Lieping Chen, MD, PhD

United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research and Professor of Immunobiology, of Dermatology and of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Co-Director, Cancer Immunology Program at Yale Cancer Center

Departments & Organizations

Immunobiology: Chen Lab | HTI

Medical Oncology

Cancer Center: Cancer Immunology | SPORE in Lung Cancer

Faculty Research

Yale Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS): Immunology: B and T Cell Effector and Memory Cell Differentiation; Consequences of an Immune Response; Infectious Disease and Host-Pathogen Interaction; Regulating the Immune Response

Office of Cooperative Research


Dr. Lieping Chen earned his medical degree from Fujian Medical School in China. After clinical training in immunology and oncology in Fujian Union Hospital and Peking Union Medical College, he earned a PhD in Pathology from Drexel University in Philadelphia and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle. He worked as a research scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb from 1989-1997 before he joined Mayo Clinic as an Immunology Professor from 1997-2004. He was Professor of Oncology and Dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for 7 years before he joined Yale University in 2011. He is currently the United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research, Professor of Immunobiology, Dermatology and Medicine (Medical Oncology), and Co-Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Yale School of Medicine.

Lieping Chen studies lymphocyte costimulation and coinhibition and their application in treating human diseases. In 1992, Dr. Chen did the first proof-of-concept study showing that manipulation of the B7-CD28 family molecules could be used for cancer immunotherapy by introducing B7-1 into tumor cells to enhance tumor immunity. This study inspired subsequent studies using antibodies targeting CTLA-4, one of the B7-CD28 family molecules, for the treatment of cancer. Dr. Chen co-discovered the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway and singularly established the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway as a target for cancer immunotherapy in 1999-2002. He initiated and help organized the first-in-man clinical trial of anti-PD-1 antibody for treating human cancer in 2006 and developed PD-L1 staining as a biomarker to predict treatment outcomes. Dr. Chen’s studies have revolutionized cancer treatment. His discoveries directly led to the development of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibody therapy against a broad spectrum of human cancers (first approved by the FDA in 2014).

Dr. Chen’s laboratory also discovered various costimulatory and coinhibitory pathways and their immunological functions and applications in human disease treatment. These pathways include 4-1BB, ICOS/B7-H2, B7-H3, B7-H4, B7-H5/CD28H, PD-1H, LIGHT/HVEM, TROY, B7-H2/CD28/CTLA-4 (human), and SALM5/HVEM. These discoveries led to the development of therapeutic agents including agonist anti-4-1BB antibody (cancer), anti-B7-H3 antibody (cancer) anti-B7-H4 antibody (cancer) and B7-H4Ig fusion protein (autoimmune diseases) which are currently in clinical trials.

Dr. Chen has published more than 300 papers, reviews, book chapters and has edited two books. His work in the discovery of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in cancer therapy was cited as the #1 breakthrough of the years by Science magazine in 2013. He has received several awards and professional recognitions, including the William B. Coley Award (2014) and the AAI-Steinman Award (2016).

Education & Training

PhD Drexel University (1989)
MS Beijing Union Medical College, Beijing, China, Immunology (1986)
MD Fujian Medical College (1982)
Postdoctoral fellow University of Washington
Fellow Beijing Union Medical College
Intern and Resident Fujian Union Hospital

Honors & Recognition

  • AAI-Steinman AwardAmerican Association of Immunologists (2016)

  • William B. Coley AwardCancer Research Institute (2014)

  • Inaugural United Technologies Corporation Endowed Chair ProfessorYale University (2013)

  • Honorary Master of ArtsYale University (2012)

  • American Cancer Society Research ScholarAmerican Cancer Society (2000)

  • Clinical Investigator AwardCancer Research Institute (1998)

  • Presidential AwardBristol-Myers Squibb Co. (1996)

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