the liver and spleen. As a result, only a small fraction of the administered nanoparticle dose is able to reach the targeted diseased cells and tissues. The nanoparticle clearance process is initiated when blood plasma proteins bind to the particle surface, making them visible to macrophages.

We propose that the rate of nanoparticle clearance by macrophages can be substantially decreased by systematically optimizing the surface properties of polymeric nanoparticles. We are developing a high-throughput combinatorial screening technique for studying the nanoparticle physicochemical properties to minimize blood protein adsorption on the particle surface.

Our lab also specializes in designing and optimizing the processes in nanoparticle manufacturing, which include particle formation, collection, drying and sterilization.


Recent publications include:

  • Linley S, Liu YY, Ptacek C, Blowes DW, Gu F. Recyclable graphene oxide supported titanium dioxide photocatalysts with tuneable properties for water treatment applications. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. (Accepted).
  • Verma M, Chen PZ, Jones L, Gu F. Branching and size of CTAB-coated gold nanostars control the colorimetric detection of bacteria. RSC Advances. (Accepted February 3, 2014).
  • Bedford E, Boujday S, Humblot V, Gu F, Pradier CM. Effect of SAM chain length and binding functions on protein adsorption: β-lactoglobulin and apo-transferrin on gold. Colloids and Surfaces B. Biointerfaces. (Accepted January 21, 2014).
  • Jahed Z, Lin P, Seo BB, Verma MS, Gu F, Tsui T, Mofrad M. Physiological Responses of Staphylococcus Aureus Bacterial Cells to Nanocrystalline Nickel Nanostructures. Biomaterials. (Accepted January 28, 2014).
  • Tseng W, Chiu SC, Sung CF, Chu HL, Chang YC, Jian WB, Chen YC, Yuan CJ, Liu HY, Gu F, Di Ventra M, Chang CC. Writing, reading and erasing information on a DNA memristive system. Nano Letters. (Accepted Jan 21, 2014).
  • Chan T, Verma M, Gu F. Optimized Polydiacetylene-coated Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Biosensor for Colorimetric Detection of Biomarkers. Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. (Accepted December 24, 2013).
  • Phan CM, Subbaraman L, Liu S, Gu F, and Jones L. In vitro uptake and release of natamycin Dex-b-PLA nanoparticles from model contact lens materials. Journal Biomaterials Science Polymer Edition.2014. 25(1):18-31.
  • Leshuk T, Krishnakumar H, Gu F. Size-tunable Fe3O4 spherical nanoclusters through a one-pot hydrothermal synthesis. Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology2013. 13(4):3127-32.
  • Davidson D, Verma M, Gu F. Controlled root targeted delivery of fertilizer using an ionically crosslinked carboxymethyl cellulose hydrogel matrix. SpringerPlus. 2013. 2:318-327.
  • Lin P, Mansour R, Lin C.W., Gu F. Improving Biocompatibility by Surface Modification Techniques on Implantable Bioelectronics. Biosensors and Bioelectronics2013. 47(15):451-460.
  • Leshuk T, Linley S, Gu F. Magnetically recyclable superparamagnetic Fe3O4/SiO2/TiO2 composite core-shell submicroparticles for photocatalytic water treatment. CLEAN Soil Air Water. 35 pages. (In Press).
  • Linley S, Leshuk T, Gu F. Magnetically separable water treatment technologies and their role in future advanced water treatment. CLEAN Soil Air Water2013. 41(12):1152-1156.
  • Linley S, Leshuk T, Gu F. Synthesis of magnetic rattle-type nanostructures for use in water treatment.ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces2013. 5(7):2540-2548.
  • Leshuk T, Linley S, Gu F. Hydrogenation processing of TiO2 nanoparticles. Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering2013. 91(5):799-807.
  • Leshuk T, Parviz R, Everett P, Krishnakumar H, Varin RA, Gu F. Photocatalytic Activity of Hydrogenated TiO2. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces2013. 5(6):1892-1895.
  • Meerasa A, Huang J, Gu F. Human serum lipoproteins influence protein deposition patterns on nanoparticle surfaces. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces2013. 5(3):489-493.
  • Leshuk T, Everett P, Krishnakumar H, Wong K, Linley S, Gu F. Mesoporous Magnetically Recyclable Photocatalysts for Water Treatment. Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology2013. 13(4):3127-3132.
  • Chan T, Gu F. Development of a colorimetric, superparamagnetic biosensor for the capture and detection of biomolecules. Biosensors and Bioelectronics2013. 42:12-16.
  • Yofee S, Leshuk T, Everett P, Gu F. Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs): Synthesis and Surface Modification Techniques for use with MRI and Other Biomedical Applications. Current Pharmaceutical Design2013. 19(3):493-509.
  • Leshuk T, Linley S, Baxter G, Gu F. Mesoporous Hollow Sphere Titanium Dioxide Photocatalysts through Hydrothermal Silica Etching. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces2012. 4:6062-6070.
