Person standing in front of a computer
Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

This story has been modified from an article that originally appeared in the Gazette.

HSCRB Assistant Professor Fei Chen, PhD, is one of seven winners of the 2024 Star-Friedman Challenge for Promising Scientific Research for his proposal “Neuromodulatory Effects of Stabilized Endogenous Peptides.”

In its 11th year, the Star-Friedman Challenge provides seed funding for novel research in the physical or social sciences, with an emphasis on new directions that might not otherwise be supported through traditional funding channels.

The program was first established in 2013 by a gift from James A. Star ’83 and expanded five years later by support from Josh Friedman ’76, M.B.A. ’80, J.D. ’82, and Beth Friedman. This year’s awardees were celebrated April 18.

“I’m grateful for the Star-Friedman award,” said Chen. “I really appreciate how it funds high-risk and innovative research. For a lab developing new technologies, this means that we can pursue ideas that wouldn’t have been funded elsewhere. In many ways, this represents a force multiplier on the impact of the funding. We’re really excited about our award to systematically link soluble peptide signalling to molecular cell types in the brain.”

For a lab developing new technologies…we can pursue ideas that wouldn’t have been funded elsewhere
Fei Chen, PhD

See below for a summary of Chen’s project:

Small strings of amino acids called peptides, including insulin, oxytocin, and leptin, serve important functions in the body and hold promise as biologic drugs. The use of peptides for therapeutic purposes has been hampered by their quick degradation, and many nervous-system-soluble peptides have not been well characterized due to their instability. Chen and colleagues will develop libraries of stabilized peptides to characterize their cell-type activity in the nervous system. Their aim is to identify stabilization strategies for more than 100 bioactive peptides.

Photo of Fei Chen

Fei Chen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology