Kechun Zhang

Kechun Zhang

Associate Professor
Contact Information
  • B.S., Polymer Science, University of Science and Technology of China, 2001
  • Ph.D., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2007
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California--Los Angeles, 2007-2010

Research Areas

Recent News:

Research Interests

Our research program combines principles of chemistry, biology and engineering to achieve biosynthesis beyond nature. Why? Increasing petroleum consumption has caused oil depletion and climate change, thus we have to explore sustainable approaches to energy and chemical feedstocks. While biosynthesis is a promising green technology, biological systems produce only a limited set of natural metabolites. To overcome this barrier, we will expand the metabolic capabilities of bacteria to biosynthesize various nonnatural metabolites that are useful biofuels, bulk chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

To achieve high-level biosynthesis of non-natural metabolites, our research theme is divided into three steps: First, artificial metabolic pathways are designed; second, protein evolution is performed to realize and optimize the designed pathways; third, metabolic flux is driven to the production of target compounds. Our research integrates techniques from synthetic biology, synthetic chemistry, protein engineering, metabolic engineering and biochemical engineering.


  • American Heart Association National Scientist Development Grant Award, 2013
  • 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award, 2013
  • Inaugural University of Minnesota Innovation Award, 2014
  • McKnight Land-Grant Professor, 2015

Selected Publications

  • Tai Y.S., Xiong M., Zhang K. Engineered biosynthesis of medium-chain esters in Escherichia coli.Metab Eng. 2015 Jan;27:20-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2014.10.004.
  • Xiong M, Schneiderman DK, Bates FS, Hillmyer MA, Zhang K. Scalable production of mechanically tunable block polymers from sugar. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jun 10;111(23):8357-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404596111.
  • Zhang, K., Woodruff A.P., Xiong M., Zhou, J. and Dhande, Y.K. A Synthetic Metabolic Pathway for Production of Platform Chemical Isobutyric Acid. ChemSusChem 2011. Jul 8. doi: 10.1002/cssc.201100045.
  • Xiong M., Deng J., Woodruff A.P., Zhu M., Fu Y., Zhang, K. A Bio-Catalytic Approach to Aliphatic Ketones. Sci. Rep., 2012, 2:311.
  • Jambunathan P, Zhang K.Novel pathways and products from 2-keto acids. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 2014 Oct;29:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2014.01.008.
  • Dhande, Y.K., Xiong M., Zhang, K. Production of C5 carboxylic acids in engineered Escherichia coli. Process Biochem. 2012, 47:1965–1971.

Contact Information

Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

421 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0132

P: 612-625-1313 | F: 612-626-7246

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