Research overview

​Our laboratory takes advantage of chemical biology and proteomic techniques to study how protein expression changes during aging, disease, and infection and to develop novel therapeutic interventions in response.

We profile how different types of cells metabolize drugs in order to develop more-selective therapeutics for cancer and infectious disease. We also identify targets critical for modulating the innate immune response during cancer and infection.

Why now

Since the early 00s, mass spectrometry techniques and proteomics software have dramatically improved, allowing unprecedented speed in data acquisition and quality of protein coverage. The fields of innate immunity and hematopoiesis have not been well studied by mass spectrometry and chemical biology techniques. Our interest in understanding blood formation and innate immunity in disease and infection is the guiding rationale behind every molecule that we make and every chemical tool we develop.

Why here

Our research is highly interdisciplinary, and we love collaborating. The community at UC San Francisco (UCSF) is filled with incredible scientists and clinicians with a singular focus who are just as curious and passionate about their science as we are. The amazing environment and resources at UCSF elevate the potential impact of our work, and we are excited to be at a place where you can think big! Finally, San Francisco, and Mission Bay in particular, is a biotech hub with a rich history of curiosity, inclusion, outreach, and entrepreneurship. In our lab everyone is encouraged to bring a different perspective and unique approach to answering interesting questions about human health and disease, even if that means challenging current assumptions and trying something unconventional.

About the researcher

Balyn Zaro, PhD, grew up in California and Connecticut. As an undergraduate researcher at University of Southern California (USC) she studied synthetic methodology and organic chemistry with G.K. Surya Prakash and Nobel laureate George A. Olah. She remained at USC for her PhD studies in chemical biology as the first graduate student in the laboratory of Matthew Pratt, PhD. Her research focused on developing metabolic bioorthogonal chemical reporters to identify and to characterize post-translational modifications of proteins, including glycosylation, acetylation, and ubiquitination. For her postdoctoral studies, she worked in the laboratory of Ben Cravatt, PhD, at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. There she investigated the metabolism of covalent small molecules using activity-based protein profiling and identified the mechanisms of action of the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera® (dimethyl fumarate). She gained additional training with Irving Weissman, MD, at Stanford University School of Medicine in the fields of innate immunity and hematopoiesis before her arrival at UCSF in September 2019.