John Kao

Affiliated Society: Society for Biomaterials
Country of Residence: Hong Kong
Current Position: Professor and vice president



Professor W. John Kao is the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) and the Chair Professor of Translational Medical Engineering (jointly appointed by the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Engineering) at the University of Hong Kong. He leads the University’s international strategy and global networks of collaboration in building key relationships with relevant stakeholders in Mainland China and overseas, maximizing opportunities across teaching and learning, research, knowledge exchanges and technology transfer, and deepening the University_Ñés presence and engagement worldwide. Prior to HKU, he was the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Pharmacy, Surgery, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin _ÑÐ Madison. He has successfully commercialized his medical platform technology and has been involved in several biotechnology companies.

Professor Kao studied biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University (BS), Case Western Reserve University (MS) and macromolecular science and engineering (PhD) also at Case Western. He subsequently worked at the Caltech and ETH prior to joining the faculty at UW-Madison. He also holds an adjunct professorship at Zhejiang University.

Leadership and executive experiences:

  • Senior Management Team (cabinet) member of a top-tier world university

University of Hong Kong overall global ranking highlights:

2014-15: QS (28), THE (43), US News & Report (42);

2015-16: QS Global Outlook (3); QS World Ranking by Faculty: arts & humanities

(19), engineering & technology (26), medicine (30), natural sciences (15), social sciences & management (14), dentistry (1), education (6), law (18), architecture (11);

2016-17: QS Overall Global Ranking (27), THE World Reputation Ranking (45)

  • Extensive insight into the global higher education sector with working regional knowledge in N America, Asia, Greater China, UK, EU, and emerging areas
  • Advocate internally and internationally University’s academic enterprise in research, teaching, knowledge exchange, and community engagement
  • Extensive record of building collaborative teams, fostering multidisciplinary approach in problem solving, navigating risks, and building effective partnerships.
  • Proven academic administration in a complex environment with ability to obtain internal and external support and consensus
  • Management experience of a multifaceted allied health system
  • Implement budget and HR policy, prioritization, allocation, oversight at the highest university level
  • Establish multiple funding opportunities for academic staff and students to augment research, teaching and learning, and global engagement
  • Establish strategic partnership with top-tier world universities
  • Institutional development and successful fundraising
  • Design and implement integrated operational models with forecasting, milestones, benchmarks and metric
  • Faculty recruitment, mentoring, evaluation, and promotion
  • Areas of research interest:

Research keywords:

Professor Kao’s research focuses on developing therapeutics for cancer and wound healing. He is on several editorial boards and his extensive involvement with industry, regulatory and policy bureaus has enabled him to build a successful record in translating enabling technologies to the market. His biomaterial technology has been commercialized by Sigma-Aldrich (Merck) as a platform for drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and cell therapy. His research has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and other federal and private agencies. He has published 80 peer-reviewed papers in top journals and 170 other publications including abstracts, book chapters, and patents. He has mentored more than 60 undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate students, and clinician scientists from around the world.

Leadership in innovation and entrepreneurial activities:

Commercialization of own research by Sigma-Aldrich (Merck)

Founder of an award-winning biotechnology company (MatriLab) and serving on the executive board of SME

Lead business & strategic plans and presentation to partners and investors

Lead US and foreign patent applications and respond to office actions

Expert patent witness in regulatory reviews and trials

Establish technology co-development programs with multinational pharmaceutical & biotechnology companies

Business and technology negotiations leading to contracts, licenses, and MOUs

Excellence in basic and translational research:

Cell-based, biomaterial-enabled combination technologies

Novel biomaterial design, synthesis, and development for drug delivery

Stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine

Biocompatibility, immune reaction, hemacompatibility, and foreign body reaction

Nano-based delivery systems and screening tools

Novel microfluidic devices to recapitulate complex cancer microenvironment for biological studies and compound screening/prediction

Therapeutic product development from basic science research to verification and validation, scale-up, GMP/GLP manufacturing, clinical-grade articles, CMO and CRO contracts, and regulatory review preparation

Awarded and completed over 40 grants and contracts from federal, foundation, industry, and institutional sources as PI, co-PI or co-I totaling more than USD $60M

Over 200 scientific publications and abstracts and 5 patent families

Member of international, federal, and regional scientific review panels