Lena trained as an immunologist at Stanford University, where she studied the function and mechanism of chromatin remodelling proteins in the epigenetic regulation of embryonic, hematopoietic and cancer stem cells. During her postdoctoral training with Bruno Reversade, she discovered the paradigm that non-coding RNAs can in fact encode peptides from small open reading frames (sORFs). This is exemplified by the peptide hormone ELABELA encoded by what was thought to be a non-coding RNA. Starting with just a gene annotation, her work led to a comprehensive understanding of ELABELA’s molecular function as a hormone with pleiotropic effects on stem cell maintenance, angiogenesis, and mammalian pregnancy. In 2017, Lena established the Endogenous Peptides Lab in Duke-NUS/IMB (A*STAR), which utilizes a combinatorial platform to discover and characterize novel sORF-encoded peptides in the human genome. Her goal is to uncover programmatic functions that sORF peptides might play, afforded by their special size, biochemical and genomic properties. Lena is a Fellow of the National Research Foundation of Singapore and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar.