Fang Chen | BioDiscovery Institute

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Fang Chen

Research Professor

Dr. Fang Chen received his Ph. D degree in Chemical Engineering, major in wood chemistry, from South China University of Technology in 1993. In 2004, Dr. Fang Chen received his Ph. D degree in Agricultural Science, major in biochemistry, from Nagoya University, Japan. He was a Research Scientist in Plant Biology Division at Noble Foundation, located at Ardmore, OK, before joining the UNT in 2013. Dr. Chen's research focus on the plant cell biosynthesis, plant metabolic engineering and biotechnologies for sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. The main goal of his research is to understand the biosynthesis, polymerization and structure of lignin. His research has led to the discovery of a natural linear lignin polymer, called C lignin, which hold much promise for future bio-base high value material and chemicals. He has published over 70 peer reviewed papers, including the most cited papers, in his selected research field. He also severs as a Principal Investigator at DOE BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) lead by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


  • Biotechnology for sustainable biofuel and bioproducts: plant cell walls bioengineering and lignin-based carbon fiber and high-value chemicals; altering lignin structure and composition to facilitate the lignin valorizations.
  • Biomass formation and modification: lignin bioengineering and its effect on biomass recalcitrance in bioenergy crops and in-depth mechanisms of plant cell wall recalcitrance. Creation of next generation low recalcitrance high-value biomass crops.
  • Metabolic engineering of plant natural products, secondary metabolite profiling, and high throughput cell wall analysis.
  • Genomic and genetic approaches to understanding plant cell wall biosynthesis and plant growth. EMS mutant screening and mapping-by-sequencing for mutant identification in cleome hasslariana.


• NSF (IOS). Biosynthesis, Regulation, and Engineering of C-Lignin. $833,000. 5/1/15-5/31/18 (Co-PI F. Chen).

• DOE BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). Lignin modification in switchgrass. $346,000. 10/1/12-11/30/17


  1. Li Y, Li S, Kim H, Motagamwala AH, Mobley JK, Yue F, Tobimatsu Y, Daphna Havkin-Frenkel D, Chen F, Dixon RA, Luterbacher J, Dumesic JA, and Ralph J (2018) An "ideal lignin" facilitates full biomass utilization. Science Advances. Vol. 4, no. 9, eaau2968 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau2968
  2. Stone ML, Anderson EM, Meek KM, Reed M, Katahira R, Chen F, Richard A. Dixon RA, Beckham GT and Román-Leshkov Y (2018) Reductive Catalytic Fractionation of C-Lignin. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2018, 6 (9), pp 11211-11218
  3. Nelson RS, Stewart CN, Gou J, Holladay S, Gallego-Giraldo L, Flanagan A, Mann DG, Hisano H, Wuddineh WA, Poovaiah CR: Development and use of a switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) transformation pipeline by the BioEnergy Science Center to evaluate plants for reduced cell wall recalcitrance. Biotechnology for biofuels 2017, 10(1):309.
  4. Rao X, Shen H, Pattathil S, Hahn MG, Gelineo-Albersheim I, Mohnen D, Pu Y, Ragauskas AJ, Chen X, Chen F: Dynamic changes in transcriptome and cell wall composition underlying brassinosteroid-mediated lignification of switchgrass suspension cells. Biotechnology for Biofuels 2017, 10(1):266.
  5. DeBruyn JM, Bevard DA, Essington ME, McKnight JY, Schaeffer SM, Baxter HL, Mazarei M, Mann DG, Dixon RA, Chen F et al., (2017) Field-grown transgenic switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) with altered lignin does not affect soil chemistry, microbiology, and carbon storage potential. GCB Bioenergy 9(6):1100-1109.
  6. Yang H, Barros-Riosa J, Kourteva G, Rao X, Chen F, Shen H, Liu C, Podstolski A, Belanger F and Havkin-Frenkel D (2017) A re-evaluation of the final step of vanillin biosynthesis in the orchid Vanilla planifolia. Phytochemistry. 139:33-46
  7. Wang H, Yang, JH; Chen, F; et al. (2016)Transcriptome analysis of secondary cell wall development in Medicago truncatula. BMC Genomics 17:23
  8. Barros-Rios, J., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Chen, F., Baxter, D., Venables, D.J. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). Role of bifunctional ammonia-lyase in grass cell wall biosynthesis. Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.50.
  9. Ha, C.M., Escamilla‐Trevino, L., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Kim, H., Ralph, J., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). An essential role of caffeoyl shikimate esterase in monolignol biosynthesis in Medicago truncatula. The Plant Journal. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13177.
  10. Nar, M., Rizvi, H.R., Dixon, R.A., Chen, F., Kovalcik, A. and D'Souza, N. (2016). Superior plant based carbon fibers from electrospun poly-(caffeyl alcohol) lignin. Carbon 103, 372-383.
  11. Srivastava, A.C., Chen, F., Ray, T., Pattathil, S., Peña, M.J., Avci, U., Li, H., Huhman, D.V., Backe, J. and Urbanowicz, B. (2015). Loss of function of folylpolyglutamate synthetase 1 reduces lignin content and improves cell wall digestibility in Arabidopsis. Biotechnology for biofuels 8, 224.
  12. Rao, X., Krom, N., Tang, Y., Widiez, T., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Belanger, F.C., Dixon, R.A. and Chen, F. (2014). A deep transcriptomic analysis of pod development in the vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia). BMC genomics 15(1):964.
  13. Ragauskas, A.J., Beckham, G.T., Biddy, M.J., Chandra, R., Chen, F., Davis, M.F., Davison, B.H., Dixon, R.A., Gilna, P. and Keller, M. (2014). Lignin valorization: improving lignin processing in the biorefinery. Science 344(6185):1246843.
  14. Tobimatsu, Y., Chen, F., Nakashima, J., Escamilla-Treviño, L.L., Jackson, L., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2013), Coexistence but independent biosynthesis of catechyl and guaiacyl/syringyl lignin polymers in seed coats. The Plant Cell 25(7):2587-2600.
  15. Shen, H., Mazarei, M., Hisano, H., Escamilla-Trevino, L., Fu, C., Pu, Y., Rudis, M.R., Tang, Y., Xiao, X., Jackson, L., Chen, F. et al. (2013). A genomics approach to deciphering lignin biosynthesis in switchgrass. The Plant Cell 25(11):4342-4361.
  16. Chen, F., Tobimatsu, Y., Jackson, L., Nakashima, J., Ralph, J. and Dixon, R.A. (2013): Novel seed coat lignins in the Cactaceae: structure, distribution and implications for the evolution of lignin diversity. The Plant Journal 73(2):201-211.
  17. Chen., F, Tobimatsu, Y., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2012). A polymer of caffeyl alcohol in plant seeds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(5):1772-1777.


  1. Carbon fibers derived from poly-(caffeyl alcohol) (PCFA). R.A. Dixon, N. D'Souza, F. Chen and M. Nar. US patent 2016 pending.
  2. Transcription factors for modification of lignin content in plants. H. Wang, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent 9,045,549, 2015.
  3. Compositions and methods for improved plant feedstock. H. Shen, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent US 8,901,371 B2. 2014.
  4. Plants with modified lignin content and methods for production thereof. Q. Zhao, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent US 8,796,509, 2014.
  5. Caffeoyl CoA reductase. R. Zhou, R.A. Dixon and F. Chen. US provisional patent application 13/181,284. 2011.
  6. Modification of lignin biosynthesis. R.A. Dixon, M.S.S. Reddy and F. Chen. United States Patent, US. 7,663,023 B2. 2010.
  7. Modification of lignin biosynthesis. R.A. Dixon, M.S.S. Reddy and F. Chen. New Zealand patent 552941. 2013.

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