Gao among Rice engineers to receive Welch Foundation research grant

The proposal, 'Mechanistic study of the stereochemically controlled biosynthesis of fungal natural products,' has applications in drug development.

Sherry Gao

Xue (Sherry) Gao is among three researchers in the George R. Brown School of Engineering to have received grants from the Welch Foundation to further their research.

Gao, the Ted N. Law Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE); Yimo Han, assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering; and George Lu, assistant professor of bioengineering and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research, each received a three-year, $240,000 grant.

Gao’s proposal, “Mechanistic study of the stereochemically controlled biosynthesis of fungal natural products,” has applications in drug development. Stereochemistry is the study of the arrangement of atoms forming molecules, and ways they can be manipulated.

Gao hopes to learn from enzymes found in fungi new insights into biocatalyst engineering and thus expand the number of biocatalytic tools used in the manufacture of structurally complex pharmaceuticals.

Gao earned her Ph.D. in ChBE from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2013. She was a postdoctoral associate in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and she joined the Rice faculty in 2017.