Michael S. Cohen, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry, School of Medicine
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine
  • Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine


My research program combines chemistry and molecular design to develop novel chemical tools to answer biological questions. Our overall interests are in two main areas: 1. uncovering new roles for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) regulation in cells and  2. elucidating the function of post-translational modifications (PTMs) by enzymes that use NAD+ as a substrate. A current focus in on the evolutionarily conserved PTM known as ADP-ribosylation. We seek to understanding the impact ADP-ribosylation on cell function as a strategy for therapeutic development. ADP-ribosylation is catalyzed by a family of enzymes known as poly-ADP-ribose polymerases (PARPs, 17 in humans; also referred to as ARTDs), and involves the transfer of ADP-ribose from NAD+ to amino acids in target proteins. Despite being called PARPs, most (12, referred to as mono-PARPs) of the family members catalyze mono-ADP-ribosylation (MARylation) and not poly-ADP-ribosylation (PARylation). Over the last several years we have developed novel chemical tools and approaches, including orthogonal NAD+ analogue-enzyme pairs, selective PARP inhibitors, an NAD+ biosensor, which have provided insights into NAD+ regulation and the function of PARP-mediated MARylation in ways not attainable with conventional methods. 

Education and training

    • B.S., 2000, University of California, Irvine
    • Ph.D., 2006, University of California, San Francisco
  • Fellowship

    • 2006-11 LSRF Postdoctoral Fellow Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY

Honors and awards

  • 2015 Pew Biomedical Scholar
  • 2016 Medical Research Foundation, Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award
  • 2018 ICBS Young Chemical Biologist Award



  • {{ pub.journalAssociation.journal.name.text[0].value }}