Recently, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) has decided to award Dr. Chen Zhijian, an alumnus of FNU, the 2018 Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for the discovery of cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) and its corresponding regulatory pathway, which unlocked a century-old mystery about DNA. The award ceremony will be held in Washington DC, the capital of America, on May 16, 2018.
Dr. Chen graduated from the Department of Biology, FNU in 1985 and received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1991. In 2014, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He currently holds the George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science. He is also a tenured professor of the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, director of Inflammation Research Center at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). In 2012, Dr. Chen and his team discovered cGAS, which can sense the presence of the DNA, which entersa cell’s cytoplasm through autologous lesions or exogenous inflection, and then catalyze the formation of a molecule called cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP). The molecule can activatethe immune and inflammatory responses of the cell to fight the pathogen. This process enables the body to attack not only such viruses as the Herpes virus and HIV, but also other pathogens that harbor DNA. Therapies that target this pathway maybe applied to treatments or prevention of autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and some cancers.
For his outstanding scientific contributions, Dr. Chen has won many distinctions, including the Searle Scholar Award (1998), Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research by the Welch Foundation (2005), the Edith and Peter O’ Donnel Award in Science by the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (2007), the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology(2012) and American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Merck Award (ASBMB-Merck Award) (2015).
(Translated by Fu Dongxian, Reviewed by Xie Xiujuan)