The 3rd ISTT Young Investigator Award goes to Feng Zhang

The 3rd ISTT Young Investigator Award goes to Feng Zhang (picture kindly provided by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard)
The 3rd ISTT Young Investigator Award goes to Feng Zhang (picture kindly provided by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard)

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) is pleased to announce the awardee for the third (3rd) ISTT Young Investigator Award, generously sponsored by inGenious Targeting Laboratory (iTL). After careful evaluation of the nominated candidates, the Award Committee selected Dr. Feng Zhang (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT; and the Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Biological Engineering at MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA).

Zhang’s recent outstanding work in the development of the CRISPR-Cas technology has set the pace in this highly competitive field. Among his many seminal contributions to CRISPR-Cas technology is the engineering of the RNA-guided nuclease Cas9 for use in editing the mammalian genome. This and his other recently published works have clearly impacted the field of transgenic technologies. Moreover, Zhang has encouraged transparency in the development of CRISPR-Cas technology and has made his work accessible for use by the broader scientific community.

Zhang was born in Shijiazhuang (Hebei Province, China) in 1981 and moved to the USA in 1993, where he was educated and trained at various institutes, including the Human Gene Therapy Research Institute (Des Moines, IA, 1997-99) as a high school student and the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (2000-2004) at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), where he obtained before his A.B. degree in Chemistry and Physics. He then moved to Stanford University (Stanford, CA) to conduct his PhD work (2004-2009) under the supervision of Dr. Karl Deiseroth in the Department of Bioengineering, obtaining his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry in 2009. As a graduate student, Dr. Zhang worked with Deisseroth to invent a set of technologies for dissecting the functional organization of brain circuits, using light-sensitive proteins from green algae and other microbes to develop a new “optogenetic” toolbox for controlling the activity of neurons in live organisms with light.

After finishing his Ph.D., he returned to Cambridge, MA, as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows (2009-2010) and began his own laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2011 as an Assistant Professor. He has achieved great success and has shown strong leadership as a Core Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; as an Investigator of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT; and as a W. M. Keck Career Development Professor in Biomedical Engineering, in the Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at MIT. Dr. Zhang provides an excellent example of how scientific questions lead to the development and utilization of new technologies, as is reflected by his widespread research as an investigator at these various institutions.

Dr. Zhang has already received numerous prizes, awards and distinctions, including: the Perl/UNC Prize in Neuroscience, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, technology innovation awards from the McKnight and Damon Runyon Foundations, and the NSF Alan T. Waterman Award. He was also recently named one of the “Brilliant Ten” top minds in science by Popular Science, and also named by Nature as one of their top 10 scientists who mattered in 2013. Dr. Feng Zhang is also a co-founder of the popular non-profit molecular biology web app everyVECTOR.

The following articles represent only some of his recent research published in the last two years, highlighting his most recent contributions to the CRISPR-Cas field and related publications on other editing nucleases systems. These publications have had a tremendous impact in the animal transgenesis field and have rapidly become highly sought-after references for subsequent studies.

The 2014 ISTT Young Investigator Award Committee was formed by Dr. Lluis Montoliu (President of ISTT), Dr. Benoît Kanzler (Vice-President of ISTT, Chair) and Dr. Paul Sheiffele (iTL CEO). Dr. Feng Zhang was nominated by ISTT Member Dr. Jan Parker-Thornburg (MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Houston, TX, USA).

Dr. Feng Zhang will attend the next 12th Transgenic Technology (TT2014) meeting in Edinburgh (Scotland, UK, 6-8 October 2014) where he will receive the corresponding diploma and will deliver a talk summarizing the scientific achievements that led him to receive this 3rd ISTT Young Investigator Award, sponsored by inGenious Targeting Laboratory (iTL).

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