Hongwei D. Yu

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Marshall University

Hongwei D. Yu

Dr Hongwei Yu is a Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. He is also the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of Progenesis Technologies, LLC, a startup biotechnology company that specializes in engineering bacteria for the production of alginate. Alginate is a commercial polysaccharide currently extracted from a non-renewable resource, brown seaweeds. In addition, seaweed alginate cannot keep up with the demand for use in a plethora of biomedical applications, and global supply is declining due to over-harvesting, pollution, and climate change. To overcome these obstacles, Dr. Yu together with Dr Richard M Niles co-created Progenesis Technologies based on using the engineered bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a platform to produce quality-consistent, custom-made alginates. Dr. Yu’s initial study on the characterization of the signals for the controlled expression of alginate was published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). The key findings of this paper were also part of a patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), respectively.

Dr. Yu’s research is focused on biofilm formation and its impact on lung infections in patients with cystic fibrosis. Dr. Yu’s interests also include synthetic/system biology, antimicrobials, and gut microbiota in health and disease. More recently, Dr Yu’s laboratory has used cell and mouse models to evaluate and validate the safety of Progenesis’ genetically engineered bacteria to better define the designation of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) bacteria by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr Yu has published over 50 papers, 5 patents (2 awarded), and won several awards including the Marshall University Distinguished Artists & Scholars Award. Dr. Yu has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Department of Energy (DOE), the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and biotechnology companies. Dr. Yu received his B.Sc. in Aquaculture from the Ocean University of China in 1983, an M.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Alberta in 1990, and his Ph.D. in Molecular Pathogenesis from the University of Calgary in 1994, followed by several years of postdoctoral training in Bacterial Genetics and Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and the University of Michigan Medical School before joining the faculty at Marshall University School of Medicine in 1999.