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

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, Gladstone Institutes

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

Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UC San Francisco

Dean, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tsinghua University

Institute Director, Global Health Drug Discovery Institute


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


  • Abstract 11415: Enhancing Direct Cardiac Reprogramming Efficiency Using Small Molecules. Tamer M Mohamed, Nicole Stone, Emily Berry, Haixia Wang, Sheng Ding, Deepak Srivastava. Circulation. 2015 Nov 10; 132(suppl_3).
  • 458. Sensitizing Ovarian Cancer Cells To Chemotherapy By Interfering With Pathways That Are Involved in the Formation and Maintenance of Cancer Stem Cells. Kamola Saydaminova, Robert Strauss, Min Xie, Charles Dreshner, Sheng Ding, Andre Lieber. Molecular Therapy. 2015 May 1; 23:s182.
  • Chapter 4 Chemical Approaches to Controlling Cell Fate. Mingliang Zhang, Ke Li, Min Xie, Sheng Ding. Principles of Developmental Genetics. 2015 Jan 1; (Cell Stem Cell462009):59-76.
  • Small Molecules in Cellular Reprogramming and Differentiation. Xu Yuan, Wenlin Li, Sheng Ding. Epigenetics and Disease. 2011 Jan 1; 253-266.
  • Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Recombinant Proteins. Hongyan Zhou, Shili Wu, Jin Young Joo, Saiyong Zhu, Dong Wook Han, Tongxiang Lin, Sunia Trauger, Geoffery Bien, Susan Yao, Yong Zhu, Gary Siuzdak, Hans R. Schöler, Lingxun Duan, Sheng Ding. Cell Stem Cell. 2009 Jun 1; 4(6):581.
  • Generation of Rat and Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells by Combining Genetic Reprogramming and Chemical Inhibitors. Wenlin Li, Wei Wei, Saiyong Zhu, Jinliang Zhu, Yan Shi, Tongxiang Lin, Ergeng Hao, Alberto Hayek, Hongkui Deng, Sheng Ding. Cell Stem Cell. 2009 Apr 1; 4(4):370.
  • A chemical approach to stem cell biology. Sheng Ding. Cell Research. 2008 Aug 1; 18(Suppl 1):s5-s5.
  • A Combined Chemical and Genetic Approach for the Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Yan Shi, Jeong Tae, Caroline Desponts, Heung Sik Hahm, Hans R. Schöler, Sheng Ding. Cell Stem Cell. 2008 Jul 1; 3(1):119.
  • Stem Cell Fates: Control by Small Molecules. Simon Hilcove, Yue Xu, Sheng Ding. Wiley Encyclopedia of Chemical Biology. 2008 May 15; 1-8.
  • Exploring Stem Cell Biology with Small Molecules and Functional Genomics. Julie Clark, Yue Xu, Simon Hilcove, Sheng Ding. Chemical and Functional Genomic Approaches to Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. 2008 Apr 11; 187-206.
  • 2 TARGET VALIDATION IN CHEMOGENOMICS. TOM Y-H. WU, SHENG DING. Target Validation in Drug Discovery. 2007 Jan 1; (Nat. Biotechnol.202002):27-39.
  • GSK-3 and Stem Cells. Shuibing Chen, Sheng Ding. Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK-3) and Its Inhibitors. 2006 Oct 23; 155-171.
  • A Synthetic Small Molecule That Induces Neuronal Differentiation of Adult Hippocampal Neural Progenitor Cells. Masaki Warashina, Kyung Hoon Min, Tomoko Kuwabara, Alexis Huynh, Fred H. Gage, Peter G. Schultz, Sheng Ding. Angewandte Chemie. 2006 Jan 16; 118(4):605-607.
  • A Small-Molecule Agonist of the Wnt Signaling Pathway. Jun Liu, Xu Wu, Brian Mitchell, Chris Kintner, Sheng Ding, Peter G. Schultz. Angewandte Chemie. 2005 Mar 18; 117(13):2023-2026.
  • One-Pot Two-Step Microwave-Assisted Reaction in Constructing 4,5-Disubstituted Pyrazolopyrimidines. Tom Y. H. Wu, Peter G. Schultz, Sheng Ding. ChemInform. 2004 Feb 3; 35(5).
  • ChemInform Abstract: Expanding the Diversity of Purine Libraries. Sheng Ding, Nathanael S. Gray, Qiang Ding, Peter G. Schultz. ChemInform. 2002 Mar 12; 33(10):no-no.
  • Expanding the diversity of purine libraries. Sheng Ding, Nathanael S Gray, Qiang Ding, Peter G Schultz. Tetrahedron Letters. 2001 Dec 1; 42(50):8751-8755.

More Publications


Lab Members