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Joseph P. Kao, PhD

Academic Title:


Primary Appointment:


Administrative Title:

Associate Director of BioMET


South Pharmacy Hall Room S503

Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

Arizona State University, BS, Chemistry, 1978

University of California, Berkeley, PhD, Chemistry, 1985

University of California, Berkeley, Postdoctoral Research, Cell Biology and Physiology, 1989

University of California, San Diego, Postdoctoral Research, Cell Biology and Physiology, 1990


Dr. Kao is an expert in the design, synthesis, and application of molecular probes for studying physiological function in biological systems. The molecular probes include fluorescent molecules for monitoring cellular physiology, and photosensitive “caged” molecules that enable the use of light to actively control physiology in vitro and in vivo. Molecular probes for use with magnetic imaging modalities include stable free radicals (so-called “spin probes”) that enable physiologic imaging in vivo through electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI), and isotopically substituted metabolites for metabolic imaging through hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging (hMRI). The optical probes have wide application in cell biology and neurophysiology research, whereas the magnetic imaging probes are useful in preclinical studies and potentially in the clinic.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Molecular probes, cellular physiology, neurophysiology, erythrocyte biology, optical microscopy, fluorescence, caged molecules, spin probes, magnetic imaging modalities, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR)

Highlighted Publications

Epel B, Kao JPY, Eaton SS, Eaton GR, Halpern HJ. 2023. Direct measurement and imaging of redox status with electron paramagnetic resonance. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. doi: 10.1089/ars.2022.0216

Elajaili HB, Dee NM, Dikalov SI, Kao JPY, Nozik ES. (2023) Use of electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) to evaluate redox status in a preclinical model of acute lung injury. Molecular Imaging and Biology. doi: 10.1007/s11307-023-01826-5

Palha MS, Legenzov EA, Lamb DR, Zimring JC, Buehler PW, Kao JPY. 2022. Superoxide measurement as a novel probe of red blood cell storage quality. Blood Transfusion. doi: 10.2450/2022.0246-22

Epel B, Sundramoorthy SV, Krzykawska-Serda M, Maggio MC, Tseytlin M, Eaton GR, Eaton SS, Rosen GM, Kao JPY, Halpern HJ. (2017) Imaging thiol redox status in murine tumors in vivo with rapid-scan electron paramagnetic resonance. Journal of Magnetic Resonance. 276:31-36. PMID: 28092786.

Legenzov EA, Muralidharan S, Woodcock LB, Eaton GR, Eaton SS, Rosen GM, Kao JP. (2016) Designing Molecular Probes To Prolong Intracellular Retention: Application to Nitroxide Spin Probes. Bioconjugate Chemistry. 27(12):2923-2930. PMID: 28092786

Muralidharan S, Dirda ND, Katz EJ, Tang CM, Bandyopadhyay S, Kanold PO, Kao JP. (2016) Ncm, a Photolabile Group for Preparation of Caged Molecules: Synthesis and Biological Application. PLoS One. 11(10):e0163937. PMID: 27695074

Legenzov EA, Sims SJ, Dirda ND, Rosen GM, Kao JP. (2016) Disulfide-Linked Dinitroxides for Monitoring Cellular Thiol Redox Status through Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Biochemistry. 54(47):6973-6982. PMID: 26523485

Burks SR, Macedo LF, Barth ED, Tkaczuk KH, Martin SS, Rosen GM, Halpern HJ, Brodie AM, Kao JP. (2010) Anti-HER2 immunoliposomes for selective delivery of electron paramagnetic resonance imaging probes to HER2-overexpressing breast tumor cells. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 124(1):121-131. PMID: 20066490


U.S. 4,222,839, issued September 16, 1980, to WR Goodner and JPY Kao. Work piece holder and method for plasma reactor apparatus.

U.S. 5,670,664, issued September 23, 1997, to JPY Kao and PF Keitz. Photosensitive organic compounds that release carbon monoxide upon illumination.

U.S. 6,043,065, issued March 28, 2000, to JPY Kao, FM Rossi, and PF Keitz. Photosensitive organic compounds that release 2,5-di(tert-butyl) hydroquinone upon illumination.

U.S. 6,310,083, issued October 30, 2001, to JPY Kao and FM Rossi. Caged amino acid derivatives bearing photolabile protective groups.

U.S. 6,803,479, issued October 12, 2004, to JPY Kao and DA Freilich. Reagents and method for spatio-temporal control of gene expression by illumination.

U.S. 10,202,342, issued February 12, 2019, to JPY Kao, Scott R. Burks, and Gerald M. Rosen. Targeted delivery of imaging probes for in vivo cellular imaging.

U.S. Application 16/624,787. Joseph P. Y. Kao, Christopher W. Ward, and Ramzi J. Khairallah. Microtubule inhibitor prodrugs and methods of using the same. (Notice of allowance, December 1, 2022; patent pending)