Professor Chun-Xia Zhao

Professor Chun-Xia Zhao
 Position Professor
 Org Unit Bioprocess Engineering
 Telephone +61 8 8313 5454
 Location Floor/Room N106 ,  Engineering North ,   North Terrace
  • Biography/ Background

    Professor Chun-Xia Zhao is a Professor and a current NHMRC Leadership Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at University of Adelaide, and a Honorary Professor at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland. She leads a research group focusing on bioinspired engineering, biomimetic nanomaterials and microfluidics for drug delivery and controlled release. Before joining UofA in July 2021, She was a Group leader and an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow at Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), The University of Queensland (UQ). She joined AIBN, UQ in early 2008 as a Postdoctoral Fellow after obtained her PhD degree in Zhejiang University.

    In 2011, Prof. Zhao was awarded an ARC Discovery project along with the Australian Postdoctoral Fellow as the sole investigator. In 2014, she was awarded the prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellow. Her research in bio-inspired nanotechnology and microfluidics has attracted research funding (>$50M)  from ARC, NHMRC, MRFF, CRC-P as sole/leading CI or CI, including six Australian Research Council projects as the lead CI or sole CI, Deputy Director and Program Leader of ARC Centre of Excellence ($35M), three national prestigious fellowship (Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship 2011-2014 and Australian Research Council Future Fellowship 2015-2020, and NHMRC Leadership Fellowship 2022-2026), and many UQ grants. In 2014, she worked with Prof. David Weitz (a pioneer in microfluidics) at Harvard University as Fellow of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 2016, her research excellence was recognised by the UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award. She has been appointed as member of the 2019 ARC College of Experts (2019-2021).

    In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field, Professor Zhao was awarded a NHMRC Investigator Grant (Leadership Fellow) from the NHMRC for her project "Novel nanotechnology strategies towards a new paradigm of precision nanomedicine".

    Prof. Zhao has contributed substantial high quality scientific papers in international top refereed journals such as PNAS, Science Advances, Nature Comm, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, ACS Nano, Chemical Communications, Advanced Healthcare Materials, and so on. She has been focusing on innovative research, and has been active in patent application to transfer her research into practical applications, as evidenced by her six patents. One of her patents was licensed to an international company. She has built extensive collaborations with scientists at top universities such as Harvard University, Brown University, etc. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief, Editorial Board member for several journals.

  • Awards & Achievements

    Selected Honour and Awards


    NHMRC Leadership Fellow


    Dean’s Commendation for Excellent Teaching Awards (Faculty of Science)


    UQ Strategic Fellowship (total 2 winners)


    Australian Research Council College of Experts


    UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award


    ARC Future Fellowship


    UQ Early Career Researcher Award (The University of Queensland)


    Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (Australian Research Council)


    Chemical Engineering Science Top 20 reviewer of 2010, 2012


    Tang Yongqian Paper Scholarship


    SME Scholarship (National Scholarship)


    Excellent Graduate Student Scholarship (University scholarship)


    Baosteel Excellent Student Scholarship (National Scholarship, 10 for the whole university)

  • Research Interests

    The Zhao Group, led by Professor Zhao, focusses on the discovery and development of new knowledge and new approaches for making bio-inspired functional micro/nano materials based on biomimetic engineering and microfluidic technology for drug delivery and controlled release.

    The Group has developed facile and scalable methods for producing libraries of multifunctional materials (liposomes, polymeric nanoparticles and core-shell nanomaterials) for drug delivery and controlled release, and has been developing tumour-on-a-chip and organs-on-a-chip to evaluate these systems with the ultimate goal of accelerating their clinical translation. The Group has also been working with industry partners and collaborators to translate their patented technologies into commercial applications

    Current research funding and projects (available for PhD candidates)

    (1) ARC Discovery project: Precision-engineered hybrid core-shell materials

    The poor water solubility of many chemical actives hinders the development of new pharmaceutical, agricultural, food products. For example, 40% of approved drugs and 90% of drugs in development are water-insoluble. New methods are needed for more efficient formulation and delivery of these drugs. This research will develop new platform technologies for making hybrid core-shell materials with exceptionally high drug loading capacity and programmed drug release, delivering new technologies for the manufacture of high-value pharmaceutical products. The novel core-shell materials will enable more efficient delivery of hydrophobic ingredients, and place Australia at the forefront of nanotechnology and drug delivery research. The future applications of these materials in a wide variety of fields, such as pharmaceuticals (controlled release of drugs), and agriculture (sustained release of hydrophobic insecticides, plant protection agents and fertiliser) may lead in the longer term to considerable economic and social benefits.

