Yi Zhang, Ph.D.



Zhang, Ph.D.

Investigator, HHMI Fred Rosen Professor, Dept. Genetics & Dept. of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School

Yi Zhang is currently an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Fred Rosen Chair Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University, where he studied the "hammerhead" ribozyme. His postdoctoral training was at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of UMDNJ where he identified and characterized several histone deacetylase complexes including the Sin3 and NuRD complexes.

He became an independent investigator at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999, a Howard Hughes Investigator in 2005, and the Kenan Distinguished Professor in 2009. In August of 2012, he moved his laboratory to Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital.


Over the last decade, the Zhang lab has made significant contributions to the epigenetic field by identifying and characterizing many chromatin modifying enzymes that include: 1) the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase NuRD (Cell 1998); 2) the H3K27me3 methyltransferase PRC2 (Science 2002); 3) the ubiquitin E3 ligase PRC1 (Nature 2004); 4) the JmjC histone demethylases (Nature 2006); and 5) the Tet family of 5mC dioxygenases and novel nucleotides 5fC and 5caC (Nature 2010; Science 2011). 

The general approach of these studies involves biochemical purification and functional characterization in vitro, in cultured cells, as well as in mouse models. These studies have revealed that some of these enzymes play critical roles in cancer, which is the basis for the establishment of Epizyme, a company focusing on epigenetic-based cancer drugs.

Built upon our strength in protein biochemistry, the lab has expanded its capability to use a variety of state-of-the-art techniques, including single-cell live imaging, single cell transcriptomics and epigenomics, cell lineage tracing, somatic cell nuclear transfer, CRISPR/Cas9-based genomic and epigenomic editing, and intravenous self-administration to understand the molecular events at the beginning of mammalian life, somatic cell nuclear transfer reprogramming, and the development of drug addiction.