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Academic Staff

Professor SUN, Ren 孫仁

Professor SUN, Ren 孫仁

  • BSc (Fudan U), MPhil, PhD (Yale U)
  • Chair Professor
  • Professor (by courtesy) in Department of Mechanical Engineering
L4-64, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9792
+852 2855 9730
  • Virus-host interactions: cellular innate responses and adaptive immunity.
  • Viral genomics: define functions of viral genomes at single nucleotide resolution.
  • Single cell biology: gene expression, cell cycle and differentiation. 
  • Protein structure and protein engineering.

Professor Sun graduated from Fudan University with BS in biology in 1985. From 1986 to 1997 he was trained at the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, as a graduate student, postdoctoral and research scientist. After that he joined UCLA as an assistant, associate and then full professor. In year 2018, he was honored as Distinguished Professor at UCLA. He served as Associate Dean of David Geffen School of Medicine and Associate Vice Provost of UCLA from 2009 to 2019.

  • Director, Program for Cross-disciplinary Scholars in Science and Technology, UCLA (2008- )
  • Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UCLA (July 2020- )

Professor Ren Sun takes systems biology approaches to address critical questions in two areas: virology and cell biology. 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. Has previously studied herpesvirus, influenza virus, Zika virus and human immune-deficient virus, he will shift towards coronavirus, Epstein-Barr Virus, and hepatitis B virus at HKU. He will build a team to use systems approaches to define viral host interactions, in vitro and in vivo, with quantitative measurement incorporated with deep learning. Similar approaches will be utilized to address fundamental questions in cell biology, including the control of gene expression and translation in biological processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation and immune responses.

For example, his team has recently 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. Furthermore, this approach can be used to engineer viruses that preferentially replicate in cancer cells and strongly stimulate immune responses against tumor antigens, thus function as cancer vaccines.

  1. Hwang S, Kim KS, Flano E., Wu T, Tong L, Park A.N., Song M.J., Sanchez D.J., O'Connell R.M., Cheng G., Sun R. "Conserved herpesviral kinase promotes viral persistence by inhibiting the IRF-3 mediated type I interferon response." Cell Host & Microbe. 2009 Feb 19; 5(2): 166-78
  2. 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.
  3. 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 USA. 2017 Feb 21;114(8):2018-2023.
  4. 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. pii: e16965. doi: 10.7554/eLife.16965.
  5. Dai X, Li Z, Lai M, Shu S, Du Y, Zhou ZH*, Sun R*. In situ structures of the genome and genomedelivery apparatus in a single-stranded RNA virus. Nature. 2017 Jan 5;541(7635):112-116. doi: 10.1038/nature20589. Epub 2016 Dec 19. *co-corresponding authors.
  6. Xinghong Dai, Danyang Gong, Hanyoung Lim, Jonathan Jih, Ting-Ting Wu, Ren Sun*, Hong Zhou*.  Structure and mutagenesis reveal capsid protein interactions essential to KSHV replication. Nature, 2018. Jan 17  *Corresponding authors.
  7. Yushen Du, Li Xin, Yuan Shi, Tian-Hao Zhang, Nicholas C Wu, Lei Dai, Danyang Gong, Gurpreet Brar, Sara Shu, Jiadi Luo, William Reiley, Yen-Wen Tseng, Hongyan Bai, Ting-Ting Wu, Jieru Wang, Yulong Shu, Ren Sun.  Genome-wide identification of interferon sensitive mutations enables rational influenza vaccine design.  Science, 2018, Jan 18, Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 290-296
  8. Shivani K. Thaker, Travis Chapa, Gustavo Garcia Jr., Danyang Gong, Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami, Ren Sun*, Heather R*. Christofk Differential metabolic reprogramming by Zika virus promotes cell death in human versus mosquito cells.  Cell Metabolism, 29:5. P1206-1216, May 7, 2019. *Corresponding authors
  9. Danyang Gong, Xinghong Dai, Jonathan Jih, Yun-Tao Liu, Guo-Qiang Bi, Ren Sun*, Z. Hong ZhouDNA-Packing Portal and Capsid-Associated Tegument Complexes in the Tumor Herpesvirus KSHV.  Cell, 178(6): 1329-1343 Sept 5, 2019 * Corresponding authors
  10. Yushen Du, Judd F. Hultquist, Quan Zhou, Anders Olson, Yenwen Tseng, Tian-hao Zhang, Mengying Hong, Kejun Tang, Liubo Chen, Xiangzhi Meng, Michael J. McGregor, Lei Dai, Danyang Gong, Laura Martin-Sancho, Sumit Chanda, Xinming Li, Steve Bensinger,  Nevan J. Krogan,  Ren Sun.   mRNA display with library of even-distribution reveals cellular interactors of influenza virus NS1. Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 2449 May 15, 2020.