Feng Zhang

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.

Feng Zhang

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, co-director of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics at MIT, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, and a professor at MIT, with joint appointments in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering. Zhang is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Zhang is a molecular biologist seeking to improve human health by discovering approaches to modulate cellular programs, including returning diseased, stressed, or aged cells to a more healthful state. These approaches include developing molecular technologies for modifying the cell’s genetic information and the delivery vehicles needed to get these tools into the right cells as well as larger-scale engineering to restore organ function. Zhang hopes to apply these approaches to neurodegenerative diseases, immune disorders, aging, and other disease contexts.

Zhang’s long-term goal is to develop robust therapeutic strategies to improve human health and well being. In this pursuit, he pioneered the development of CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome editing tool and its use in eukaryotic cells — including human cells — from a natural adaptive immune system found in bacteria. He has substantially expanded this toolbox through discovery and harnessing of new CRISPR and CRISPR-associated systems. These new tools not only include additional DNA-targeting CRISPR systems, but also systems that target RNA as well as systems that insert large stretches of DNA. Zhang has also developed new methods to deliver these tools into human cells. Zhang’s group has developed and applied CRISPR-based technologies, including large-scale screening methods, to advance our understanding of human diseases and to diagnose pathogens. Collectively, these tools, which he has made widely available, are accelerating research, particularly biomedical research, around the world. In 2023, the first Cas9-based therapeutic, which is based on a design Zhang developed in 2015, was approved for clinical use to treat sickle cell disease.

Zhang is a recipient of many awards including the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the Tang Prize, the Canada Gairdner International Award, and the Merkin Institute Fellowship at the Broad. Zhang is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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

June 2024