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Zheng Li, PhD

Associate Research Professor of Bioenergetics, Academic Institute
Associate Research Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist
Weill Cornell Medical College

Research Lab


After graduating Magna cum Laude from her doctoral program at Fudan University, Dr. Li spent a year as a Research Specialist at Unilever. In 2004, she was awarded the NIH Fogarty International Fellowship and spent the next 3 years in PET imaging group at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in Bethesda, MD. In 2006, she received the NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence. After joining Houston Methodist Research Institute, Dr. Li built the medicinal and radiochemistry laboratory focusing on molecular imaging probe development.   

Description of Research

Dr. Li’s research involves the development and validation of novel molecular imaging probes for better understanding and early diagnosis of cancer and neurodegenerative disease. She also has interests in designing and synthesis of new bioactive molecules based on biomechanistic rationale and structural optimization as the therapeutic agent for cancer and using nanotechnique for targeted drug delivery.

Areas Of Expertise

Radiochemistry Molecular imaging Synthetic chemistry Targeted drug delivery Molecular imaging and targeted therapy
Education & Training

PhD, Fudan University
Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health
BS, Northwestern University


Patent Number: US 10 , 011 , 587 B2, Jul 03 2018


Discovery of class i histone deacetylase inhibitors based on romidpesin with promising selectivity for cancer cells
Zhang, K, Yao, Y, Tu, Z, Liao, C, Wang, Z, Qiu, Y, Chen, D, Hamilton, DJ, Li, Z & Jiang, S 2020, , Future Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 311-323.

Discovery of class i histone deacetylase inhibitors based on romidpesin with promising selectivity for cancer cells
Zhang, K, Yao, Y, Tu, Z, Liao, C, Wang, Z, Qiu, Y, Chen, D, Hamilton, DJ, Li, Z & Jiang, S 2020, , Future Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 311-323.

Systematic comparison of methods for determining the in vivo biodistribution of porous nanostructured injectable inorganic particles
Nizzero, S, Li, F, Zhang, G, Venuta, A, Borsoi, C, Mai, J, Shen, H, Wolfram, J, Li, Z, Blanco, E & Ferrari, M 2019, , Acta Biomaterialia, vol. 97, pp. 501-512.

Vulnerable Atherosclerotic Plaque Imaging by Small-Molecule High-Affinity Positron Emission Tomography Radiopharmaceutical
Yang, Z, Li, F, Yelamanchili, D, Zeng, Z, Rosales, C, Youker, KA, Shen, H, Ferrari, M, Mahmarian, J, Pownall, HJ, Hamilton, DJ & Li, Z 2019, advanced therapeutics, vol. 2, no. 8.

Investigation of parameters that determine Nano-DC vaccine transport
Zhang, J, Mai, J, Li, F, Shen, J, Zhang, G, Li, J, Hinkle, LE, Lin, D, Liu, X, Li, Z, Wang, RF, Mittendorf, EA, Ferrari, M & Shen, H 2019, , Biomedical Microdevices, vol. 21, no. 2, 39.

Single-Molecule Force Measurement Guides the Design of Multivalent Ligands with Picomolar Affinity
Yang, Z, Jiang, S, Li, F, Qiu, Y, Gu, J, Pettigrew, RI, Ferrari, M, Hamilton, DJ & Li, Z 2019, , Angewandte Chemie - International Edition, vol. 58, no. 16, pp. 5272-5276.

Targeted Maytansinoid Conjugate Improves Therapeutic Index for Metastatic Breast Cancer Cells
Jiang, Z, Yang, Z, Li, F, Li, Z, Fishkin, N & Burgess, K 2018, , Bioconjugate chemistry, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 2920-2926.

Li, Z & Li, F 2018, , Patent No. US 10 , 011 , 587 B2.

Developing VEGF receptors targeted molecular probes for PET imaging of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques
Yang, Z, Li, F & Li, Z 2018, Journal of Nuclear Medicine, vol. 59, no. supplement 1, pp. 1526.

A zwitterionic near-infrared dye linked TrkC targeting agent for imaging metastatic breast cancer
Yang, Z, Usama, SM, Li, F, Burgess, K & Li, Z 2018, , MedChemComm, vol. 9, no. 10, pp. 1754-1760.

Anti-angiogenic molecular probe for imaging of pulmonary arterial hypertension
Li, Z 2018, . in Molecular Imaging.

Development of Inhibitors of the Programmed Cell Death-1/Programmed Cell Death-Ligand 1 Signaling Pathway
Wang, T, Wu, X, Guo, C, Zhang, K, Xu, J, Li, Z & Jiang, S 2019, , Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 1715-1730.

A chloroquine-induced macrophage-preconditioning strategy for improved nanodelivery
Wolfram, J, Nizzero, S, Liu, H, Li, F, Zhang, G, Li, Z, Shen, H, Blanco, E & Ferrari, M 2017, , Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 13738.

The Isomeric Preference of an Atypical Dopamine Transporter Inhibitor Contributes to Its Selection of the Transporter Conformation
Abramyan, AM, Stolzenberg, S, Li, Z, Loland, CJ, Noé, F & Shi, L 2017, , ACS Chemical Neuroscience, vol. 8, no. 8, pp. 1735-1746.

The role of transmembrane segment 5 (TM5) in Na2 release and the conformational transition of neurotransmitter:sodium symporters toward the inward-open state
Stolzenberg, S, Li, Z, Quick, M, Malinauskaite, L, Nissen, P, Weinstein, H, Javitch, JA & Shi, L 2017, , Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 292, no. 18, pp. 7372-7384.

Pet Imaging and its Application in Cardiovascular Diseases
Li, Z, Gupte, AA, Zhang, A & Hamilton, DJ 2017, , Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 29-33.

An agent for optical imaging of TrkC-expressing, breast cancer
Kamkaew, A, Li, F, Li, Z & Burgess, K 2017, , MedChemComm, vol. 8, no. 10, pp. 1946-1952.

Prediction and Early Evaluation of Anticancer Therapy Response: From Imaging of Drug Efflux Pumps to Targeted Therapy Response
Menga, Q, Li, Z & Li, S 2016, , Current Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 23, no. 41, pp. 4625-4638.

Structure-Based Design of Potent Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase Inhibitors with Promising in Vitro and in Vivo Antitumor Activities
Bai, J, Liao, C, Liu, Y, Qin, X, Chen, J, Qiu, Y, Qin, D, Li, Z, Tu, ZC & Jiang, S 2016, , Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 59, no. 12, pp. 5766-5779.

Substrate-induced unlocking of the inner gate determines the catalytic efficiency of a neurotransmitter: Sodium symporter
Billesbølle, CB, Krüger, MB, Shi, L, Quick, M, Li, Z, Stolzenberg, S, Kniazeff, J, Gotfryd, K, Mortensen, JS, Javitch, JA, Weinstein, H, Loland, CJ & Gether, U 2015, , Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol. 290, no. 44, pp. 26725-26738.