The $500,000 prize honors an outstanding mid-career inventor working to improve the world through technological invention and a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The prize receives support from the Lemelson Foundation, a leading funder of invention in service of social and economic change.
Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor in Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and associate professor in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at MIT. His team was first to develop and demonstrate successful methods for using an engineered CRISPR-Cas9 system to edit genomes in living mouse and human cells and has turned CRISPR technology into a practical and shareable collection of tools for robust gene editing and epigenomic manipulation. CRISPR, the acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, has been harnessed by Zhang and his team as a groundbreaking gene-editing tool that is simple and versatile to use. According to Zhang, who encourages open sharing of tools and scientific collaboration, the wide use of CRISPR-based tools will further our understanding of biology, enabling scientists to identify genetic differences that contribute to diseases and, eventually, provide the basis for new therapeutic techniques.
"Feng's creativity and dedication to problem-solving impressed us," said Lemelson-MIT Program executive director Stephanie Couch. "Beyond the breadth of his own accomplishments, Feng and his lab have also helped thousands of scientists across the world access the new technology to advance their own scientific discoveries."
(Photo credit: Justin Knight)