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Dr Zhigao Niu staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 86447

Dr Zhigao Niu PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow - Bioactive Food Systems

Riddet Institute

Dr Zhigao Niu received his PhD degree with distinction (2016) in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He was involved in a European 7th Framework Program (TRANS-INT) focusing on advanced technologies for oral peptide delivery and the understanding of absorptive barriers.

Currently, his research at Massey University involves (i) biopolymer and/or lipid-based systems for gastric protection, controlled release, and enhanced absorption of food-derived bioactives; (ii) colon-targeted delivery of therapeutics for local disease treatment; (iii) impact of food digestion on the oral bioavailability of bioactive compounds at a molecular level; and (iv) application of 3D organoids in food, nutrition and pharmaceutical sciences.

Dr. Niu is an inventor of two international patents. His work has been published in top journals across pharmaceutical science, food science, material and colloidal sciences, such as Journal of Controlled Release (IF 7.9), Advanced Materials (IF 25.8), Food Hydrocolloids (IF 5.8), Journal of Colloid and Interface Science (IF 6.4), etc. He is a reviewer of nine international journals including Food & Function, Food Hydrocolloids, Food Chemistry, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, and European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

 Area of Expertise

  1. Oral delivery of bioactive peptides, proteins and phytochemicals;
  2. Rational design of biopolymer and/or lipid-based nanocarriers;
  3. Strategies to enhance the solubility, stability and permeability of BCS II, III, IV compounds;
  4. In vitro and in vivo characterization and analysis of bioactive-loaded colloidal systems, i.e. physicochemical properties, morphology, cell/mucus-interaction, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

Research Interest:

  1. Natural food materials as delivery systems for bioactives and drugs
  2. Mechanistic understanding of gastrointestinal digestion and absorption

We seek to overcome gastrointestinal barriers, promote the oral bioavailability of BCS II, III, IV bioactives (improving solubility, stability, permeability) and maximise the health-enhancing efficacy of food-derived bioactives using pharma-inspired approaches.


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Contact details

  • Ph: 86447
    Location: 1.27, Ecology Building
    Campus: Manawatu


  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Santiago de Compostela (2016)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Lipid and/or polymer-based drug/nutrient delivery systems;

Nanoencapsulation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules;

Gastric/intestinal protection & controlled release;

Interaction between nanocarriers and biological barriers (eg. mucodiffusion and mucoadhesion, permeation enhancers, etc.).


Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biochemistry and Cell Biology (060100): Biological Sciences (060000):
Engineering (090000): Food Sciences (090800):
Medical And Health Sciences (110000):
Nanobiotechnology (100703): Nanomedicine (100709): Nanotechnology (100700):
Pharmaceutical Sciences (111504): Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences (111500):
Technology (100000)


Delivery systems; Controlled release; Gastric-Intestinal protection; Food Colloids; Food Ingredient Functionality; Biomaterial; Nanomedicine; Pharmacokinatics; Pharmacodynamics.

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 1

Research Outputs


Niu, Z., Thielen, I., Loveday, SM., & Singh, H. (2020). Emulsions Stabilised by Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) 40 Stearate and Lactoferrin for Protection of Lactoferrin during In Vitro Digestion. Food Biophysics.
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z., Singh, H.
Du Le, H., Loveday, SM., Nowak, E., Niu, Z., & Singh, H. (2020). Pectin emulsions for colon-targeted release of propionic acid. Food Hydrocolloids. 103
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z., Singh, H.
Nowak, E., Livney, YD., Niu, Z., & Singh, H. (2019). Delivery of bioactives in food for optimal efficacy: What inspirations and insights can be gained from pharmaceutics?. Trends in Food Science and Technology. 91, 557-573
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z., Nowak, E., Singh, H.
Durán-Lobato, M., Niu, Z., & Alonso, MJ. (2020). Oral Delivery of Biologics for Precision Medicine. Advanced Materials. 32(13)
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Niu, Z., Thielen, I., Barnett, A., Loveday, SM., & Singh, H. (2019). ε-Polylysine and β-cyclodextrin assembling as delivery systems for gastric protection of proteins and possibility to enhance intestinal permeation. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. 546, 312-323
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z., Singh, H.
Niu, Z., Loveday, SM., Barbe, V., Thielen, I., He, Y., & Singh, H. (2019). Protection of native lactoferrin under gastric conditions through complexation with pectin and chitosan. Food Hydrocolloids. 93, 120-130
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z., Singh, H.
Niu, Z., Samaridou, E., Jaumain, E., Coëne, J., Ullio, G., Shrestha, N., . . . Alonso, MJ. (2018). PEG-PGA enveloped octaarginine-peptide nanocomplexes: An oral peptide delivery strategy. Journal of Controlled Release. 276, 125-139
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Niu, Z., Tedesco, E., Benetti, F., Mabondzo, A., Montagner, IM., Marigo, I., . . . Alonso, MJ. (2017). Rational design of polyarginine nanocapsules intended to help peptides overcoming intestinal barriers. Journal of Controlled Release. 263, 4-17
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Niu, Z., Conejos-Sánchez, I., Griffin, BT., O'Driscoll, CM., & Alonso, MJ. (2016). Lipid-based nanocarriers for oral peptide delivery. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. 106, 337-354
[Journal article]Authored by: Niu, Z.


