HomeOur ScientistsZhijian "James" Chen

Our Scientists

Zhijian "James" Chen, PhD
Investigator / 2005–Present

Scientific Discipline

Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

Host Institution

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Current Position

Dr. Chen is a George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science, director of the Inflammation Research Center, and a professor of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.


Biochemical Pathways of Immunity

Zhijian “James” Chen’s research into complex cellular biochemistry has led to the discovery of pathways and proteins that trigger immune and stress responses. Chen has identified proteins, such as the mitochondrial protein MAVS, that are crucial to the body’s defense against RNA viruses such as influenza and Ebola. Now, Chen and his team are dissecting a signaling pathway involving a novel DNA sensor – cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP) synthase, or cGAS – which activates an interferon response that may play a role in immune defense against pathogens and malignant cells, as well as in autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Treatment of these autoimmune diseases could involve chemical inhibition of cGAS, whereas cGAMP and its derivatives may be used as adjuvants for vaccines and cancer immunotherapies.


  • PhD, biochemistry, State University of New York at Buffalo


  • Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research, Welch Foundation
  • Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Science, Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas
  • National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology
  • ASBMB-Merck Award
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  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences