Welcome to the Gelb Research Group


Michael H. Gelb

University of Washington

Department of Chemistry

Box 351700

Seattle, WA  98195-1700


Research Coordinator: Catherine Holliday 206-543-7968


Research Interests, History, and Awards

The Gelb group combines chemical and molecular and cellular biochemistry techniques to study enzymatic process of medical importance.

Michael H. Gelb studied chemistry and biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of California at Davis. His Ph.D. studies with Stephen G. Sligar at Yale University led to a better understanding of the catalytic mechanism of cytochrome P450. As an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of the late Robert H. Abeles at Brandeis University, Gelb studied a variety of mechanism-based inactivators of serine proteases and developed fluorinated ketones as tight-binding inhibitors of several classes of proteases. In 1985 Gelb became a faculty member in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Washington. Major breakthroughs in the group include the development of methods to properly analyze the action of enzymes on membrane surfaces, the discovery of protein prenylation (farnesylation and geranylgeranylation) in mammalian cells (together with John A. Glomset), and the development of Isotope-Coded Affinity Tags (ICAT reagents) for proteomic applications (together with Ruedi Aebersold). His current research is in the following areas at the interface of chemistry and biology:

  • Structure, function, and regulation of interfacial enzymes including phospholipases A2.
  • Structure-based design and combinatorial chemistry of inhibitors of drug targets from parasites that cause tropical diseases
  • Biochemical studies of protein prenylation
  • Multiplex analysis of enzymes of clinical significance and proteomics by mass spectrometry


He is the Boris and Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington and is a member of graduate training programs in Biomolecular Structure and Design and in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Gelb's awards and honors include:


Repligen Award in the Chemistry of Biological Processes, ACS Division of Biological Chemistry (2018)

University Faculty Lecture Award, University of Washington (2017)

Boris & Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry (2014)

Gustavus John Esselen Award, Harvard University (2013)

Fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences (2012-)

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009-)

Kaplan Lecturer, Brandeis University (2009)

Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry (2008-)

Plenary Lecturer, BrazMedChem2008, Porto de Galinha, Brazil (2008)

National Institutes of Health Merit Award (2007-)

Plenary Lecturer, Keystone Conference on Drugs for Protozoan Paraistes, (2006)

Medicines for Malaria Venture Project of the Year (2003)

University Keck Lecturer,  University of Toronto (2002)

Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, given by the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (1993)

ICI Pharmaceuticals Award for Excellence in Chemistry (now given by AstraZeneca) (1993)

Alfred P. Sloan Fellow (1990-92)

Merck New Faculty Development Award (1986-90)

American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow (1983-85)


Professional Activity:

His newborn screening technology is being commercially developed by Perkin Elmer. An FDA-approved assay kit is being developed and went on the market in 2016.

More than 40 new patents in the past 5 years on newborn screening technology.

2002-2006          NIH Physical Biochemistry Study Section Member

2001-2006          Editorial Advisory Board: Journal of Biological Chemistry

2000                 Chair, American Chemical Society Div. of Biological Chemistry Nominating Committee

2000                  NIH Bioorganic and Natural Products Study Section Member

1996-2000          NIH Biochemistry Study Section Member

1989                  NIH Pharmacology Study Section Member

1998-                 Editorial Board:  Current Opinion in Chemical Biology

1997                  Co-Chair, Gordon Research Conference, Co-Enzymes and Metabolic Pathways

1997                   NIH Physical Biochemistry Study Section Member

1991-present       Co-Organizer, Volcano Conference in Bioorganic Chemistry



Current Scientific Advisory Boards:  Genzyme Corp., LinkMedicine Corp.



Gelb's pastimes include Surfing and playing classical guitar.

Please feel free to contact Professor Gelb if you have any questions about the program or if you want to discuss research areas in more detail.


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Last updated 1/8/2019