Michael H. Gelb bigraphy, stories - American biochemist at the University of Washington

Michael H. Gelb : biography

1957 -

Professor Michael H. Gelb (born 1957) is an award-winning biochemist and chemist specializing in enzymes and particularly those of medical significance. He is the Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also teaches Honors Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology and Enzymology.

Personal life

In his spare time, Gelb enjoys surfing, playing classical guitar and muscle cars.


Gelb studied chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Davis before taking a Ph.D under Stephen G. Sligar at Yale University on aspects of the catalytic mechanism of cytochrome P450. Granted an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship, he then investigated mechanism-based inactivators of serine proteases and developed fluorinated ketones as tight-binding inhibitors of several classes of proteases, working with Robert H. Abeles at Brandeis University.

Professional life

Since 1985 Gelb has been a faculty member at the University of Washington in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The Gelb laboratory uses a number of techniques in molecular and cellular biochemistry as well as synthetic organic chemistry to study enzymatic processes of biomedical significance. Major accomplishments from the Gelb laboratory include: 1) The discovery of protein isoprenylation in the late 1980s (together with Professor John Glomset);Farnsworth CC, Gelb MH, Glomset JA "Identification of geranylgeranyl-modified proteins in HeLa cells" Science 1990;247:320-322 2) The development of methods to analyze enzymes that work on membrane surfaces (together with Professors Mahendra Jain and Otto Berg);Gelb MH, Jain MK, Hanel AM, Berg OG. "Interfacial enzymology of glycerolipid hydrolases: lessons from secreted phospholipases A2"Annu Rev Biochem. 1995;64:653-88 3) The development of Isotope-Coded Affinity Tags for quantitative proteomics (together with Professors Ruedi Aebersold and Frank Turecek);Gygi SP, Rist B, Gerber SA, Turecek F, Gelb MH, Aebersold R. "Quantitative analysis of complex protein mixtures using isotope-coded affinity tags"Nat Biotechnol. 1999 Oct;17(10):994-9 4) The development of tandem mass spectrometry for newborn screening of enzyme deficiency diseases (together with Professors Frank Turecek and C. Ronald Scott).Li Y, Scott CR, Chamoles NA, Ghavami A, Pinto BM, Turecek F, Gelb MH "Direct multiplex assay of lysosomal enzymes in dried blood spots for newborn screening" Clin Chem. 2004 Oct;50(10):1785-96 Routine newborn screening of lysosomal storage diseases using technology developed in the Gelb laboratory was brought into use in New York state in 2006 .Duffner PK, Caggana M, Orsini JJ, Wenger DA, Patterson MC, Crosley CJ, Kurtzberg J, Arnold GL, Escolar ML, Adams DJ, Andriola MR, Aron AM, Ciafaloni E, Djukic A, Erbe RW, Galvin-Parton P, Helton LE, Kolodny EH, Kosofsky BE, Kronn DF, Kwon JM, Levy PA, Miller-Horn J, Naidich TP, Pellegrino JE, Provenzale JM, Rothman SJ, Wasserstein MP "Newborn screening for Krabbe disease: the New York State model"Pediatr Neurol. 2009 Apr;40(4):245-52 Plans are underway to expand screening in other regions of the USA and in several other countries.

His current research interests include: 1) Studying the function and regulation of a group of enzymes called phospholipase A2 that are involved in lipid mediator biosynthesis related to inflammation; 2) Anti-malaria and anti-trypanosome drug discovery; 3) New technology for the newborn screening of enzyme deficiency diseases including lysosomal storage diseases.


Gelb's awards include:

  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2009-)
  • Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry (2008-)
  • Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health (2007-)
  • Medicines for Malaria Venture Project of the Year (2002).
  • Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (1993).
  • ICI Pharmaceuticals Award for Excellence in Chemistry (1993).
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow.
  • Merck New Faculty Development Award (1986).
  • American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship (1983–85).
Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine