Yi Sherry Zhang
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Yi Sherry Zhang is a scientist and entrepreneur. Her passion for science has taken her from Northern Asia to the U.S., from studying bacteria and plants to populations of humans, and from researching obesity genetics as a medical college professor to founding GenoPalate, a company that offers a solution for eating based on genetics for a healthier life.
GenoPalate is a data-driven nutrition intelligence company that leverages its database of personalized nutrition and food behaviors to change how people make food choices for reaching and maintaining optimal health.
After getting her Ph.D. from Marquette University, Zhang embarked on an 11-year research journey to understand which genetic factors contribute to the obesity and metabolic disorders of our society in the U.S. and around the globe.
Zhang went on to a postdoctoral fellowship, followed by a research and faculty position at the Medical College of Wisconsin. There, as an assistant professor of medicine, her lab led pioneering work in understanding genomic and epigenomic mutations that naturally occur from environmental factors over generations, including what people eat.
Wanting to more efficiently transfer scientific discoveries in the research lab to insights that consumers could use every day for better health, Zhang started GenoPalate in 2016, when she was still teaching and researching full time. She realized that, much like the popular ancestry research companies that examine DNA to determine family origins, she could analyze an individual’s genetic makeup against thousands of nutritional variables and determine which foods and nutrients contribute most to each customer’s optimal health.
Today, more than 150,000 customers have paid for GenoPalate’s personalized nutrition service since the company was launched. The company has generated more than $10 million and created more than 50 full-time and part-time jobs to date, including many training opportunities for college and university students.
“The organization I am leading is deeply rooted in knowledge sharing and new knowledge creation,” Zhang said. “So I would like to make our organization a forum for the industry to learn, to share and to grow together. My industry is an exciting emerging industry. As it is still in the early stage of its development, there are tremendous amounts of opportunities for industry leaders like my organization to help define and shape the industry. I am really excited about the possibility of helping set best practices and golden standards for our industry through our business.”
Zhang is an active educator, speaker and board member. She serves on the Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin board of directors and often appears as a guest on podcasts and TV and in magazines and other media outlets to advocate for food as medicine based on the science of genetics.
“I would always like to share my knowledge with my industry and my community as I continue to grow as a person, a mother, a wife and a leader,” she said.
Before Sherry became a scientist, she was on the track to become a professional pianist. At very young age, she won many titles in regional and national piano and keyboard performance contests and gave a piano recital to her university in her junior year of college.