Research Horizons


Zorn Named New Director for Developmental Biology

Aaron Zorn, PhD, a key leader in accelerating organoid development at Cincinnati Children’s in recent years, has been selected to direct our widely respected Division of Developmental Biology.

Zorn will begin his new role effective July 1, 2023. He will be replacing Raphael Kopan, PhD, who will step down from the directorship after leading the division since 2013.

Zorn, a native of Canada, joined Cincinnati Children’s in 2002, after earning his B.Sc. from the University of Toronto in 1989, a doctorate from the University of Texas in 1995 and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge in England.

Zorn’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms controlling the embryonic development of the digestive and respiratory systems. His work involves a combination of animal models, human pluripotent stem cells and cutting-edge genomics to reveal fundamental principles of development, elucidate the origin of birth defects and inform strategies for regenerative medicine.

At Cincinnati Children’s, Zorn achieved roles as associate director of the Digestive Health Center and the Division of Developmental Biology. Then in 2017, he co-founded and became the first director of the new Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM).  Aaron also holds the Perinatal Institute Research Chair.

“Dr. Zorn has an impressive track record of leadership at Cincinnati Children’s. He has been instrumental in the breakthroughs achieved so far by the team at CuSTOM to advance the field of organoid medicine,” says Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, chair of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation, and chief medical officer for Cincinnati Children’s. “We are grateful for Dr. Kopan’s dynamic leadership and notable research contributions as head of the Division of Developmental Biology. We are thrilled that Dr. Zorn will be building upon those successes in organoid medicine and other promising areas in developmental biology.”

  • Currently holds the Perinatal Institute Endowed Research Chair
  • Current director, Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM)
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
  • Co-founder of the Xenbase data library for the Xenopus model organism
  • Has published 141 peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters, including works in Nature, Cell Stem Cell, Science and more.
  • Academic credentials include: BSc from University of Toronto, Canada; PhD from University of Texas, Austin; postdoctoral role with the Wellcome Trust Cancer Research Campaign Institute, University of Cambridge, England; and a research fellowship with the Wellcome Trust Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge.