Assistant Professor, Immunobiology
B.S., University of California, Berkeley
Ph.D., Harvard University
An essential function of the immune system is to distinguish between its own and foreign molecules in order to destroy pathogens while preventing destruction of healthy cells. The Chen Lab investigates how the immune system correctly identifies pathogens when the same signals are found in both host cells and pathogens. Circular RNAs (circRNAs)—single-stranded RNAs where the ends are joined together—are encoded by eukaryotes and viruses. We study the essential features of viral and host circRNAs that are required in the regulation and recognition of self- versus non-self, the proteins involved in this process, and the ensuing cellular signaling. We strive to apply our understanding to engineer circRNAs as a novel strategy for immunotherapy that exploits the uniquely promising characteristics of circRNAs.