Sheref Mansy
Sheref Mansy
affiliation: University of Trento, CIBIO
research area(s): Chemical Biology
Course: Biomolecular Sciences
University/Istitution: Università di Trento

University of Trento
Centre For Integrative Biology (CIBIO)
Visiting Professor, April 2009 - July 2009
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, July 2009 - present

University of Denver
Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Denver, Colorado 80208
September 2007 - March 2009


Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School, Department of Genetics, and Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Molecular Biology and the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Boston, MA, 2004 – 2007.
Advisor: Professor Jack W. Szostak

Ph.D., Biochemistry, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 2003, Thesis: Structure and Function of Iron-Sulfur Cluster Biosynthesis Proteins and the Influence of Oxygen Ligation, Advisor: Professor James A. Cowan

B.S., Microbiology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1997


Armenise - Harvard Foundation Award, 2009-2014, $1,000,000.00
Synthetic Aesthetics, University of Edinburgh & Stanford University, 2010, $10,000.00
N.I.H. Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award 2005-2007
N.I.H. Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Grant 1999-2001
Presidential Fellowship, Ohio State University 2003
American Heart Association Summer Fellowship 1997
Phi Kappa Phi

Professional Activity:

Co-chair with Profs. Ulrich F. Müller (University of California, San Diego) and Veronica Vaida (University of Colorado, Boulder), American Chemical Society Symposium, Geochemistry to biochemistry and the origin of life, 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, 25-29 March 2012, San Diego, California, USA.
European Science Foundation Pool of Reviewers, 2010
ad hoc reviewer for BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council,UK), 2010
ad hoc reviewer for the European Science Foundation, 2009
ad hoc reviewer for NASA (origin of life study section), 2008

Professional Membership:

American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Chemical Society


University of Trento
Biochemistry II (undergraduate course in Biotechnology), 2010-2011
Synthetic Biology (PhD course in Biomolecular Sciences), 2011
Synthesis Workshop (Summer School), University College London, UK, 4-9 July 2011
XXIX Scuola Annuale di Bioingegneria, Biologia Sintetica (Summer School)
Minimal Genomes and Minimal Cells, Bressanone, Italy, 16 Sep 2010
University of Denver (2008-2009)
Membranes and Metabolism, undergraduate course (CHEM 3812)
Nucleic acids, undergraduate course (CHEM 3813)
General chemistry, undergraduate course (CHEM 1010)
General chemistry laboratory, undergraduate course (CHEM 1240)
Chemistry seminar, graduate course (CHEM 4900)
We seek to build cell-like structures from the bottom-up to better understand the minimum components necessary for the emergence of life. Perspectives range from abiotic, origins of life to more biological reconstructions from primary components. Ultimately we envisage the creation of self replicating systems capable of Darwinian evolution.

Research directions
What is life? How does one build something they cannot define? As can be seen from such questions, the creation of cell-like structures in the laboratory is fraught with difficulties. However, the synthesis of a self replicating system is tractable and would lay the foundation for subsequent evolutionary experiments that could give rise to more complex and more life-like systems. It is towards this end that much of our research is directed.

Life is compartmentalized. While historically most of the biochemical research has been carried-out in dilute solutions, the physiologically relevant conditions are far from such laboratory experiments. Inside of small compartments, such as a vesicle or a live cell, protein concentrations, ionic strengths, viscosities, and enzymatic activities are quite different. Therefore, we are seeking to better characterize intravesicular molecular behavior through spectroscopic techniques.

Cellular compartments divide. From simple to complex life forms, cells are found that replicate through division mechanisms. While division without loss of entrapped material appears to be a difficult process, it can nonetheless be reduced to a surprisingly small number of parameters.

Cellular genomes replicate. Nucleic acids are the universal information storage molecules in cells, and so our early steps in the building of cell-like structures includes the compartmentalized reconstitution of isothermal genetic replication systems
Book Chapters
1.Sheref S. Mansy (2010) Membrane Transport in Primitive Cells. in Origins of Cellular Life. Eds. Jack W. Szostak & D. W. Deamer. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

2.Cristina Del Bianco & Sheref S. Mansy (2010) Minimal Genomes and Minimal Cells. in Biologia sintetica. Ed. Gruppo Nazionale di Bioingegneria. Patron Editore.

3.Sheref S. Mansy & Cristina Del Bianco (2011) Heterotrophic Model Protocells. in Genesis: Origin of Life on Earth and Planets. Eds. Joseph Seckbach & Richard Gordon. Springer. In press.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

1.Domenica Torino, Cristina Del Bianco, Lindsey A. Ross, Jennifer L. Ong, and Sheref S. Mansy (2011) Intravesicle Isothermal DNA Replication. BMC Res Notes, in press.

2.Shu-pao Wu, Marzia Bellei, Sheref S. Mansy, Gianantonio Battistuzzi, Marco Sola, J. A. Cowan (2011) Redox Chemistry of the Schizosaccharomyces pombe Ferredoxin Electron-Transfer Domain and Influence of Cys to Ser Substitutions. J Inorg Biochem, In press.

3.Sheref S. Mansy (2011) Experimental Model Protocells Support a Heterotrophic Origin of Life. Orig Life Evol Biosph 42, 394-397.

4.Marzia Bellei, Gianantonio Battistuzzi, Shu-pao Wu, Sheref S. Mansy, James A. Cowan, Marco Sola (2010) Control of reduction thermodynamics in [2Fe-2S] ferredoxins. Entropy-enthalpy compensation and the influence of surface mutations. J Inorg Biochem 104, 691-696.

5.Raphael J. Bruckner, Sheref S. Mansy, A. Ricardo, L. Mahadevan, Jack W. Szostak (2009) Flip-flop induced relaxation of the bending energy in synthetic and biological membranes. Biophys J 97, 3113-3122.

6.Sheref S. Mansy & Jack W. Szostak (2009) Reconstructing the Emergence of Cellular Life through the Synthesis of Model Protocells. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol 74, 47-54.

7.Sheref S. Mansy (2009) Model Protocells from Single-Chain Lipids. Int J Mol Sci 10, 835-843.

8.Sheref S. Mansy & Jack W. Szostak (2008) Thermostability of Model Protocell Membranes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105, 13351-13355.

9.Sheref S. Mansy, Jason P. Schrum, Mathangi Krishnamurthy, Sylvia Tobé, Douglas Treco, and Jack W. Szostak (2008) Template-Directed Synthesis of a Genetic Polymer inside of a Model Protocell. Nature 454, 122-125.

10.Sheref S. Mansy, Jinglei Zhang, Rainer Kümmerle, Mikael Nilsson, James J. Chou, Jack W. Szostak, John C. Chaput (2007) Structure and Evolutionary Analysis of a Non-Biological ATP-Binding Protein. J Mol Biol 371, 501-513.

11.Martin Hanczyc, Sheref S. Mansy, Jack W. Szostak (2007) Mineral surface directed membrane assembly. Orig Life Evol Biosph 37, 67-82.

No projects are available to students for the current accademic year.