Dr. Chinnapen’s research focuses on addressing two major problems faced in biotechnological drug development: 1) lack of transport for biologics across the blood-brain-barrier, and 2) lack of oral bioavailability of large therapeutic peptides. His lab is currently developing technology to improve existing approaches to treat rare genetic lysosomal disorders, such as Tay-Sachs and Fabry diseases, and to deliver biologics across cellular barriers (endothelial and epithelial) as a platform approach to treat Type II Diabetes orally. Treatment of lysosomal diseases not only requires the delivery to affected vital organs, such as the heart, kidney and vascular endothelium, but also the crossing of the highly-selective blood-brain-barrier, which is virtually impenetrable for large biomolecules such as proteins. The lab also engages industry partners to help accelerate technology toward proof of concept and employing a broad range of disciplines, from organic chemistry to in vivo biology, Another main goal of the lab is to better understand the cellular mechanisms that underpin transcellular transport. Getting a better understanding in this process will aid in the development of next-in-class biotherapeutics that can cross highly-selective cellular barriers.


Dr. Chinnapen received his PhD in nucleic acid biochemistry from Simon Fraser University in Canada, and postdoctoral training at MIT in the lab of Alice Ting and then Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the lab of Wayne Lencer, MD. Dr. Chinnapen also served as senior scientist in two biotechnology companies in Cambridge MA, developing biologics that enter the cell and signal to treat various diseases.

Selected Publications

  1. Chinnapen DJ, Hsieh WT, te Welscher YM, Saslowsky DE, Kaoutzani L, Brandsma E, D'Auria L, Park H, Wagner JS, Drake KR, Kang M, Benjamin T, Ullman MD, Costello CE, Kenworthy AK, Baumgart T, Massol RH, Lencer WI. (2012) “Lipid Sorting by Ceramide Structure from Plasma Membrane to ER for the Cholera Toxin Receptor GM1.” Developmental Cell. 23:3, 573-586. Featured in Article “GM1 Gets Sorted” Nat. Chem. Biol (2012) 8, 873. 
  2. te Welscher YM, Chinnapen DJ, Kaoutzani L, Mrsny RJ, Lencer WI. (2014) “Unsaturated glycoceramides as molecular carriers for mucosal drug delivery of GLP-1 analogues.” J. Contr. Release. 175: 72-8. 
  3. D. J.-F. Chinnapen, H. Chinnapen, D. Saslowsky and W.I. Lencer. (2007) “Rafting with Cholera Toxin: Endocytosis and Trafficking from the Plasma Membrane to ER.” (Review) FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 266: 129-137 
  4. D.J.-F. Chinnapen and D. Sen. (2004) “A Deoxyribozyme that Harnesses Light to Repair Thymine Dimers in DNA.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. 101: 65-69. Featured in Article “Light-Triggered DNA Self Repair” Chem. & Eng. News (2004) 82:1, 21.

