Sheng Ding’s lab seeks to discover and characterize small molecules that control cell fate and function in vitro and endogenously in vivo. They investigate the mechanisms by which stem cells are maintained, and the signals that are required to direct stem cells to transform (or differentiate) into specific cell types, such as neurons. In addition, they perform screens to identify synthetic chemicals that can modulate those natural processes and guide stem cell differentiation in a dish. Ding’s team was the first to identify synthetic small molecules that can control cell fate, including stem cell self-renewal, differentiation, lineage-specific reprogramming, and developmental and disease pathways.

Disease Areas

Alzheimer’s Disease
Cardiovascular Disease
Congenital Heart Disease
Huntington’s Disease
Immune Diseases
Metabolic Disorders
Parkinson’s Disease

Areas of Expertise

Chemical Biology
Disease Models
Drug Discovery
Stem Cells and iPS Cells
Working in the Ding lab

Lab Focus

Understanding self-renewal regulation of embryonic and adult stem cells and the differentiation of embryonic stem cells toward different lineages.
Investigating developmental signaling pathways and epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone and DNA demethylation.
Developing new technologies for drug discovery.

Research Impact

By investigating the molecular mechanisms that maintain stem cells and direct their differentiation, Ding and his team hope to facilitate therapeutic applications of stem cells and the development of small-molecule drugs. Their advances could lead to therapeutics that stimulate the body’s own regenerative capabilities by promoting the survival, migration, proliferation, differentiation, and reprogramming of endogenous stem and progenitor cells or more differentiated cells.


Professional Titles

Senior Investigator

Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes

William K. Bowes, Jr. Distinguished Investigator, Gladstone Institutes

Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UC San Francisco

Institute Director, Global Health Drug Discovery Institute

Dean, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tsinghua University


Sheng Ding, PhD, is the William K. Bowes, Jr. Distinguished Investigator and a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes. He is also professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UC San Francisco, dean of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Tsinghua University, and institute director, Global Health Drug Discovery Institute in Beijing, China.

Ding earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with honors from the California Institute of Technology, working with Robert H. Grubbs. He then earned a PhD in chemistry from the Scripps Research Institute, working with Peter G. Schultz. In 2003, Ding was named assistant professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute. He is a member of several professional groups, including the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

How Did You Get Your Start in Science?

“Pursuit of science is simply fun.”

Sheng Ding, PhD

Honors and Awards

2012 San Francisco Business Times 40 Under 40

2010 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Science Industry, PharmaVoice

2010 NIH Transformative RO1

2009 #1 of Top 10 Innovations and Top 5 People in 2009, The Scientist

2008 New Faculty Award, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

2008 Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award



Sheng Ding

Lab Members