Chen, Peng

Chen, Peng

Institute of Chemical Biology

Senior Principal Investigator

Home page of research group:


  • 2020 - Present

    Shenzhen Bay Laboratory         Senior Principal Investigator

  • 2016 - Present

    Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Science         Senior Investigator

  • 2015 - Present

    Department of Chemical Biology, Peking University         Chairman

  • 2014 - Present

    Department of Chemical Biology, Peking University         Professor

  • 2011 - 2015

    Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences         Investigator

  • 2009 - 2014

    College of Chemistry, Peking University         Investigator

  • 2007 - 2009

    The Scripps Research Institute         Postdoctoral Fellow

  • 2002 - 2007

    University of Chicago Chicago         Ph.D

  • 1998 - 2002

    Peking University         B.S.

Research Areas

Cells are the basic structure and functional unit of organisms and play a key role in life activities. Proteins are the most abundant type of biomolecules in cells. Their structure, activity, movement and dynamic interaction with other biomolecules are the material basis for performing various cell functions. How to label and regulate these protein machines in situ in their natural environment-living cells is a challenging scientific problem.

Our research group put forward the idea of integrating unnatural amino acid expansion technology with bio-orthogonal reaction, independently developed and established a living cell "chemistry toolbox", and realized a series of original innovations in this field. In particular, the concept of bio-orthogonal bond-breaking reaction was first proposed in the world, and based on this, the protein chemical decaging technology was developed to realize the activation and regulation of proteins in vivo. This work is at the international leading level, which opened up new ways to use chemical reactions and methods to study protein functions in living cells through in-depth cooperation between chemists and life scientists, and promoted the deep cross-fusion of chemistry and life sciences.

In the Shenzhen Bay Laboratory, our group will use chemical biology tools to develop new protein drugs. Antibodies and peptides have played an extremely important role in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, however, its inherent characteristics make antibodies and peptides have certain limitations in practical applications, such as the low tissue infiltration of IgG antibodies, weak peptide binding and short half-life, etc., which traditional biological modifications difficult to face directly. The development of bio-orthogonal reactions provides new opportunities. The orthogonal functional groups introduced through genetic coding and chemical modification can break through the limitation of natural residues and endow proteins with brand-new functions and characteristics.


Chen Peng, a professor at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Peking University,  Special professor of the Yangtze River scholar and a senior researcher at Shenzhen Bay Laboratory. During the past ten years, he focused on the development of chemical reactions on living cells and chemical biology research and developed genetic coding and protein manipulation techniques based on chemically active unnatural amino acids. He solved some of the bottleneck problems of protein research in living cells, and applied them to proteins in the fields of mechanism research and drug development. More than 100 papers by corresponding authors have been published in journals such as Nature, Nature Chemistry and Nature Chemical Biology, which have received extensive attention from domestic and foreign counterparts. In particular, the "bio-orthogonal bond breaking reaction" was proposed and developed, which opened up a new direction for bio-orthogonal reactions and promoted my country's entry into the international frontier in the field of chemical biology represented by bio-orthogonal reactions. As the first complete person, he won the first prize of Natural Science of the Ministry of Education in 2019 and the second prize of National Natural Science of 2020 (award to be awarded), and as the first scientist from Asia, he was awarded the Early Career Award of the International Society of Bioinorganic Chemistry ( 2017).


Development and application of living cell “chemistry toolbox”


• 2017    SBIC Early Career Award (Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry)

• 2016    Tan Kah Kee Young Scientist Award

• 2016    Young Scientist Award, Ministry of Education (China)

• 2013    National Young Scientist Award (China)

• 2012    CCS (Chinese Chemical Society) Young Investigator Award

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Selected Publications

1. Liu S, Lin C, Xu Y, Luo H, Peng L, Zeng X, Zheng X, Chen P*, Zou P*. “A far-red hybrid voltage indicator enabled by bioorthogonal engineering of rhodopsin on live neurons”, Nat. Chem. 2021, in press 

2. Wang J, Liu Y, Liu YJ, Zheng S, Wang X, Zhao J, Yang F, Zhang G, Wang C*, Chen P*. “Time resolved protein activation by proximal decaging in living systems”, Nature, 2019, 569, 509-13.

3. Li J, Chen P*. “Development and application of bond-cleavage reactions in bioorthogonal chemistry” Nat. Chem. Biol. 2016, 12, 129-37.

4. Li J, Jia S, Chen P*, “Diels-Alder reaction-triggered bioorthogonal protein activation in living cells”, Nat. Chem. Biol., 2014, 10, 1003-5.

5. Li J, Yu J, Zhao J , Wang J, Zheng S, Lin S, Chen L, Yang M, Jia S, Zhang X, Chen P*, “Palladium-triggered deprotection chemistry for protein activation in living cells”, Nat. Chem. 2014, 6, 352-61. 

Open Positions in CHEN Peng Group

- Postdoctoral Fellow (2)

- Research Assistant (1)

Qualifications: Applicants should have scientific training experience in chemical biology, organic chemistry, molecular biology, protein/antibody engineering, immunology and etc. 

Please email your CV and related application documents to Only shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview. All application documents will be handled in confidentiality.