Barb Bailus, PhD
Dr. Mark Zylka is so new to FAST that he hasn’t yet joined us at a FAST Gala, but that is something that should change this year. He did listen to all 11 hours of the FAST Science Summit in 2018, which inspired him to work more closely with the mission of FAST, to cure Angelman syndrome. Dr. Zylka, in collaboration with Dr. Philpot, did the amazing work that lead to the identification of topotecan as a drug that could un-silence paternal UBE3A.
Dr. Zylka got his start in research as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and then attended graduate school at Harvard University under the mentorship of Dr. Reppert working on identifying the genes involved in circadian rhythms. He started his own lab at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Medical School focusing on pain sensitivity. He became interested in Angelman Syndrome when his colleague Dr. Philpot mentioned that Angelman patients experience pain sensitivity differently than neurotypical individuals. This observation lead to his lab investigating Angelman Syndrome and the identification that the paternal copy of UBE3A could be “turned on.” The targeting of paternal UBE3A has become a central theme for several of the promising AS treatments that are moving toward clinical trials. Dr. Zylkas lab is now pursuing the use of CRISPR/Cas9 as a potential strategy for un-silencing paternal UBE3A in mice with the eventual goal of entering human clinical trials. As the AS field moves forward Dr. Zylka sees enormous promise in both prenatal screening and prenatal treatment of AS, potentially “curing” AS before any neurodevelopmental symptoms are present. When not designing novel treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Dr. Zylka enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, and playing with the family dog. He has a keen interest in the environment, having invested in home solar panels, and encouraging his university to do the same on available building roofs.