non-viral gene therapy, molecular imaging, liposomal drug delivery


Research Interests

Assistant Professor

Pharmaceutical Sciences
Gatton College of Pharmacy

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2008,

Molecular & Medical Pharmacology

B.S., Tulane University, 2001, Mathematics, Cell & Molecular Biology

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, TN 37614


Office: Pharmacy 319

Lab: Stanton-Gerber A125

Academic Distinctions

Research Training in the Pharmacological Sciences Fellow, 2002-2005
Bioinformatics Integrated Graduate Education and Research Trainee, 2002
Mathematical Biology REU Fellow, 2000


Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Michigan, 2008-2011

Research Abstract

We are interested in building tools for the delivery of genes into mammalian cells. In order for a foreign gene to have a therapeutic effect, it must overcome a number of barriers posed by the cell. Various microorganisms have evolved mechanisms for overcoming these barriers in order to deliver their own genetic material and replicate within host cells. Our goal is to adapt these mechanisms and combine them into a single delivery vehicle that can successfully deliver therapeutic genes to diseased cells.


Walls ZF, Gupta SV, Amidon GL, Lee KD. “Synthesis and Characterization of Valyloxy Methoxy Luciferin for the Detection of Valacyclovirase and Peptide Transporter.” Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2014.

Loening AM, Walls ZF. “Engineering Luciferase for Assays and Imaging.” Engineering in Translational Medicine. Ed. Cai W. Springer, 2014.

Walls ZF, Goodell S, Andrews CD, Mathis J, Lee KD. “Mutant of listeriolysin O for enhanced liposomal drug delivery of macromolecules.” J Biotechnol. 164(4):500-502, 2013.

Sun J, Dahan A, Walls ZF, Lai L, Lee KD, Amidon GL. “Specificity of a prodrug-activating enzyme hVACVase: the leaving group effect.” Mol Pharm. 7(6):2362-8, 2010.

Walls ZF, Puttaraju M, Temple GF, Gambhir SS. “A Generalizable Strategy for Imaging pre-mRNA Levels in Living Subjects Using Spliceosome-Mediated RNA Trans-splicing.” J Nucl Med. 49(7):1146-1154, 2008.

Walls ZF, Gambhir SS. “BRET-based method for detection of specific RNA species.” Bioconjug Chem. 19(1):178-84, 2008.

Gambhir SS, Deroose C, Walls Z. “Cell Biology Fundamentals.” Nuclear Medicine in Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd Ed. Eds. Ell PJ, Gambhir SS. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 2004. 1687-1713.

Bhaumik S, Walls Z, Puttaraju M, Mitchel LG, Gambhir SS. “Molecular imaging of gene expression in living subjects by spliceosome-mediated RNA trans-splicing.” PNAS. 101 (23):8693-8, 2004.

Chauvet E, Paullet JE, Previte JP, Walls Z. “A Lotka-Volterra Three-species Food Chain” Mathematics Magazine. 75(4):243-255, 2002.

Current Lab Members:

Katie Barron

Josh Brown

Elle Harrison

Moses Holleyman

Tyler Jones

Alex Mink

Benjamin Sypniewski

Robert Vincent

Former Lab Members:

Chris Blackburn

Jennifer Carmical

Laura Cyphers

Brent Henderson

Stephen Lance

Ryan Pritchard

Matt Schwengels

Dana Suich

Wes Waters

Stephen Widing

Rebecca Wilson