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Li Kai

Associate Professor

Department of Biomedical Engineering


Dr. Kai Li received his Ph.D. degree in the field of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2011. He then joined the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (A*STAR, Singapore) in 2011 as a research scientist. He reported a class of advanced organic cell trackers (conjugated polymer and AIE fluorogens) featured in a Nature article: ‘The nanolight revolution is coming’. From 2013, he became an independent PI with the support from A*STAR Career Development Award. From 2015 to 2017, he was a visiting scholar in the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) in the Daldrup-Link Lab under the directorship of Prof. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir. In 2018, he joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering in Southern University of Science and Technology as an Associate Professor. His research interests focus on the exploration of novel nanoprobes and their applications in cancer theranostics and regenerative medicine. He has published more than 60 papers with a total citation of over 4000 times (Web of Science), 13 of which were cited more than 100 times. His current H-index is 35.



1999-2003 B.E., School of Materials Science and Engineering, Beijing University of Chemical and Technology, China

2004-2006 M.E., Department of Polymer Engineering, Chungnam National University, Korea

2008-2011 Ph.D., Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore


Work Experience:

2018-now Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology

2015-2017 Visiting Scholar, Molecular Imaging Program of Stanford, Department of Radiology, Stanford University

2011-2018 Scientist, PI, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, A*STAR, Singapore


Research Interests:

Design and synthesis of advanced organic, inorganic, and organic/inorganic hybrid platforms for biomedical applications:

1. New generation of multifunctional probes for long-term stem cell/cancer cell tracking studies through NIR-II fluorescence, photoacoustic, and magnetic resonance imaging
2. Iron oxide-based ‘smart’ nanocomplexes for cancer theranostics
3. Biomimetic hybrid platforms for regenerative medicine and cancer theranostics in animal models


Honors and Awards:

2016 World Molecular Imaging Congress (WMIC) Travel Award

2015 A*STAR International Fellowship

2013 2nd JCO Career Development Award (CDA), JCO, A*STAR, Singapore

2011 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad

2008 President’s Graduate Fellowship, National University of Singapore

2004 Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) Scholarship for Foreign Students

2003 Outstanding University Graduate Award (Beijing)


Selected Publications:

1. Xulei Qin, Haodong Chen, Huaxiao Yang, Haodi Wu, Xin Zhao, Huiyuan Wang, Tony Chour, Evgenios Neofytou, Dan Ding, Heike Daldrup-Link, Sarah C. Heilshorn, Kai Li,* Joseph C. Wu,* Photoacoustic imaging of embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes in living hearts with ultrasensitive semiconducting polymer nanoparticles. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2018, 28, 1704939.
2. Heqi Gao, Xiaoyan Zhang, Chao Chen, Kai Li,* Dan Ding.* Unity makes strength: how aggregation-induced emission luminogens advance the biomedical field. Adv. Biosys. 2018, 2, 1800074 (Invited Review).
3. Kai Li,* Hossein Nejadnik, Heike E. Daldrup-Link,* Next generation superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for cancer theranostics. Drug Discov. Today 2017, 22, 1421-1429 (Invited Review).
4. Guorui Jin, Guangxue Feng, Wei Qin, Ben Zhong Tang, Bin Liu,* Kai Li,* Multifunctional organic nanoparticles with aggregation-induced emission (AIE) characteristics for targeted photodynamic therapy and RNA interference therapy. Chem. Commun. 2016, 52, 2752-2755 (*corresponding author).
5. Guorui Jin, Duo Mao, Pingqiang Cai, Rongrong Liu, Nikodem Tomczak, Jie Liu, Xiaodong Chen, Deling Kong, Dan Ding,* Bin Liu,* Kai Li,* Conjugated polymer nanodots as ultrastable long-term trackers to understand mesenchymal stem cell therapy in skin regeneration. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2015, 25, 4263-4273 (Frontispiece Story).
6. Jie Liu, Kai Li,* Bin Liu,* Far-red/near-infrared conjugated polymer nanoparticles for long-term in-situ monitoring of liver tumor growth. Adv. Sci. 2015, 2, 1500008.
7. Kai Li, Bin Liu, Polymer-encapsulated organic nanoparticles for fluorescence and photoacoustic imaging. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2014, 43, 6570-6597.
8. Dan Ding,† Duo Mao,† Kai Li,† Xiaomin Wang, Wei Qin, Rongrong Liu, David Shunzhong Chiam, Nikodem Tomczak, Zhimou Yang, Ben Zhong Tang, Deling Kong, Bin Liu (†contributed equally), Precise and long-term tracking of adipose-derived stem cells and their regenerative capacity via superb bright and stable organic nanodots. ACS Nano 2014, 8, 12620-12631.
9. Wei Qin,† Kai Li,† Guangxue Feng, Min Li, Zhiyong Yang, Bin Liu, Ben Zhong Tang, Bright and photostable organic fluorescent dots with aggregation-induced emission characteristics for noninvasive long-term cell imaging. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2014, 24, 635-643 (†contributed equally).
10. Guangxue Feng,† Kai Li,† Jie Liu, Dan Ding, Bin Liu, Bright single-chain conjugated polymer dots embedded nanoparticles for long-term cell tracing and imaging. Small 2014, 10, 1212-1219 (†contributed equally).
11. Kai Li, Wei Qin, Dan Ding, Nikodem Tomczak, Junlong Geng, Rongrong Liu, Jianzhao Liu, Xinhai Zhang, Hongyu Liu, Bin Liu, Ben Zhong Tang, Photostable fluorescent organic dots with aggregation-induced emission (AIE dots) for noninvasive long-term cell tracing. Sci. Rep. 2013, 3, 1150 (Highlighted by Nature News).
12. Kai Li, Zhenshu Zhu, Zujin Zhao, Nikodem Tomczak, Pingqiang Cai, Rongrong Liu, Jie Liu, Wei Qin, Yong Hu, Xiaodong Chen, Ben Zhong Tang, Bin Liu, Organic dots with aggregation-induced emission (AIE dots) characteristics for dual-color cell tracing. Chem. Mater. 2013, 25, 4181-4187.
13. Kai Li, Dan Ding, Da Huo, Kan-Yi Pu, Ngo Nguyen Phuong Thao, Yong Hu, Zhi Li, Bin Liu, Conjugated polymer based nanoparticles as dual-modal probes for targeted in vivo fluorescence and magnetic resonance imaging. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2012, 22, 3107-3115.
14. Kai Li, Yutao Liu, Kan-Yi Pu, Si-Shen Feng, Ruoyu Zhan, Bin Liu, Polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes-containing conjugated polymer loaded PLGA nanoparticles with Trastuzumab (Herceptin) functionalization for HER2-positive cancer cell detection. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2011, 21, 287-294 (Inside Front Cover Story).
15. Kai Li, Jie Pan, Si-Shen Feng, Arthur Wenqing Wu, Kan-Yi Pu, Yutao Liu, Bin Liu, Generic strategy of preparing fluorescent conjugated polymer-loaded poly(dl-lactide-co-glycolide) nanoparticles for targeted cell imaging. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2009, 19, 3535-3542 (Frontispiece Story).

Research Fields

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