Zachary Knight

Associate Professor, Department of Physiology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

PhD, Chemistry & Chemical Biology, UCSF
BA, Chemistry, Princeton University

Zack's laboratory investigates the neurobiology of homeostasis, especially the neural mechanisms that govern hunger, thirst, and thermoregulation.



Zachary Knight received his BA in Chemistry from Princeton University in 1999. As an undergraduate, he developed chemical approaches for mapping protein phosphorylation dynamics. He then continued his chemistry training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he received a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology in 2006. As a graduate student in the lab of Kevan Shokat, Zack discovered some of the first selective small molecule inhibitors of PI3-kinase and mTOR, two signaling enzymes important for metabolism and cancer. In 2007, Zack co-founded Intellikine in order to develop these chemotypes into drugs for the treatment of cancer. One compound that emerged from this effort (duvelisib) received FDA approval for the treatment of leukemia in September 2018. Two others are in clinical testing.

After receiving his PhD, Zack decided to switch fields from chemistry to physiology and pursued postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Jeffrey Friedman at the Rockefeller University. As a postdoctoral fellow, Zack developed technologies for the molecular identification of neurons in the mouse brain that have specific activity patterns or connectivity. He then used these tools to identify new populations of neurons involved in feeding and other aspects of physiologic homeostasis.

In 2012, Zack returned to UCSF to start his independent lab in the Department of Physiology. His work has been recognized by a number of awards, including  being named a Robertson Investigator of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, a Rita Allen Scholar, a Pathway Awardee of the American Diabetes Association, and a fellow of the Klingenstein, McKnight, Sloan, and Brain and Behavior Research Foundations. He has received the Pathway to Independence and New Innovator Awards from the National Institutes of Health and the 2016 Helmholtz Young Investigator in Diabetes Award. In 2018, he was named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.