Simms/Mann Family Foundation endows City of Hope scientist

April 1, 2019
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Zen Vuong
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Jianjun Chen, Ph.D., has been named the Simms/Mann Family Foundation Chair in Systems Biology.
 
DUARTE, Calif.Jianjun Chen, Ph.D., has been named the Simms/Mann Family Foundation Chair in Systems Biology at City of Hope in recognition of his leading-edge research that is helping to build the foundation of personalized, gene-based medicine.
 
“Dr. Jianjun Chen is digging into the DNA of cancer – the complex, coded instructions that determine when and how cancer starts, the triggers that set the whole process in motion and the techniques to stop it in its tracks,” said Robert Stone, president and chief executive officer of City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer and diabetes. “Dr. Victoria Mann Simms and Ronald Simms are visionary philanthropists who share our sense of urgency and mission to serve the whole patient – body and soul. With their support, City of Hope will be able to hasten innovative research that puts cures for patients into doctors’ hands more quickly.”
 
For 34 years, The Simms/Mann Family Foundation has supported innovative programs and resources that address the complex challenges of the 21st century. Victoria Simms, Ph.D., architect of all the initiatives the foundation funds, is a nationally recognized child development specialist and philanthropist. Ronald Simms, C.P.A., J.D., is passionate about health and education and works collaboratively with his wife to identify deserving and promising programs and individuals.
 
“We believe everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, should have access to a healthy life, an education, and art and culture,” Victoria Simms said. “Dr. Chen’s research has shown far-reaching potential and promises to bring about the development of effective therapies for cancer patients, especially those with acute myeloid leukemia. Under the leadership of City of Hope’s Dr. Steven Rosen, the Chen Lab will provide the foundational knowledge that will shepherd in the next era of health care: precision medicine.”
 
Chen, an award-winning scientist, joined City of Hope nearly two years ago in October 2017. Since then, he has published six papers in high-profile journals such as Nature, Cell, Cancer Cell, Cell Stem Cell and Nature Cell Biology. His laboratory is focused on understanding the genetic, epigenetic and molecular mechanisms in leukemia and other malignancies.
 
Most recently, Chen published a letter in the journal Nature elucidating how chemical modification of a group of proteins found in chromatin, namely histone H3 lysine 36 tri-methylation (H3K36me3), guides N6-methyladenosine (m6A) modification in messenger RNAs (mRNAs). This occurrence happens simultaneously with transcription of mRNAs. The fundamental discovery provides insight into a new layer of gene regulation, potentially also offering a novel genetic target that can be used to fend off diseases like cancer.
 
“This endowment provides me with long-term, continuous support to continue to conduct high-risk, high-reward research projects,” Chen said. “I am honored that the Simms/Mann Family Foundation recognizes the potential of the Chen Lab at City of Hope. We will focus on developing small-molecule inhibitors that target RNA modifications associated with proteins like FTO, METTL14 and METTL16, which promote cancer progression and drug resistance in leukemia and solid tumors. Knowing how to turn off such proteins could eliminate certain blood and solid tumor cancers.”
 
Chen earned his doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. He has been faculty at University of Chicago and University of Cincinnati. Among his long list of honors are a research scholar award from the American Cancer Society in 2011, Researcher of the Year from The Pamela B. Katten Memorial Leukemia Research Foundation in 2014 and scholar award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2017.
 
Chen is a permanent member of the National Institutes of Health Developmental Therapeutics study section. His research program is currently supported by multiple grants from the National Cancer Institute.
 
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About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is ranked one of America's "Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on FacebookTwitterYouTube or Instagram.