Dr. Zhang is a molecular biologist focused on improving human health. He played an integral role in the development of two revolutionary technologies, optogenetics and CRISPR-Cas systems, including pioneering the use of Cas9 for genome editing and discovering CRISPR-Cas12 and Cas13 systems and developing them for therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Current research in the Zhang laboratory is centered on the discovery of novel biological systems and processes, uncovering their mechanisms, and developing them into molecular tools and therapies to study and treat human disease. Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute, an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as a fellow in the National Academy of Inventors.
We explore and study biological diversity to understand nature and discover systems and processes that may be harnessed through bioengineering for the improvement of human well-being.
Areas of Interest and Open Challenges:
Developing Programmable Therapeutics
Can we accelerate the development of new therapeutics? We aim to create modular systems that interchangeably combine a therapeutic molecule, such as a gene editing construct, and a delivery vehicle. By focusing on creating compatible and extensible platforms for both intervention and delivery, we can rapidly generate a large number of therapeutics tailored for a wide range of contexts.
Restoring Cellular Homeostasis
Can we modulate cell state without changing cell fate? Our goal is to identify approaches that we can use to tune cell state. These approaches will provide a new therapeutic avenue for treating conditions that don’t have a defined genetic cause, like injury, degenerative diseases, and even aging.
Discovering Natural Systems
Can we uncover new biology by mining natural diversity? We are interested in advancing our understanding of molecular mechanisms, cellular functions, and even organismal biology through the discovery of natural systems. We use computational and experimental approaches to find and characterize new systems.