Meet a PennMedicine Researcher

Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD

Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD

Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD, the Joseph Leidy Professor, is the winner of this year’s Stanley N. Cohen Biomedical Research Award, which recognizes a member of the PSOM faculty for a body of work with an emphasis on biomedical research.

Dr. Zaret is an international leader and scholar in the fields of transcriptional regulation, epigenetic mechanisms, and regenerative medicine.  He is well known for discovering the first “pioneer factors,” which are critical determinants of the constellation of expressed genes that constitute cellular identity. His most recent work has placed him at the vanguard of major advances in unraveling the molecular underpinnings of early development and cell fate choice, and of reprogramming differentiated cells into stem cells.  His work has also branched out from purely basic research into translational science with his efforts to reprogram pancreatic cancer cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, and then to re-differentiate the induced pluripotent stem cells through the progressive stages of pancreatic cancer. His discovery of a secreted molecule THBS2, in combination with an established marker, detects these cancers with a high level of sensitivity and specificity and may revolutionize the way in which pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed and treated.   His colleagues said of him:  “Ken Zaret is a rigorous, impactful, and visionary scientist whose accomplishments…have been truly extraordinary.”