Chen's Laboratory for Immunotherapeutic Study

UNIVERSITY  OF  UTAH     Department  of  Pharmaceutics

COLLEGE    PHARMACY    and Pharmaceutical Chemistry


Research Statement



Dr. Chen’s research addresses several challenges at the interface of immunology, material science, pharmaceutical science, and cancer therapeutics development.

To resolve autoimmune diseases without compromising normal immunity: Autoimmune diseases affects 50 million Americans and there is no cure for the vast majority of autoimmune diseases. Lymphocytes play critical roles in both normal immunity and autoimmunity. Lymphocyte suppression and depletion have been used to attenuate autoimmunity. However, these methods have a collateral damage to normal immunity. We are leveraging drug targeting ideas and principles to develop targeted lymphocyte depletion methods as new, low side effect therapies for autoimmune diseases.  

To modulate the immunogenicity of functional peptide materials: The immunogenicity of peptide materials impacts many of their biomedical applications. We are interested in understanding the interplay between exogenous polypeptides and the host immune system so that we are able to tailor the immunogenicity of the polypeptide materials as desired. Our goal is to offer insights on how to generate peptide materials that have both an appealing function and an immunogenicity that supports the function.

To revitalize host anti-tumor immunity: Throughout tumorigenesis, tumor cells and tissues evolve to overcome and dampen host immunity. However, anti-tumor immunity can be revitalized and the tumor’s dominance reversed by immunotherapies such as vaccination and immune checkpoint blockade. These therapies have achieved some clinical successes in melanoma, prostate cancer, and cervical cancer.  In order to broaden their successes in a wider range of cancer, we are integrating drug delivery principles and our immune-tolerant elastin-like polypeptide (iTEP) nanoparticles together to create drug carriers that would improve the efficacy of these therapies.

To stop metastasis: Given cancer stem cells’ critical role during tumorigenesis and metastasis, a reduction in their numbers could lead to a significant inhibition of metastasis. To this end, we are leveraging these cells’ unique physiological and pathological characteristics to devise iTEP-based carriers that target cancer stem cell-specific drugs to these cells, boosting the drug’s effectiveness and inhibiting metastasis.


Research Keywords

  • Autoimmune Diseases, Interest Level: 5

  • Vaccine, Interest Level: 5

  • Recombinant polypeptide materials, Interest Level: 5

  • Metastasis, Interest Level: 4

  • Drug Delivery, Interest Level: 5

  • Cancer Immunotherapy, Interest Level: 5