Zhijian “James” Chen, PhD, George L. MacGregor Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Science and professor of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, will deliver the final presentation in the 2017 Senior Vice Chancellor’s Laureate Lecture Series, a yearlong program featuring top biomedical researchers in their fields. Chen’s talk, “Enemy Within: Immune and Autoimmune Responses to Cytosolic DNA,” will be delivered at noon on Friday, June 2, in Scaife Hall, Lecture Room 6. This seminar series is open to the public, including all interested University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University faculty, students, and staff. Arthur S. Levine, MD, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine, will introduce Chen and lead the discussion following the lecture.
Chen, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and director of the Inflammation Research Center at UT Southwestern, is best known for using classical biochemistry to discover new pathways and mechanisms that have transformed our understanding of innate immunity and cell signaling. He discovered the regulatory role of ubiquitination in protein kinase activation in the NF-?B and MAP kinase pathways. He later discovered the mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS), which revealed a new role of mitochondria in immunity. His more recent work includes the discovery of cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) as the long-sought cytosolic DNA sensor, as well as a new cyclic di-nucleotide signaling pathway that mediates innate immune responses in animal cells.
Chen received his undergraduate degree in biology from Fujian Normal University, China, and his PhD in biochemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was mentored by Cecile Pickart, PhD. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute in the lab of Inder Verma, PhD. In 1992, Chen joined Baxter Healthcare as a research scientist working on cancer immunotherapy. In 1994, he became a senior scientist at ProScript Inc., a start-up biotechnology company where he helped to discover the proteasome inhibitor VELCADE (bortezomib), which is used for the treatment of multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma.
Chen has received numerous honors, including the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology (2012) and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Merck Award (2015). Chen is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He holds editorial board positions with eLife, Molecular Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Trends in Immunology, and Cell Research.
A reception with light refreshments will follow the talk.