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Awardee:  Peng Chen

Peng Chen, Professor of Chemistry, Peking University. Peng Chen was born in June 1979 at Lanzhou, China and received his double bachelor degrees on Chemistry and Economics from Peking University in 2002. He then went to USA and obtained his Ph.D in Chemistry from The University of Chicago in 2007. After a postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute between 2007 and 2009, he returned to Peking University in July 2009 as an Investigator in College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering (CCME). He was promoted to full professor with tenure in August 2014 and since January 2015, he became the Chairman of Department of Chemical Biology in CCME.

Prof. Chen’s main research interest is in Chemical Biology. He has made important contributions to the fields of Protein chemical biology, Bioortogonal reactions and Host-pathogen interactions. In particular, he has major accomplishments in developing chemical tools to study proteins in living cells.  These technological advancements overcome the traditional bottleneck for investigating intracellular proteins, which opens a new avenue for in situ study of protein functions as well as illustration of new biological mechanisms. In the above mentioned areas, he has published over 40 papers in peer-reviewed Journals in the past 5 years, including 6 papers in Nature Group Magazines (Nat. Chem., Nature Chemical Biology, etc), 10 papers in J. Am. Chem. Soc and Angew. Chem. In. Ed. He has also co-authored three books including one with National Science Foundation of China ("Chemical Biology Frontier and Perspective") and two Chemical biology textbooks ("Principles of Chemical Biology", and “Chemical Biology Experimentsâ€?).

Prof. Chen was recognized by a number of international and national academic honors and awards, including WuXi PharmaTech Life Science and Chemistry Award (2011), Chinese Chemical Society Young Investigator Award (2012), Young Scientists Award of China (2013), Roche Chinese Young Investigator Award (2014), CAPA Biomatik Distinguished Faculty Award, RSC Chem Soc Rev Emerging Investigator Lectureship (2014), The Chemical Society of Japan Distinguished Lectureship Award (2015), etc. He received the Distinguished Young Scholar at National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) in 2012 and became NSFC Innovation Research Team Leader in 2015.

Prof. Chen is Vice Chair of the Chemical Biology Committee of Chinese Chemical Society, and a member of the Young Chemist Committee of Chinese Chemical Society. He has been serving as the Editor or Advisory Board member for a panel of Scientific Journals including Acta Chimica Sinica, Scientific Reports, Molecular BioSystems, Chem, Cell Chemical Biolog, Chemical Society Review, etc.

Award-winning achievement: Protein Chemistry in Living Cells 

Abstract: As the basic building blocks for all living species, cells play fundamental roles in virtually all life processes. Proteins are the most abundant biomolucules in cells, and their structure, activity, movement as well as interactions with other biomolecules lay the ground for diverse cellular functions. How to specifically label and manipulate proteins within their native environment-the living cells, however, remains a formidable challenge. Peng Chen and coworkers systematically developed chemistry-based platform technology for in vivo study of proteins, which yielded an array of chemical biology tools such as photocrosslinking, labeling and chemical decaging probes to investigate protein structure and functions under living conditions. Embarking on this novel "chemistry toolkit" for living cells, they collaborated with biologists to reveal the intracellular molecular details during conformational change, activity modulation, post-translational modification and biomolecular interactions of a panel of essential protein machinery.  The work opens a new avenue for using the chemical approach to investigate protein as well as other biomolecules, which significantly enriched the methodologies for understanding protein functions in vivo. Such study also revealed new mechanisms for bacterial antibiotic resistance and acid resistance, illustrated new pathways during cell signal transduction, which provides new therapeutic potential for infectious disease and cancer.