Researcher Services


Publications powered by Harvard Catalyst Profiles

  1. Duclos RI, Blue KD, Rufo MJ, Chen X, Guo JJ, Ma X, Lencer WI, Chinnapen DJF. Conjugation of peptides to short-acyl-chain ceramides for delivery across mucosal cell barriers. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2020 Apr 15; 30(8):127014. View abstract
  2. Garcia-Castillo MD, Lencer WI, Chinnapen DJ. Transcytosis Assay for Transport of Glycosphingolipids across MDCK-II Cells. Bio Protoc. 2018 Oct 20; 8(20). View abstract
  3. Garcia-Castillo MD, Chinnapen DJ, Te Welscher YM, Gonzalez RJ, Softic S, Pacheco M, Mrsny RJ, Kahn CR, von Andrian UH, Lau J, Pentelute BL, Lencer WI. Mucosal absorption of therapeutic peptides by harnessing the endogenous sorting of glycosphingolipids. Elife. 2018 05 31; 7. View abstract
  4. Cho JA, Chinnapen DJF. Targeting friend and foe: Emerging therapeutics in the age of gut microbiome and disease. J Microbiol. 2018 Mar; 56(3):183-188. View abstract
  5. Garcia-Castillo MD, Chinnapen DJ, Lencer WI. Membrane Transport across Polarized Epithelia. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2017 Sep 01; 9(9). View abstract
  6. Raghunathan K, Wong TH, Chinnapen DJ, Lencer WI, Jobling MG, Kenworthy AK. Glycolipid Crosslinking Is Required for Cholera Toxin to Partition Into and Stabilize Ordered Domains. Biophys J. 2016 Dec 20; 111(12):2547-2550. View abstract
  7. Day CA, Baetz NW, Copeland CA, Kraft LJ, Han B, Tiwari A, Drake KR, De Luca H, Chinnapen DJ, Davidson MW, Holmes RK, Jobling MG, Schroer TA, Lencer WI, Kenworthy AK. Microtubule motors power plasma membrane tubulation in clathrin-independent endocytosis. Traffic. 2015 Jun; 16(6):572-90. View abstract
  8. te Welscher YM, Chinnapen DJ, Kaoutzani L, Mrsny RJ, Lencer WI. Unsaturated glycoceramides as molecular carriers for mucosal drug delivery of GLP-1. J Control Release. 2014 Feb 10; 175:72-8. View abstract
  9. Saslowsky DE, te Welscher YM, Chinnapen DJ, Wagner JS, Wan J, Kern E, Lencer WI. Ganglioside GM1-mediated transcytosis of cholera toxin bypasses the retrograde pathway and depends on the structure of the ceramide domain. J Biol Chem. 2013 Sep 06; 288(36):25804-9. View abstract
  10. Chinnapen DJ, Hsieh WT, te Welscher YM, Saslowsky DE, Kaoutzani L, Brandsma E, D'Auria L, Park H, Wagner JS, Drake KR, Kang M, Benjamin T, Ullman MD, Costello CE, Kenworthy AK, Baumgart T, Massol RH, Lencer WI. Lipid sorting by ceramide structure from plasma membrane to ER for the cholera toxin receptor ganglioside GM1. Dev Cell. 2012 Sep 11; 23(3):573-86. View abstract
  11. Cho JA, Chinnapen DJ, Aamar E, te Welscher YM, Lencer WI, Massol R. Insights on the trafficking and retro-translocation of glycosphingolipid-binding bacterial toxins. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2012; 2:51. View abstract
  12. Janz JM, Ren Y, Looby R, Kazmi MA, Sachdev P, Grunbeck A, Haggis L, Chinnapen D, Lin AY, Seibert C, McMurry T, Carlson KE, Muir TW, Hunt S, Sakmar TP. Direct interaction between an allosteric agonist pepducin and the chemokine receptor CXCR4. J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Oct 12; 133(40):15878-81. View abstract
  13. Fortin JP, Chinnapen D, Beinborn M, Lencer W, Kopin AS. Discovery of dual-action membrane-anchored modulators of incretin receptors. PLoS One. 2011; 6(9):e24693. View abstract
  14. Uchida Y, Hasegawa J, Chinnapen D, Inoue T, Okazaki S, Kato R, Wakatsuki S, Misaki R, Koike M, Uchiyama Y, Iemura S, Natsume T, Kuwahara R, Nakagawa T, Nishikawa K, Mukai K, Miyoshi E, Taniguchi N, Sheff D, Lencer WI, Taguchi T, Arai H. Intracellular phosphatidylserine is essential for retrograde membrane traffic through endosomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20; 108(38):15846-51. View abstract
  15. Saslowsky DE, Cho JA, Chinnapen H, Massol RH, Chinnapen DJ, Wagner JS, De Luca HE, Kam W, Paw BH, Lencer WI. Intoxication of zebrafish and mammalian cells by cholera toxin depends on the flotillin/reggie proteins but not Derlin-1 or -2. J Clin Invest. 2010 Dec; 120(12):4399-4409. View abstract
  16. Wernick NL, Chinnapen DJ, Cho JA, Lencer WI. Cholera toxin: an intracellular journey into the cytosol by way of the endoplasmic reticulum. Toxins (Basel). 2010 03; 2(3):310-25. View abstract
  17. N.B. Wernick, D. J.-F. Chinnapen, J.A. Cho and W.I. Lencer. Toxins. Cholera Toxin: An Intracellular Journey into the Cytosol by Way of the Endoplasmic Reticulum. 2010; 3:310-325. View abstract
  18. Thorne RE, Chinnapen DJ, Sekhon GS, Sen D. A deoxyribozyme, Sero1C, uses light and serotonin to repair diverse pyrimidine dimers in DNA. J Mol Biol. 2009 Apr 24; 388(1):21-9. View abstract
  19. Chinnapen DJ, Chinnapen H, Saslowsky D, Lencer WI. Rafting with cholera toxin: endocytosis and trafficking from plasma membrane to ER. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2007 Jan; 266(2):129-37. View abstract
  20. Chinnapen DJ, Sen D. Towards elucidation of the mechanism of UV1C, a deoxyribozyme with photolyase activity. J Mol Biol. 2007 Feb 02; 365(5):1326-36. View abstract
  21. Howarth M, Chinnapen DJ, Gerrow K, Dorrestein PC, Grandy MR, Kelleher NL, El-Husseini A, Ting AY. A monovalent streptavidin with a single femtomolar biotin binding site. Nat Methods. 2006 Apr; 3(4):267-73. View abstract
  22. H.-W. Lee, D.J.-F. Chinnapen and D. Sen. Pure and Applied Chemistry. Structure-Function Investigation of a Deoxyribozyme with Dual Chelatase and Peroxidase Activities. 2004; 76:1537-1545. View abstract
  23. Chinnapen DJ, Sen D. A deoxyribozyme that harnesses light to repair thymine dimers in DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Jan 06; 101(1):65-9. View abstract
  24. Sen D, Chinnapen DJ. Deoxyribozymes that catalyze photochemistry: cofactor-dependent and -independent photorepair of thymine dimers. Nucleic Acids Res Suppl. 2003; (3):217-8. View abstract
  25. Chinnapen DJ, Sen D. Hemin-stimulated docking of cytochrome c to a hemin-DNA aptamer complex. Biochemistry. 2002 Apr 23; 41(16):5202-12. View abstract