C2ST Presents the 2018 FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Winner Zhijian ‘James’ Chen, PhD

Date(s) - 05/30/19
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Prentice Women's Hospital

Hosted by

C2ST Presents the 2018 FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Winner Zhijian ‘James’ Chen, PhD


May 30, 2019 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Register now to attend “Harnessing the body’s immune system to fight cancer and autoimmune diseases” with the renowned 2018 FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Winner, Dr. Zhijian ‘James’ Chen!

A recent breakthrough in our war against cancer is the development of therapies that harness our body’s immune system to seek out and destroy tumor cells. While such immunotherapies have significantly prolonged the life of some patients who had previously exhausted all treatment options, the majority of cancer patients still do not benefit from existing immunotherapies. Thus, there is an urgent need to devise new therapies that can benefit a larger population of cancer patients. A better understanding of the body’s immune system is also very important for the prevention and treatment of a growing list of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as lupus, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. In these diseases, the immune system misfires and attacks our own tissues. Our immune system is also crucial for defending us from infections by a large variety of microbial pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

Key to our understanding of the immune system is how it detects microbial pathogens and cancer cells and how it avoids attacking our own tissues in normal situations. An important mechanism of this immune detection is the detection of DNA from microbial pathogens and cancer cells. Our lab discovered the DNA sensing enzyme cGAS and the pathway through which cGAS launches immune and autoimmune responses. Dr. Chen will discuss the current status of immunotherapies and describe efforts in harnessing the cGAS pathway to fight cancer and autoimmune diseases.

With an introduction by Kenneth D. Bahk, PhD.

This program is generously supported by the Ann Lurie Trust.

Picture: Dr. Zhijian “James” Chen, the 2018 recipient of the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, gave remarks at the FNIH Award Ceremony.



Zhijian ‘James’ Chen is an Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He is also Director of Inflammation Research Center and George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science at UT Southwestern.

Prior to moving to Dallas, Chen was a senior scientist at ProScript Inc. where he helped discover the proteasome inhibitor VELCADE, a medicine used for the treatment of multiple myeloma. After joining UT Southwestern in 1997, Chen discovered the regulatory role of ubiquitination in protein kinase activation in the NF-B and MAP kinase pathways. In addition, he discovered the Mitochondrial Antiviral Signaling (MAVS) protein that reveals a new role of mitochondria in immunity. More recently, Chen discovered cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) as a cytosolic DNA sensor and a new cyclic di-nucleotide signaling pathway that mediate innate immune responses in animal cells.

For his work, Chen has received numerous honors including the National Academy of Science Award in Molecular Biology (2012), the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Merck Award (2015), the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences from the Foundation of NIH (2018) and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2019). Chen is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.