    2. ARC Discovery Project: Mechanical modulation of particle-cell interactions

    Nano/microtechnology and material engineering hold enormous promise for Australia’s multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. The convergence of nano/microtechnology, material engineering and cell manufacturing offers unique opportunities to develop novel particle-based artificial cell systems for activating immune cells (T cells) for cell production. Building on a recent breakthrough in engineering core-shell materials using designed biomolecules, the project aims to develop novel nano/micro particles with tunable stiffness, contribute new knowledge to the optimum design of artificial cells for various biological applications, and provide new design rules for engineering materials for cell production, shifting the paradigm of cell engineering. The new class of stiffness tunable particle system will provide technologically advanced materials for future applications in cell engineering and manufacturing. Project outcomes will expand Australia’s knowledge base in the area of bioengineering and biotechnology, and position Australia at the forefront of bionanotechnology.

    3. ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals

    Project 1 Development of novel bio-inspired biomolecules for controlling colloidal stability

    This project aims to design biomolecules (peptides and proteins) for controlling the stability of colloid particles. A series of biomolecules (peptides and proteins) will be designed to have different structures and surface activity. Peptides will be synthesised using chemical methods, while proteins will be expressed in E. Coli and produced using a simple chromatography-free separation method. The interactions between these designed biomolecules and colloid particles with different charge, size and hydrophobicity will be systematically studied using a variety of techniques including settling tests, depletion adsorption isotherms, turbidity measurements, atomic force microscopy, zeta-potential, dynamic light scattering and scanning electron microscopy. These designed biomolecules along with the fundamental understanding of their interactions with colloid particles will improve handling and processing of particles suspensions for various applications in mineral processing, water purification, wastewater and sewage treatment, etc.

    Project 2 Stimuli-responsive soft materials based on biomolecules

    This project aims to develop stimuli-responsive soft materials (foams and emulsions) using designed biomolecules (proteins and peptides). Peptides or proteins are informational polymers made up of amino acids and are increasingly viewed as key building blocks to achieve specific functions owing to their biocompatibility, sustainability, and ease of functionalization, coupled with facile methods for their economic manufacture. Enabled by the diversity of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids, there is a large sequence and structural solution space for design. This work aims to explore the functionality of using biomolecules to stabilise foams or emulsions, and the potential for switching that functionality based on different switching mechanisms. This study seeks to develop the functionality offered by biomolecules such as peptides or proteins that change conformation when adsorbed to an interface in controlling the nature of foams, emulsions, and flocculated suspensions. The designed biomolecules as well as the developed soft materials have great potential in a wide range of applications in mineral processing, pharmaceuticals, food industry, agriculture, etc.

    PhD student scholarships are available for these projects. Please contact Prof. Chun-Xia Zhao for more information at

  • Research Funding

    Prof. Zhao has attracted more than $50M research funding from ARC, NHMRC, MRFF, CRC-P, AEA, as well as industry partners including three national prestigious fellowship (2011 Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014 Australian Research Council Future Fellow and 2021 NHMRC Leadership Fellow), one NHMRC, six Australian Research Council projects as the lead CI or sole CI), and the Deputy Director and Program Leader of ARC Centre of Excellence ($35 M).

