Guoyan Zhao, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Zhao received her Ph.D. training in the laboratory of Dr. James Skeath in the Washington University School of Medicine studying Drosophila central nervous system development. She identified a new transcription factor named Dichaete which regulates CNS development. Dr. Zhao demonstrated that Dichaete, together with transcription factor Ind, bind to the promoter of a gene that is essential in specifying neuronal cell fate in the Drosophila central nervous system. Dr. Zhao’s study provided mechanistic insights into the early development of the Drosophila central nervous system which is conserved throughout mammals.

As a postdoctoral trainee, Dr. Zhao was supported by a NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award to pursue interdisciplinary training. Dr. Zhao was trained in computational biology under the mentorship of Dr. Gary Stormo, one of the pioneers of bioinformatics and genomics research, in the Washington University School of Medicine. Over three years of research, she developed and published two computational tools for identifying context-specific transcription factor binding sites and to predict cis-regulatory sequences genome-wide. Collaborating with two other teams, Dr. Zhao published two additional papers demonstrating the utility of the computational tools she developed in studying transcription regulation in C. elegans.

After postdoctoral training Dr. Zhao joined the Department of Pathology and Immunology as a supervisor and founding member of the Pathogen Discovery Facility. In the past 10 years, Dr. Zhao has developed multiple efficient viral search algorithms and the tools she developed was widely adopted in the virome and metagenomics field. Dr. Zhao’s research, for the first time, established the association of eukaryotic viromes with several diseases in humans including type I diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease as well as HIV. She applied machine learning algorithm on virome and metagenomics data analysis and uncovered the first link between eukaryotic viruses and type I diabetes which provided candidate targets for type I diabetes prevention. Under Dr. Zhao’s leadership the work performed in the Pathogen Discovery Facility enabled over 40 publications.

Dr. Zhao joined the Department of Neuroscience in April 2018 to establish her own lab continuing her long standing interest in transcriptional regulation. Her lab employs cutting edge technologies in genomic, computational and systems biology to investigate understand the regulatory networks that control the development and proper function of mammalian brains in the context of human health and disease.