Dr. Gao received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Wannan Medical College and Norman Bethune Medical University, China, respectively. Following postdoctoral training at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Medical College of Virginia, he served as a tenure track Assistant Professor at Medical College of Virginia from 1995 to 2000, where his research was supported by three NIH grants. In 2000, he accepted a tenure track position and established the Section of Liver Biology at the NIAAA, NIH. Of exceptional note, he was granted NIH tenure through the Central Tenure Committee in 2005 – a year early before his tenure track appointment was completed. In recognition of his meritorious and outstanding contributions as a Physician-Scientist, in 2007, Dr. Gao was elected to the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) on his initial nomination. In 2009, Dr. Gao established the Laboratory of Liver Diseases and became the Laboratory Chief of Liver Diseases at NIAAA, NIH. In 2023, Dr. Gao received NIH Director's Award in recognition of his major contributions to the field of liver biology, particularly our understanding of the molecular mechanisms and potential treatment of liver disease.
Since rejoining NIAAA in 2000, Dr. Gao has established a highly productive liver research laboratory at NIH. Dr. Gao’s group is studying basic liver immunology and liver biology, and using the knowledge gained through these studies to investigate the pathogenesis of fatty liver diseases and their associated liver cancer and metabolic syndrome, and to explore novel therapeutic targets for these maladies. Over the past two decades, Dr. Gao’s group has extensively investigated various types of inflammatory cells and the cytokines produced by these cells that control liver injury and cancer, and has explored their therapeutic potential for liver diseases. Particularly, Dr. Gao first discovered interleukin-22 as a key survival factor for hepatocytes in 2004, and subsequently characterized interleukin-22 biology in the liver. These studies led to the ongoing interleukin-22 clinical trials for the treatment of acute liver failure such as severe alcoholic hepatitis with promising results from a Phase IIb trial. Recently, Dr. Gao’s lab has established several mouse models including chronic-plus-binge ethanol feeding (NIAAA model, also known as Gao-Binge model), high-fat diet-plus-binge ethanol feeding, HFD+CXCL1-induced NASH model, acute-on-chronic liver failure, and Cre recombinase inducible human CD59 transgenic mouse model of cell ablation. Many of these models are now widely used by many laboratories worldwide, and many novel mechanisms underlying liver injury and regeneration have been identified.
Dr. Gao has published approximately 300 papers, including over 200 peer-reviewed original articles in highly prestigious journals. Dr. Gao was also often invited to organize, chair, and speak in many major national and international conferences. He is currently serving or has been served on the Editorial board for Journal of Clinical Investigation, Gastroenterology, Gut, Journal of Hepatology, Hepatology, etc., and Associate Editor-in-Chief for Cellular & Molecular Immunology.; Executive Editor for International Journal of Biological Sciences; Senior Editor for Seminars in Liver Diseases.