Mark Distefano, PhD

Distinguished McKnight Professor & Merck Professor, Department of Chemistry
Mark Distefano


Office Phone
Office Address

668C Kolthoff Hall
207 Pleasant St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States


Distinguished McKnight Professor & Merck Professor, Department of Chemistry
Graduate Faculty, Department of Medicinal Chemistry


PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1989

BA, University of California, 1984

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Research in the Distefano group focuses on the use of organic chemistry to provide insight into mechanism and function in biological systems. Several projects are currently being investigated including (1) mechanism and function of protein prenylation (2) rubber biosynthesis (3) illudin biosynthesis (4) protein-based catalyst design and (5) development of methods for selective protein modification. 

Two themes unite this diverse range of topics. The protein prenylation, rubber biosynthesis and illudin biosynthesis projects center around the use farnesyl diphosphate and analogues thereof. The goals of these projects are to identify the enzymes involved in these processes and to understand their chemical mechanisms for the purposes of designing new therapeutic agents or biocatalytic processes. The catalyst design and protein modification projects both involve the use covalent modification techniques to prepare proteins with either novel catalytic or physical properties.

Researchers in the Distefano group use a combination of organic synthesis, protein purification, enzymology and biophysical techniques as they work on these projects. Numerous collaborations are in place with other groups both at the University of Minnesota and other academic and industrial institutions to accomplish the interdisciplinary goals of these projects.

Awards & Recognition

  • Ryerson Professor of Chemistry, 2016
  • ACS Fellow, 2014
  • Merck Professor of Chemistry, 2011
  • Distinguished McKnight Professor, 2011
  • Horace T. Morse–University of Minnesota Alumni Award, 2006
  • George W. Taylor/ITAS Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2004
  • American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award, 1994
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 1994


  • French