Dr. Duanqing Pei is a professor of stem cell biology and the director general (president) at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Guangzhou, China. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan before becoming a faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1996. He joined the medical faculty at Tsinghua University in Beijing China in 2002 and moved to the newly formed GIBH in 2004.
Dr. Pei studied the transcription regulation of hepatitis B virus (HBV) for his Ph.D. thesis by identifying C/EBP as a repressor for HBV transcription and dissecting the transactivation domains in C/EBP. Then he shifted his research interest into the field of extracellular matrix remodeling by studying the structure and function of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). He cloned several novel members of the MMP family, uncovered the unique intracellular activation mechanism of MMPs with the proprotein convertase system and the intracellular trafficking of membrane-bound MMPs.
Upon returning to China, he once again changed his field of study and started working on pluripotency first and then on reprogramming. The Pei lab in Tsinghua began to publish in the stem cell field on the structure and function of Oct4, Sox2, FoxD3, Essrb, and Nanog and their interdependent relationship towards pluripotency. Based the understanding of these factors, the Pei lab was the first in China to create mouse iPSCs using a non–selective system and then improved the iPS process systematically. The Pei lab subsequently disseminated the iPS technology in China by providing not only resources, but also training workshops. Recent publications from the Pei lab include the discovery of vitamin C as a potent booster for iPSC generation and the histone demethylases Jhdm1a/1b are key effectors of somatic cell reprogramming downstream of vitamin C, as well as a mesenchymal to epithelial transition initiates the reprogramming process of mouse fibroblasts. Now, his lab continues to explore new ways to improve iPS technology, dissect the reprogramming mechanisms driven by Oct4/Sox2/Klf4 or fewer factors, and employ iPSCs to model human diseases in vitro.