  • Alwi R, Telenkov S, Mandelis A, Leshuk T, Gu F, Oladepo S, Michaelian K. Silica-coated super paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION) as biocompatible contrast agent in biomedical photoacoustics. Biomedical Optical Express2012. 3(10):2500-2509.
  • Liu S, Jones J, Gu F. Development of mucoadhesive drug delivery system using phenylboronic acid functionalized poly(D,L-lactide)-b-Dextran nanoparticles. Macromolecular Biosciences2012. 12(12):1622-1626.
  • Rosen J, Jones L, Gu F. Light induced aggregation of nanoparticles functionalized with 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin. Nano Life2012. 2(3):1-8.
  • Davidson D, Gu F. Materials for Sustained and Controlled Release of Nutrients and Molecules to Support Plant Growth. Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry2012. 60:870-876.
  • Bedford E, Spadavecchia J, Pradier C.M, Gu F. Surface Plasmon Resonance Biosensors Incorporating Gold Nanoparticles. Macromolecular Biosciences2012. 12(6):724-739.
  • Liu S, Jones L, Gu F. Nanomaterials for ocular drug delivery. Macromolecular Biosciences2012. 12(5):608-620.
  • Verma M, Gu F. Microwave-enhanced reductive amination via Schiff’s base formation for block copolymer synthesis. Carbohydrate Polymers2012. 87:2740-2744.
  • Verma M, Liu S, Chen Y, Meerasa A, Gu F. Size tuneable nanoparticles composed of Dextran-b-Poly(D,L-lactide) for drug delivery applications. Nano Research2012. 5:49-61.
  • Lehtovaara BC, Verma MS, Gu FX. Multi-phase Liquid Crystalline Gels with Controlled Architecture using triple helical polysaccharides. Carbohydrate Polymers2012. 87:1881-1885.
  • Rosen JE, Chan L, Shieh DB, Gu FX, Surface functionalization of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for cancer diagnosis and targeted therapy. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine. 2012. 8:275-290.
  • Rosen J, Yoffe S, Meerasa A, Verma M, Gu F. Nanotechnology and Diagnostic Imaging: New Advances in Contrast Agent Technology. Journal of Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology2011. 2(5):1-12.
  • Chan T and Gu F, "Early diagnosis of sepsis using serum biomarkers," Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics, 11(5), 487-496, 2011.
  • Huang JG, Leshuk T, Gu FX, "Emerging nanomaterials for targeting subcellular organelles," Nano Today, 6, 478-492, 2011.
  • Lehtovaara BC and Gu FX, "Pharmacological, Structural, and Drug Delivery Properties and Applications of 1,3-Beta-Glucans," Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 59(13), 6813-6828, 2011.
  • Lehtovaara BC, Verma MS, Gu FX, "Synthesis of Curdlan-graft-poly(ethylene glycol) and Formulation of Doxorubicin Loaded Core-Shell Nanoparticles," Journal of Bioactive and Compatible Polymers2011. 27(1):3-17.
  • Meerasa A, Huang JG, Gu FX, "CH(50): A Revisited Hemolytic Complement Consumption Assay for Evaluation of Nanoparticles and Blood Plasma Protein Interaction," Current Drug Delivery, 8, 290-298,2011.
  • Rosen JE and Gu FX, "Surface functionalization of silica nanoparticles with cysteine: a low-fouling zwitterionic surface," Langmuir, 27(17), 10507–10513, 2011.
  • Gu F, Langer R, Farokhzad OC, "Formulation/preparation of functionalized nanoparticles for in vivo targeted drug delivery," Methods in Molecular Biology, 544, 589-598, 2009.
  • Dhar S, Gu FX, Langer R, Farokhzad OC, Lippard SJ, "Targeted delivery of cisplatin to prostate cancer cells by aptamer functionalized Pt(IV) prodrug-PLGA-PEG nanoparticles," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America, 105(45), 17356-61, Nov. 2008.
  • Karnik R, Gu F, Basto P, Cannizzaro C, Dean L, Kyei-Manu W, Langer R, Farokhzad OC, "Microfluidic platform for controlled synthesis of polymeric nanoparticles," Nano Letters, 8(9), 2906-12, Sep. 2008.
  • Wang AZ, Bagalkot V, Vasilliou CC, Gu F, Alexis F, Zhang L, Shaikh M, Yuet K, Cima MJ, Langer R, Kantoff PW, Bander NH, Jon S, Farokhzad OC, "Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle-aptamer bioconjugates for combined prostate cancer imaging and therapy," ChemMedChem, 3(9), 1311-5, Sep.2008.
  • Zhang L, Chan JM, Gu FX, Rhee JW, Wang AZ, Radovic-Moreno AF, Alexis F, Langer R, Farokhzad OC, "Self-assembled lipid-polymer hybrid nanoparticles: a robust drug delivery platform," ACS Nano, 2(8), 1696-702, Aug. 2008.
  • Zhang L, Gu FX, Chan JM, Wang AZ, Langer RS, Farokhzad OC, "Nanoparticles in medicine: therapeutic applications and developments," Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 83(5), 761-9, May 2008.
  • Gu F, Zhang L, Teply BA, Mann N, Wang A, Radovic-Moreno AF, Langer R, Farokhzad OC, "Precise engineering of targeted nanoparticles by using self-assembled biointegrated block copolymers,"Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(7), 2586-91, Feb. 2008.

Please see Frank Gu's Google Scholar profile for a current list of his peer-reviewed articles.

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