The Broad Institute’s FENG ZHANG is best known for being a key developer of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system. But he and his lab continue to discover ways to improve and expand the use of genome editing. In 2015, his lab reported a new version of CRISPR that uses a different DNA cutting enzyme than Cas9. Known as Cpf1 or Cas12a, it cuts DNA differently than Cas9 and might offer a better way to insert a piece of DNA. In 2017, Zhang’s group detailed another CRISPR system that edits RNA rather than DNA, which could end up treating certain diseases without permanently altering the genome. Zhang’s CRISPR-based diagnostic system, called SHERLOCK, can detect the presence of RNA from viruses such as the Zika virus and DNA from tumors.
Feng Zhang, Broad Institute • Photography by Keith Spiro