Ku-Lung Hsu


Primary Appointment

Associate Professor, Chemistry

Research Disciplines

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Cancer Biology, Chemistry, Immunology, Metabolism, Molecular Pharmacology, Translational Science

Research Interests

Chemical Biology, Lipid Biochemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, and Mass Spectrometry

Research Description

Professor Hsu is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Pharmacology at the University of Virginia. The Hsu Lab is focused on developing chemical methods and probes to address fundamental challenges associated with studying regulation of metabolism and signaling in vivo. Current efforts are focused on discovery of new lipid metabolic targets for chronic inflammation and immuno-oncology. Members of the Hsu Lab receive cross-disciplinary training in chemical biology, mass spectrometry, medicinal chemistry, and in vivo pharmacology. Professor Hsu is a recipient of several awards including the highly competitive NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, DOD CDMRP Career Development Award, a Young Investigator Award from the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), NSF CAREER Award, and the Emerging Leader Award from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.

Personal Statement

Dr. Hsuâs research interests are in developing and applying chemical- and mass spectrometry-based technologies to study metabolic regulation and function in vivo, with a special emphasis on lipid signaling pathways in inflammation and immunity. Dr. Hsuâs research has led to the development of selective, in vivo-active small-molecule inhibitors and chemical probes targeting bioactive lipid networks in macrophages. His recent work has focused on high-throughput screening (HTS) approaches to identify novel small molecule inhibitors to study the pro-tumorigenic functions of poorly-annotated metabolic enzymes implicated in cancer pathogenicity. Using a fluorescence polarization assay to screen the NIH 300,000+ compound library, his group identified potent, selective, and reversible inhibitors of platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolases that blocked the survival of human cancer cell lines. Dr. Hsu aims to learn how the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment directs or supports immune dysfunction in cancer to guide development of small molecules to enhance anti-tumor immunity. Dr. Hsu currently supervises 3 graduate students, 2 research scientists, and 3 undergraduate students in his laboratory. Dr. Hsu is interested in establishing an interdisciplinary research environment to promote scientific as well as personal development in the chemical and biological sciences. By interfacing graduate and undergraduate students in collaborative projects, Dr. Hsu aims to provide students in his group an opportunity to gain mentoring experience. Undergraduate students in his group are encouraged to work on independent projects with the goal of presenting their findings in written and oral format as part of the Distinguished Majors Program in the Chemistry department at UVa.


  • Biotechnology Training Grant
  • Cancer Research Training in Molecular Biology
  • Predoctoral Training in Neuroscience
  • Training in Molecular Biophysics
  • Training in the Pharmacological Sciences

Selected Publications

Brulet JW, Borne AL, Yuan K, Libby AH, Hsu KL, Liganding Functional Tyrosine Sites on Proteins Using Sulfur-Triazole Exchange Chemistry., 2020; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 142(18) 8270-8280. PMID: 32329615

Ware TB, Franks CE, Granade ME, Zhang M, Kim KB, Park KS, Gahlmann A, Harris TE, Hsu KL, Reprogramming fatty acyl specificity of lipid kinases via C1 domain engineering., 2020; Nature chemical biology. () . PMID: 31932721 | PMCID: PMC7117826

Hahm HS, Toroitich EK, Borne AL, Brulet JW, Libby AH, Yuan K, Ware TB, McCloud RL, Ciancone AM, Hsu KL, Global targeting of functional tyrosines using sulfur-triazole exchange chemistry., 2019; Nature chemical biology. () . PMID: 31768034 | PMCID: PMC6982592

Shin M, Franks CE, Hsu KL, Isoform-selective activity-based profiling of ERK signaling., 2018; Chemical science. 9(9) 2419-2431. PMID: 29732117 | PMCID: PMC5909473