Kenneth S. ZARET
Joseph Leidy Professor, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology; Director, Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Ken obtained a B.A. in Biology from the University of Rochester, NY, in 1997 and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1982.  His thesis work with Fred Sherman discovered that transcription termination is coupled to polyadenylation.  Ken then was a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC San Francisco, with Keith Yamamoto, until 1985.  There, he discovered that binding of the glucocorticoid receptor to an enhancer leads to a change in local chromatin structure.  In 1986-1999, he rose to Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Brown University, RI, and in 1999-2009 he held the W.W. Smith Chair in Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, where he also served as Program Leader of Cell and Developmental Biology.  In 2009, Ken moved his lab to the University of Pennsylvania.  Ken's lab discovered "pioneer transcription factors" that can activate developmentally silenced genes by virtue of the factors' ability to target DNA on nucleosomes.  Such nucleosome targeting has been found to endow the competence for cell differentiation, promote cellular reprogramming, and enable hormone responsiveness in human cancers.  His laboratory identified a signaling network that induces liver and pancreas organogenesis in the mammalian embryo; the information is used by embryonic stem cell labs to generate hepatic and pancreatic beta cells.  Ken's lab discovered that signaling from endothelial cells is crucial for early liver and pancreas organogenesis, and the information is being used to generate artificial organs.  His group used stem cell technology to model pancreatic cancer progression and the information is being used to advance blood biomarkers that detect human pancreatic cancer.  Ken’s most recent work integrates genomics, biochemistry, proteomics, and genetics to characterize genes within heterochromatic regions of the genome for understanding how to reprogram cells in vitro so that they faithfully represent native cells in vivo.  Dr. Zaret received a Searle Scholar faculty award (1986), the Hans Popper Basic Science Award from the AASLD and American Liver Foundation (2002), a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health (2006-2016), and in 2007 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Ken enjoys his family, taking pictures, and windsurfing.