Zhiliang Cheng, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104


Tel: 215-898-6030

Office: 108 Hayden Hall



My current research in University of Pennsylvania has been focused on the development of novel imaging agents and drug delivery systems. Specifically, I am developing new formulations of multifunctional nanoparticles including liposomes, polymersomes and dendrimer nanoclusters, for in vivo imaging and targeted drug delivery to facilitate the realization of individual cancer therapy. The long-term goal of my research is to develop new nanotechnology for better understanding of biology, early diagnosis of disease, monitoring therapy response, and for guiding drug discovery/development. Once implemented, these technologies will provide more options to the clinician in providing personalized patient care, at an earlier time point, than currently available methods.






Junling Li, Yonghua Zhang, Junjie Ai, Qiang Gao*, Honglan Qi, Chengxiao Zhang, Zhiliang Cheng*. “Quantum dot cluster (QDC)-loaded phospholipid micelles as FRET probe for phospholipase A2 detection.” RSC Advances. In Press.


Jingzhuan Wan, Junjie Ai, Yonghua Zhang, Xiaohui Geng, Qiang Gao*, Zhiliang Cheng*. “Signal-off impedimetric immunosensor for detection of Escherichia coli O157:H7.Scientific Reports. 2016; 6:19806.


Lesan Yan, Elizabeth Higbee, Andrew Tsourkas, Zhiliang Cheng*. “A simple method for the synthesis polymeric vesicles and their application as MR contrast agent.” Journal of Materials Chemistry B. 2015, 3, 9277-9284. (Abstract)


Guilong Zhang, Shiyao Lu, Junchao Qian, Kai Zhong, Jianming Yao, Dongqing Cai,* Zhiliang Cheng* and Zhengyan Wu*. “Magnetic relaxation switch detecting boric acid or borate ester through one-pot synehesized polyvinyl alcohol functionalized nanomagnetic iron oxide.” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2015, 7 (30), 16837-16841. (Abstract) (* Corresponding author)

Qiang Gao, Lesan Yan, Michael Chiorazzo, Jim Delikatny, Andrew Tsourkas and Zhiliang Cheng*. “PLA2-responsive and SPIO-loaded phospholipid micelles.” Chemical Communications, 2015, 51, 12313-12315. (Abstract) (* Corresponding author)

Lesan Yan, Samuel H. Crayton, Jayesh P. Thawani, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Andrew Tsourkas, and Zhiliang Cheng*. “A pH-responsive drug delivery platform based on glycol chitosan-coated liposomes.” Small, 2015, 11(37), 4870-4874. (Abstract) (* Corresponding author)

McQuade C, Al Zaki A, Desai Y, Vido M, Sakhuja T, Cheng Z, Hickey RJ, Joh D, Park SJ, Kao G, Dorsey JF, Tsourkas A. “A Multifunctional Nanoplatform for Imaging, Radiotherapy, and the Prediction of Therapeutic Response.” Small. 2015,11(7), 834-843. (Abstract)

Shayanne A. Lajud, Danish A. Nagda, Peter Qiao, Nobuaki Tanaka, Alyssa CivantosRende Gu, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas, Bert W. O’Malley JrDaqing Li. “A Novel Chitosan-Hydrogel-Based Nanoparticle Delivery System for Local Inner Ear Application.” Otology & Neurotology, 2015, 36(2) 341-347.



Zhiliang Cheng*, Andrew Tsourkas. “Monitoring Phospholipase A2 Activity with Gd-encapsulated Phospholipid Liposomes.” Scientific Reports. doi: 10.1038/srep06958. (Abstract) (* Corresponding author)

Zhiliang Cheng,* Ajlan Al Zaki, Ian W Jones, Henry K Hall, Craig A Aspinwall, Andrew Tsourkas. “Stabilized porous liposomes with encapsulated Gd-labeled dextran as a highly efficient MRI contrast agent.” Chemical Communications2014, 50(19), 2502-2504. (Abstract) (* Corresponding author)

James Zhe HuiAjlan Al ZakiZhiliang Cheng, Vladimir Popik, Hongtao Zhang, Eline T. LuningPrak, Andrew Tsourkas. “Facile Method for the Site-Specific, Covalent Attachment of Full-LengthIgG onto Nanoparticles.” Small, 2014, 10(16): 3354-3363. (Abstract)

Ajlan Al Zaki, Daniel JohZhiliang Cheng, André Luís Branco De Barros, Gary Kao, Jay Dorsey, and Andrew Tsourkas. “Gold-Loaded Polymeric Micelles for Computed Tomography-Guided Radiation Therapy Treatment and Radiosensitization.” ACS Nano2014, 8(1), 104-112. (Abstract)