  • Publications

    Featured articles
    Prof. Zhao has published more than 100 research articles in leading journals including:
    1. Guangze Yang, Yun Liu, Yue Hui, Tengjisi, Dong Chen,  David A. Weitz,  Chun-Xia Zhao*. Implications of Quenching to Dequenching Switch in Quantitative Cell Uptake and Biodistribution of Dye‐Labeled Nanoparticles. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2021
    2. Baiheng Wu, Zhu Sun, Jiangchao Wu, Jian Ruan, Peng Zhao, Kai Liu, Chun-Xia Zhao, Jianpeng Sheng, Tingbo Liang  and Dong Chen (2021). Nanoparticle-stabilized oxygen microcapsules prepared by interfacial polymerization for enhanced oxygen delivery. Angewandte Chemie (International Edition). doi: 10.1002/anie.202100752
    3. Yue Hui, Xin Yi, David Wibowo, Guangze Yang, Anton P.J. Middelberg, Huajian Gao, and Chun-Xia Zhao*. Nanoparticle elasticity regulates phagocytosis and cancer cell uptake, Science Advances, 2021, DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aaz4316
    4. Yun Liu, Guangze Yang, Thejus Baby, Tengjisi, Dong Chen, David A. Weitz, Chun-Xia Zhao*. Stable polymer nanoparticles with exceptionally high drug loading by sequential nanoprecipitation. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2020, 59, 4720-4728 (Published as hot paper)
    5. Lingfei Lu, Benhao Li, Suwan Ding, Yong Fan, Shangfeng Wang, Caixia Sun, Mengyao Zhao, Chun-Xia Zhao and Fan Zhang. NIR-II Bioluminescence for in Vivo High Contrast Imaging and in Situ ATP-Mediated Metastases Tracing. Nature Communications, 2020 11, 4192
    6. Yun Liu  Guangze Yang  Song Jin  Run Zhang  Peng Chen  Tengjisi  Lianzhou Wang  Dong Chen  David A. Weitz  Chun-Xia Zhao*. J‐Aggregate‐Based FRET Monitoring of Drug Release from Polymer Nanoparticles with High Drug Loading. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2020, 59,2–12
    7. Guangze Yang,  Yun Liu,  Haofei Wang,  Russell Wilson,  Yue Hui,  Alice Yu,  David Wibowo,  Cheng Zhang, Andrew Whittaker,  Anton Middelberg,  Chun-Xia Zhao*. Bioinspired Core‐Shell Nanoparticles for Hydrophobic Drug Delivery. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2019,
    8. Yue Hui, Xin Yi, Fei Hou, David Wibowo, Fan Zhang, Dongyuan Zhao, Huajian Gao and Chun-Xia Zhao*. Role of Nanoparticle Mechanical Properties in Cancer Drug Delivery. ACS Nano, 2019, doi:10.1021/acsnano.9b03924 (Invited review)
    9. Rui Ran, Hao-Fei Wang, Fei Hou, Yun Liu, Yue Hui, Nikolai Petrovsky, Fan Zhang and Chun-Xia Zhao*. A Microfluidic Tumor-on-a-Chip for Assessing Multifunctional Liposomes’ Tumor Targeting and Anticancer Efficacy. Advanced Healthcare Materials. 2019, 8 (8), 1900015.
    10. Yun Liu, Yue Hui, Rui Ran, Guang-Ze Yang, David Wibowo, Hao-Fei Wang, Anton P. J. Middelberg, and Chun-Xia Zhao*. Synergetic Combinations of Dual-Targeting Ligands for Enhanced In Vitro and In Vivo Tumor Targeting. Advanced Healthcare Materials. 2018, 1800106
    11. Hao-Fei Wang, Rui Ran, Yun Liu, Yue Hui, Bijun Zeng, Dong Chen, David A. Weitz and Chun-Xia Zhao*. Tumor-Vasculature-on-a-Chip for Investigating Nanoparticle Extravasation and Tumor Accumulation. ACS Nano, 2018, 12 (11), pp 11600–11609. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b06846
    12. Yue Hui, David Wibowo, Yun Liu, Rui Ran, Hao-Fei Wang, Seth Arjun, Anton P.J. Middelberg and Chun-Xia Zhao*. Understanding the Effects of Nanocapsular Mechanical Property on Passive and Active Tumor Targeting. ACS Nano, 2018, 12(3): 2846-2857. doi:10.1021/acsnano.8b00242
    13. Dong Chen, Esther Amstad, Chun-Xia Zhao, Liheng Cai, Jing Fan, Qiushui Chen, Mingtan Hai, Stephan Koehler, Huidan Zhang, Zhenzhong Yang and David A. Weitz. Biocompatible Amphiphilic Hydrogel-Solid Dimer Particles as Colloidal Surfactants. ACS Nano, 2017, 11 (12), pp 11978–11985
    14. Chun-Xia Zhao*. Multiphase flow microfluidics for the production of single or multiple emulsions for drug delivery. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. 2013, 65: 1420-1446. (Invited review).
    15. Chun-Xia Zhao, Anton P.J. Middelberg. Microfluidic mass-transfer control for the simple formation of complex multiple emulsions. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2009, 48: 1-5.


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Entry last updated: Wednesday, 29 Nov 2023

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