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  • From developmental biology  to drug discovery and  cardiovascular medicine.
  • From developmental biology  to drug discovery and  cardiovascular medicine.

    Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)

  • From developmental biology to drug discovery and cardiovascular medicine.

    Human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes immunostained with alpha-actinin (green) and myosin light chain-2v (red)

  • From developmental biology  to drug discovery and  cardiovascular medicine.

    A kind gift from a patient/friend

  • From developmental biology  to drug discovery and  cardiovascular medicine.

    Osteogenesis in zebrafish

  • From developmental biology to drug discovery and cardiovascular medicine.

    Electron micrograph of human iPSC-derived cardiiomyocytes demonstrates well organized sarcomere

  • Chemical Biology in Regenerative Medicine

    Newly published book from Wiley edited by Chaz Hong and colleagues

  • Chemical Biology by Hempel, Williams and Hong

    We "wrote the book" on chemical biology.

The Hong Laboratory


We function at the intersection of a variety of disciplines which include zebrafish development, drug discovery, and cardiovascular biology.

Our research can be divided into 2 broad areas. The first area involves chemical biology of vertebrate development, which entails discovery of small molecules that selectively modulate signaling pathways involved in embryogenesis. We have thus far discovered potent and highly selective chemical modifiers of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), Wnt, Hedgehog, and lipid signaling pathways, among others.

Several of our compounds are first-in-class molecules with substantial therapeutic potential in rare and common diseases, including heterotopic ossification, cancers, atherosclerosis and heart failure. Thus, our chemical biological exploration is leading to new opportunities for innovative therapeutic programs.

In the second, we are exploring the potential of patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) to study and treat human heart diseases. We use human iPSCs as renewable cell sources for examining the fundamental cell biology and physiology of normal and diseased human cardiomyocytes.

Finally, we collaborate with bioengineers to develop human iPSC-derived heart tissues as a platform for drug discovery and evaluation.

Selected Achievements

2006 - Discovered the role of PI3K-ERK crosstalk in vascular development.

2008 - Discovered the first pharmacological inhibitor of the BMP pathway.

2010 - First large scale in vivo structure activity relationship (SAR) study outside the antimicrobial field.

2008, 2010 - First reported use of pharmacological inhibitors of BMP and Wnt pathways to induce cardiomyogenesis in pluripotent stem cells.

2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 - Helped reveal therapeutic potential of a BMP inhibitor for anemia, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, atherosclerosis, and variety of cancers (lung, metastatic breast, ovarian and brain cancers).

2015 - Discovered phosphodiesterase-4 as a pharmacological target for hedgehog signaling inhibition.

2015 - Signed an exclusive research and licensing agreement with La Jolla Pharmaceutical Company covering novel BMP receptor inhibitors.

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP)

A major focus of lab's drug development efforts, begun with a generous support from the Cali Family Fund, remains finding a safe and effective treatment for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare genetic disease of progressive heterotopic ossification.

Video: FOP. A single letter makes great difference

To learn more about FOP, please check out this video by IFOPA.

Lab News

We have moved!

Drs. Chun, Williams and Hong joined the faculty of University of Maryland School of Medicine on June 1, 2018. Dr. Hong is the Director of Cardiovascular Research.


The electronic version of our book, Chemical Biology: Methods and Protocols, has been downloaded 71,974 times as of December 2017, making it one of Springer's top eBook performers!

Adrian Cadar on his successful PhD defense and scholarship to Vanderbilt Medical School, 2007.

Chuck Williams on his 2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Award from Dept of Cell and Developmental Biology.

Chuck Williams on his successful PhD defense, 2016.

Congratulations to TK Feaster on his Matrigel Mattress paper being selected as the "Best of Circulation Research", 2016.

Chuck Williams was awarded Outstanding Poster Prize at the 2016 Vanderbilt Program in Developmental Biology Retreat.

Congratulations on new positions: Dr. Durbin at Indiana University; Dr. Hempel at Novartis; Dr. Feaster at Cellular Dynamics International.

TK Feaster on his successful PhD defense, 2015.

Adrian Cadar awarded 2015 Levi Watkins, MD, Student Award from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Signed worldwide exclusive license agreement with La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co covering novel BMP receptor inhibitors, 2015

Matt Durbin, MD awarded Top Presentation Award at the 2015 Cardiopulmonary Biology Young Investigators Forum, 2015

Jonathan Hempel, PhD and Chuck Williams each awarded Outstanding Poster Prize at the 2015 Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology Retreat.

Jonathan Hempel, PhD was awarded First Place Prize at the 2015 Vanderbilt Program in Molecular Medicine Retreat.

Chuck Williams was awarded the First Place Poster Prize at the 2015 Vanderbilt Cancer Center Retreat.

Matthew Durbin, MD was named John and Leslie Hooper Neonatolgy Fellow, 2014

Calvin Sheng was awarded 2014 Sarnoff Fellowship.

Young Chun, PhD received an AHA Young Investigator Award to attend the 2014 BCVS Meeting in Las Vegas.

Jonathan Hempel, PhD received an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2014