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The Chen Lab is a system biology research group interested in epigenetic mechanisms that drive the change of cell identity in normal differentiation and cancer development.

The most important discovery in the lab is that cancer genes as a unique group are distinct from other genes in the epigenetic mechanisms to regulate their transcription (Kaifu Chen, et al, Nature Genetics 2015; Shilpa Dhar, et al, Molecular Cell 2018; Dongyu Zhao, et al, Manuscript Submitted). This finding provided insight into the epigenetic regulation of normal cell identities in development and tumorigenesis in cancer disease. The finding further laid the foundation for us to develop computational epigenetic technology that utilizes epigenome information to uncover cancer driver genes. The technology has been proved to successfully recapture known cancer driver genes, and further, overcome critical constraint on current technologies by successfully identifying many cancer driver genes that were not detectable by conventional mutation analysis. These cancer driver genes led to new therapeutic targets and diagnostic markers as have been verified in cell, xenograft, and PDX models (Sen Zhu, et al, Nature Communications, 2018; Sen Zhu, et al, Submitted; Qipeng Liu, et al, Submitted) and thus, will benefit numerous cancer patients.

Major research directions in the lab include:

  • Develop bioinformatics technologies to gain novel biomedical insight into genome, epigenome, and transcriptome data.
  • Study expression regulation mechanisms on the basis of cutting-edge bioinformatics methods, and in combination with genomic, molecular, cellular, and animal experiments.


Recent news:

October, 2018:

  • Bo's paper in collaboration with Yang under supervision of Greg was accepted to Nature. Bo is a co-first author, Guangyu is a co-author, and Kaifu is the co-coressponding author, Cheers!

August, 2018:

  • Bo's paper for aging research based on Ribo-Seq data in collaboration with Zheng was accepted to Elife. Cheers!

July, 2018:

  • Kaifu was assigned as the founding Director to develop a Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. The center will thrive to a size of 4-6 faculties in the following 5 years.

June, 2018:

  • Kaifu was promoted to Associate Professor, many thanks to hard workings of the fantastic team in the past 3 years!
  • Kaifu received an Houston Methodist Award For Excellence in Peer-reviewed Publication for the discovery of the key role for MLL4 in establishing Broad H3K4me3 and Super enhancers at tumor suppressor genes (Zhao, et al, Molecular Cell 2018)

April, 2018:

  • Dongyu's paper with Shilpa et al got accepted to Molecular Cell, the 19th paper published by the new lab, cheers!
  • Kaifu received an Houston Methodist Award For Excellence in Peer-reviewed Publication for the discovery of the a novel role for BMI1 in regulating AR signaling in prostate cancer (Zhao, et al, Nature Communications 2018)

Dec, 2017:

  • Dongyu's paper in collaboration with Sen et al was accepted to Nature Communications, the 16th paper published by the new lab, Cheers!

May, 2017:

  • Houston Methodist is named one of “America’s Best Employers” by Forbes magazine for the second year in a row.
  • Dr. Lei La will be a visiting scholar in the lab for 1 year. Dr. La is an Associate Professor at the Southern Medical University Nanfang Hospital ( a top hospital in China). Welcome!

April, 2017:

  • Kaifu provided a talk in the EB / ASBMB annual meeting 2017.
  • Dongyu's first-authorship manuscript for prostate cancer research is submitted, fingers crossed!
  • Dongyu's first-authorship manuscript for brain cancer research is submitted, fingers crossed!

March, 2017:

  • Kaifu become a member of the NCI-Funded Interdisciplinary Approaches to Cancer Metastasis Workshop, and will work together with the workshop to develop highly innovative and collaborative projects on cancer metastasis.
  • A manuscript is accepted by Elife. Alin and Kaifu help the collaborators interpret the 17 sets of RNA-Seq data. Cheers!

February, 2017:

  • A manuscript is accepted by the Nature Chemical Biology journal, Jie conducted the RNA-Seq analysis for this project. Cheers!

January, 2017:

  • Dr. Guangyu Wang from Beijing Institute of Genomiocs will join the lab as a postdoc soon, welcome!
  • Ms. Karen Lai from UT Austin will be an undergraduate intern in the lab this summer, welcome!

December, 2016:

  • A manuscript is accepted by the Science journal, Kaifu helps supervising the MNase-Seq and ChIP-Seq analysis and is a co-author. Cheers!

November, 2016:

  • Alin will start his tenure-track faculty position (assistant professor of statistics) at the Manhattan College. Congratulations!
  • Bo has joined the lab. Welcome onboard!

September, 2016

  • A manuscript is accepted to the Journal of the American Heart Association, Jie and Kaifu are co-authors, cheers!
  • A manuscript is accepted to the Nucleic Acids Research, Kaifu is a co-author, cheers!
  • Dr. Qingshu Meng will be visiting the lab for 1 year. Dr. Meng has outstanding background in Genomics research, and is a group leader at Beijing Institute of Genomics. Welcome!

August, 2016

  • Kaifu will be an adjunt assistant professor of Texas A&M.
  • Dr. Bo Xia from Georgia Tech will join the lab as a fresh postdoc soon. Dr. Xia is a PhD of biology and Master of computer science. Welcome!

April, 2016

  • Jie's paper was accepted by Molecular Cell, congratulations!

April, 2016

  • New postdoc position opening.
  • Jie's co-first authorship manuscript is under revision at Molecular Cell (IF 14), fingers crossed!

December, 2015

  • Kaifu's new manuscript was accepted to the Nucleic Acids Research, thank Alin for his help with the revision work!
  • A manuscript was accepted to the Molecular and Cellular Biology, thank Dongyu for his help with the revision work!

November, 2015

  • Dr. Jie Lu has joined the lab as postdoctoral Fellow, welcome onboard!

October, 2015

  • Dr. Dongyu Zhao has joined the lab as postdoctoral Fellow, welcome onboard!

September, 2015

August, 2015

  • Kaifu's data-revisiting paper is accepted to Nature Genetics.
  • Kaifu's MeCP2 mCH-binding paper (with Dr. Zoghbi lab) has been accepted to PNAS.

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