Zhiliang ChengAjlan Al-Zaki, James Z Hui, Vladimir R. Muzykantov, Andrew Tsourkas.“Multifunctional Nanoparticles: Evaluating the cost versus benefit of adding targeting and imaging capabilities.” Science 2012338(6109):903-910. PMID: 23161990 (Abstract)

Thusitha P. MuhandiramlageZhiliang Cheng, David L. Roberts, John P. Keogh, Henry K. Hall, Jr. and Craig A. Aspinwall“Determination of pore sizes and relative porosity in porous nanoshellarchitectures using dextran retention with single monomer resolution and proton permeation.”Analytical Chemistry 2012, 84(22):9754-9761. PMID: 23083108 (Abstract)

Zhiliang ChengAjlan Al-Zaki, James Z Hui, Andrew Tsourkas“Simultaneous quantification of tumor uptake for targeted and nontargeted liposomes and their encapsulated contents by ICPMS.”Analytical Chemistry2012,84(17):7578-7582. PMID: 22882145 (Abstract)

Sameul H Crayton, Andrew Elias, Ajlan Al-ZakiZhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas“ICP-MS analysis of Lanthanide-doped nanoparticles as a non-radiative, multiplex approach to quantifybiodistribution and blood clearance.” Biomaterials 2012, 33(5):1509-1519. PMID: 22100983 (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Drew R Elias, Neha P Kamat, Eric D Johnston, Andrei Poloukhtine, Vladimir Popik, Daniel A Hammer, Andrew Tsourkas. “Improved tumor targeting of polymer-based nanovesicles using polymer-lipid blends.” Bioconjugate Chemistry 2011, 22(10):2021-2029. PMID: 21899335 (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Antony K Chen, Ha-Young Lee, Andrew Tsourkas“Examination of folate-targeted liposomes with encapsulated poly(2-propylacrylic acid) as a pH-responsive nanoplatform for cytosolic drug delivery.” Small 2010, 6(13):1398-1401. PMID: 20564486 (Abstract)

Zhiliang Cheng, Daniel L J Thorek, Andrew TsourkasGd-conjugated dendrimer nanoclusters as a tumor-targeted T1 magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent.” Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2010, 49(2):346-350. PMID: 19967688 (Abstract)

Drew R Elias, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas“An intein-mediated site-specific click conjugation strategy for improved tumor targeting of nanoparticle systems.” Small 2010, 6(21):2460-2468. PMID: 20925038 (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Daniel L J Thorek, Andrew Tsourkas“Porous polymersomes with encapsulated Gd-labeled dendrimers as highly efficient MRI contrast agents.” Advanced Functional Materials 2009,19(23):3753-3759. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas“Paramagnetic porous polymersomes,” Langmuir2008, 24(15):8169-8173. PMID: 18570445 (Abstract)

Antony K Chen, Zhiliang Cheng, Mark A Behlke, Andrew Tsourkas“Assessing the sensitivity of commercially available fluorophores to the intracellular environment,” Analytical Chemistry2008, 80(19):7437-7444. PMID: 18700780



Zhiliang Cheng, Gemma D D'Ambruoso, Craig A Aspinwall“Stabilized porous phospholipidnanoshells,” Langmuir2006, 22, 9507-9511. PMID: 17073472 (Abstract)

Zhiliang Cheng, Craig A Aspinwall, “Nanometre-sized molecular oxygen sensors prepared from polymer stabilized phospholipids vesicles,” Analyst2006, 131, 236-243. (Abstract)


More Publications



Recent news:

Š      Jan 2016: Our collaborate work with Dr Gao (from China) for the PLA2 detection has been accepted in the journal “RSC Advances”.

Š      Jan 2016: Our proposal (PI: Busch, Co-I: Cheng) titled “Mesothelin-targeted nanophotosensitizer for photodynamic therapy of TNBC” has been awarded by CT3N.

Š      Dec 2015: Our proposal (PI: WInkelstein, Co-I: Cheng) titled “PLA2-Responsive Multifunctional Micelles for the Targeted Treatment of Painful Radiculopathy” has been awarded by Cervical Spine Research Society (CSRS).

Š      Dec 2015: Two high school students, Robert Liu and Hope Lu who did summer intern in our lab have been accepted by Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Congratulations!


Funded Projects:

1.     NIH-R01: Tumor-Targeted Polymersomes to Image and Treat Ovarian Cancer, PI; 2013-2018.

2.     ITMAT Translational Biomedical Imaging Center (TBIC) pilot grant: Tracking T cells with highly magnetic Zinc-Manganese-Iron nanoparticle-loaded polymer micelles; PI; 2014-2016.

3.     ITMAT CT3N: Tumor-targeted, pH-responsive polymersomes; PI; 2013-2014.

4.     American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant: Tumor-targeted multifunctional SPIO nanoparticles; PI; 2013-2014.

5.     NIH-R21: Tumor-targeted Paramagnetic Porous Polymersomes; Co-I; 2011-2014.