Mark J. Zylka

Dr. Zylka received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech.  As an undergraduate, he was named a Barry Goldwater National scholar and he spent three summers at the NIH as an IRTA student.  He completed his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Reppert.  While in graduate school, he identified several of the core circadian “clock” genes and determined at a mechanistic level how these genes contribute to circadian rhythms in mammals.  He then did his postdoctoral work at Caltech and co-discovered a large family of G protein-coupled receptors called Mas-related genes (Mrgprs) that are exclusively found in sensory neurons of rodents and humans.  These receptors are now being studied as therapeutic targets for pain and itch.  After joining the faculty at UNC, Dr. Zylka received several prestigious young investigator awards, including a Searle scholar award, a Sloan Foundation fellowship, a Klingenstein fellowship, Whitehall Fellowship, and Rita Allen fellowship.  His lab has been continuously funded by the NIH, and received an NIH Pioneer award in 2013.  Dr. Zylka was promoted to Director of the UNC Neuroscience Center in 2016, and is responsible for hiring new faculty, shaping the direction of the Center, and for promoting neuroscience research.  Dr. Zylka’s lab is broadly focused on developing novel treatments for chronic pain and autism.  Specific projects in the lab include use of single-cell sequencing to study the normal and diseased brain, using machine learning approaches to assess pain in animal models, developing a novel CRISPR/Cas9-based treatment for Angelman syndrome, and studying genetic and environmental risks for autism.