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Feng Zhang

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.

Feng Zhang is a core institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, as well as an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor in Neuroscience at MIT, and an associate professor at MIT, with joint appointments in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering.

Zhang is a bioengineer developing and applying novel molecular technologies for studying the molecular and genetic basis of diseases and providing treatment. He played a seminal role in developing optogenetics, a powerful technology for dissecting neural circuits using light. Since joining the Broad and McGovern institutes in January 2011, Zhang has pioneered the development of genome editing tools for use in eukaryotic cells – including human cells – from natural microbial CRISPR systems.

Following his landmark demonstration that CRISPR-Cas9 could be harnessed for mammalian genome editing, his lab has continued to explore the CRISPR system and develop novel technologies for perturbing and editing the genome for disease research. He and his colleagues have successfully harnessed two additional CRISPR systems: CRISPR-Cpf1, which may allow simpler and more precise genome engineering, and CRISPR-C2c2, a novel RNA-targeting system.

Zhang leverages CRISPR and other methods to study the genetics and epigenetics of human diseases, especially complex disorders, such as psychiatric and neurological diseases, that are caused by multiple genetic and environmental risk factors and which are difficult to model using conventional methods. His lab’s tools, which he has made widely available, are also being used in the fields of immunology, clinical medicine, and cancer biology, among others. His long-term goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies for disease treatment.

Zhang is a recipient of many awards including the Perl/UNC Prize in Neuroscience, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine, the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, the Canada Gairdner International Award, and the Tang Prize. He has also received technology innovation awards from the McKnight, New York Stem Cell, and Damon Runyon foundations.

Zhang received his A.B. in chemistry and physics from Harvard College and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University.

January 2017