Genome-Scale Technologies for Reverse-Engineering Transcriptional Logics Underlying Cell Fate Specification

Understanding the biological mechanisms of neuronal differentiation and maturation is fundamental to rapidly replicating the diversity of cells in the human brain. Zhang’s project focuses on developing a highly scalable genomic engineering system that can reliably evaluate the genetic activity that leads to differentiated and matured cells, as well as produce differentiated and matured cells by modifying this genetic activity. He will apply the transcriptome analysis and powerful perturbation systems previously developed in his lab to study and later generate a number of human neuronal cell types relevant to neurological disorders.

Affiliated Investigators

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Feng Zhang is the Keck Career Development Professor of Biomedical Engineering at MIT, an Investigator of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator, and a Core Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. As a graduate student at Stanford University, Zhang worked with advisor Karl Deisseroth to invent a set of technologies for dissecting the functional organization of brain circuits. His lab works on developing and applying disruptive technologies including optogenetics and genome engineering (TALE and CRISPR) to understand nervous system function and disease. Zhang’s long-term goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies for disease treatment. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD in chemistry and bioengineering from Stanford University. Before joining the MIT faculty he was a junior fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows. He is widely recognized for the development of molecular technologies including optogenetics and CRISPR-Cas9, including receiving the Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation, the Perl/UNC Prize in Neuroscience, and the Gabbay Award in Biotechnology.