Niu, Z. (2016). Rational design of nanocarriers for oral peptide administration. (Doctoral Thesis, University of Santiago de Compostela)
[Doctoral Thesis]Authored by: Niu, Z.


Alonso, MJ., Niu, Z., & Santander-Ortega, M.(2018). . P201631221: Nanoparticles with protected interiors, and methods of use thereof (Nanopartículas con interiores protegidos, y métodos de uso de las mismas)
[Patent]Authored by: Niu, Z.
LENHERR, G., CSABA, N., THWALA, NL., NIU, Z., & ALONSO, MJ.(2018). . WO2015189387 (EP3154531, US20170087096): WO: Nanocapsular formulation of active pharmaceutical ingredients
[Patent]Authored by: Niu, Z.


Niu, Z. (2020, March). Overcoming absorptive barriers of nutraceuticals using food-grade delivery systems. Presented at 15th International Hydrocolloid Conference. Melbourne.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Niu, Z. (2018). Whey Protein, Modified Starch or Polysorbate 80 Based Nanoemulsions for Nutraceutical Delivery. Poster session presented at the meeting of 45th Annual Meeting & Exposition of the Controlled Release Society. New York, USA
[Conference Poster]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Acevedo Fani, A., & Niu, Z. (2017, September). Right time, right place: bioactive delivery systems. Presented at Nutritional science fuelling innovation. High-Value Nutrition NZ Conference 2017. Auckland, New Zealand.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Acevedo Fani, A., Niu, Z.
Niu, Z. (2017, November). Crossing intestinal barriers: Rational design of nano-inspired peptide therapeutics. Presented at 7th International Symposium on Delivery of Functionality in Complex Food Systems. Auckland, New Zealand.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Niu, Z.
Samaridou, E., Niu, Z., Jaumain, E., Coëne, J., Ullio, G., Mabondzo, A., . . . Alonso, MJ. (2017). PEG-PGA enveloped octaarginine-peptide nanocomplexes: A novel protein-based drug delivery strategy to overcome extracellular and cellular barriers. Poster session presented at the meeting of Controlled Release Society Annual Meeting & Exposition. Boston, United States of America
[Conference Poster]Authored by: Niu, Z.Contributed to by: Niu, Z.
Lundquist, P., Khodus, G., Simoff, I., Thwala, L., Niu, Z., Webb, D-L., . . . Artursson, P. (2017). Ussing chambers for the study of nanoparticle permeability in the human jejunum. Poster session presented at the meeting of 6th Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress, FIP PSWC 2017. Stockholm, Sweden
[Conference Poster]Authored by: Niu, Z.Contributed to by: Niu, Z.


Niu, Z. (2015, April). Design and optimization of polyarginine-based nanocapsules for oral delivery of peptide. Presented at Barcelona, Spain.
[Oral Presentation]Authored by: Niu, Z.

Consultancy and Languages


  • English
    Last used: Currently using
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent
  • Spanish
    Last used: Currently using
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent
  • Chinese
    Last used: Native speaker
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Teaching and Supervision

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Co-supervisor 1 0

Current Doctoral Supervision

Co-supervisor of:

  • Hoang Du Le - Doctor of Philosophy
    Carbohydrate systems for delivering bioactives to the colon

Media and Links

Other Links

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