Irvin S.Y. Chen

Irvin Sy Chen

Professor, MIMG, University of California Los Angeles

Professor, Medicine, University of California Los Angeles

(310) 825-6873

Laboratory Address:
615 Charles E. Young Dr. South
BSRB, Rm 161
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Mailing Address:
615 Charles E. Young Dr. South
BSRB, Rm 173
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Work Phone Number:


Co-Leader, Pilot and Collaborative Translational Clinical Studies Program
Member, CTSI, Immunity, Microbes & Molecular Pathogenesis GPB Home Area, Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC)

Research Interests

The overall research interests of this laboratory are to understand, at the molecular and cellular levels, how the human retroviruses, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV), cause AIDS and cancer, respectively. We are also developing gene therapy reagents and modeling these reagents utilizing the SCID-hu mouse, which allows stem cell reconstitution and thymic T-cell development. Some of the specific projects ongoing in this laboratory are: 1. The mechanism by which HIV-1 causes CD4+ T-cell death is unknown. We have found that HIV-1 causes perturbation of the cell cycle, leading to arrest of the cells at a particular point in the cycle. Furthermore, this ability of HIV-1 to arrest T-cells can be abrogated by specific mutations within one of the non-structural genes of the virus. We are investigating the role of this gene, termed vpr, and the specific cell cycle kinases, cyclins and cell cycle inhibitors that may be involved in this process. 2. Immune reconstitution is theoretically a viable approach to AIDS therapy. However, the new T-cells need to be protected from the effects of residual HIV-1. We are modeling gene therapy utilizing the SCID-hu mouse for introduction of “protected” CD34+ stem cells, reconstitution of the SCID-hu animal and finally, challenge with HIV-1. This is the only model for human stem cell gene therapy, and allows for more rapid experimental design of vectors, reagents, etc.


Dr. Irvin S. Y. Chen, Director of the UCLA AIDS Institute, is Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and is an internationally recognized retrovirologist and molecular biologist. Dr. Chen’s focus is on human retroviruses that are implicated in cancer and AIDS. This form of virus reproduces by creating DNA from RNA and adding its genetic code to the chromosomes of the cells it has infected. Along with his exploration of the disease-causing process of the AIDS virus—HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), Dr. Chen also was instrumental in identifying HTLV II, a human T-cell leukemia virus. Dr. Chen was the co-inventor of a diagnostic test for this virus currently used in blood banks throughout the world.