July 12, 2018
With funding from our most competitive grant Dr. Zhijian “James” Chen, Professor of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern, discovered a mechanism that stimulates the immune system which could lead to novel treatments for infections, lupus and other autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Dr. Chen’s discovery of an enzyme cGAS uncovered an essential process that alerts the immune system to viruses by sensing the presence of ‘foreign DNA within cells’. As a winner of our Dr. William E. Paul Distinguished Innovator Awards in Lupus and Autoimmunity, Dr. Chen was able to confirm his hypothesis that this pathway malfunctions in lupus, causing the immune system to mistakenly attack its own DNA. That breakthrough reveals a strong potential target for therapies to treat or prevent lupus and other autoimmune diseases by blocking the enzyme cGAS.
The results of this study were published in the medical journal Science.
Dr. Chen was recently recognized for this outstanding achievement with the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.