Zhaolan "Joe" Zhou, PhD

The International Foundation for CDKL5 Research is the largest source of funding and support for CDKL5 research, and our strength lies in the renowned talent, collaboration and dedication of our researchers. One such researcher, Zhaolan “Joe” Zhou, PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, is helping to lead the way. He has been a tremendous resource for IFCR and other researchers and scientists from around the world. In the hands of such a gifted scientist, CDKL5 research is accelerating! Over the past two years, IFCR has proudly supported Dr. Zhou with two research grants, and we look forward to our ongoing collaboration in search of a cure for CDKL5.

Dr. Zhou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from Nankai University, doctoral degree from Harvard University, and postdoctoral training from Harvard Medical School. He is a recipient of several awards including the NIH Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS). He is currently a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Science.

Dr. Zhou’s innovative approach to research has been developed from his graduate training in the lab of the legendary molecular biologists, Dr. Tom Maniatis and Dr. Robin Reed and his post-doctoral fellow with eminent neurobiologist, Dr. Michael Greenberg. One of Dr. Zhou’s accomplishments was to develop new technology to better understand important aspects of how the cell’s DNA copying process works and then to help advance the Rett Syndrome field in better understanding MeCP2 protein function. With his widely renowned talents and experience, Dr. Zhou is working with IFCR to lead the way in the development of mouse models for CDKL5 Research.

“The International Foundation for CDKL5 Research (IFCR) has been truly instrumental in getting our research on CDKL5-related disorders off the ground. It not only provides financial support for our research program, but also connects scientists in my laboratory to colleagues and families involved with CDKL5. Our goal has been creating mouse models recapitulating genetic mutations found in CDKL5 patients and exploring therapeutic strategies to improve the quality of life for CDKL5 patients” says Dr. Zhou.

The research program in the Zhou laboratory aims to identify and understand the epigenetic principles that integrate environmental factors with genetic code to govern neural network formation and function in the brain, and how defects in this process may lead to intellectual disability. His laboratory uses a combination of genetic and genomic approaches, together with cellular and behavioral assays in genetically modified mice, to investigate the epigenetic architecture associated with environmental stress and the molecular and cellular basis of autism spectrum disorders such as CDKL5-related disorders and Rett Syndrome. Dr. Zhou has created a CDKL5 knock-out mouse and a knock-in mouse that recapitulates the R59X mutation. These models are now allowing a better understanding of the role of CDKL5 and most importantly, have created the means to allow Dr. Zhou and other researchers to study potential therapeutic strategies and agents.