Zachary Knight UCSF HHMI

Zachary Knight is a Professor in the Department of Physiology at UCSF and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His lab studies the neural mechanisms that control homeostasis, including especially the regulation of hunger, thirst and body temperature.


Zachary received his B.A. in Chemistry from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from UCSF. During his Ph.D. research in the lab of Kevan Shokat, Zachary discovered some of the first selective inhibitors of PI3-kinase and mTOR. In 2007, Zachary co-founded Intellikine to develop these compounds into drugs, which led to the development and approval of duvelisib for the treatment of cancer. Zachary then switched fields from chemistry to physiology and performed postdoctoral research in the lab of Jeffrey Friedman at Rockefeller University, where he developed genetic methods for identifying neural cell types in the mouse brain.

Zachary returned to UCSF in 2012 to start his independent research group investigating the neurobiology of homeostasis. His lab is recognized for performing the first neural recordings of many of the key cell types in the brain that control homeostasis, including neurons for hunger (AgRP neurons), satiety (POMC, GCG, and PRLH neurons), thirst (SFO neurons) and body temperature (PACAP neurons). These experiments led to the general discovery that homeostatic neurons in the hypothalamus and brainstem – long thought to function primarily by reacting to physiologic imbalances – instead utilize sensory cues from the outside world to anticipate physiologic changes and adjust behavior preemptively. This has transformed our understanding of how the brain controls hunger and thirst.

Zachary's work has been recognized by awards from the Sloan, McKnight, Rita Allen, Klingenstein, and Brain and Behavior Research Foundations; the Robertson Investigator Award from the New York Stem Cell Foundation; the New Innovator, Pathway to Independence, and PECASE Awards from the National Institutes of Health; the Pathway Award from the American Diabetes Association; and the Helmholtz Young Investigator in Diabetes Award. In 2018, he was named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.