Shaun Olsen

2011 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Shaun Olsen

Current Position:
Assistant Professor

Medical University of South Carolina (Previously at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)

Biochemistry & Structural Biology

Recognized for: Combining chemistry, biochemistry and structural biology provided satisfying answers to mechanistic issues that were first raised nearly 30 years ago, and now provides a new framework on which to develop future E1 inhibitors

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Post-translational modification of proteins by ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like modifiers


  • PhD, Biophysics & Biochemistry, New York University, New York, NY
  • BA, Biology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Shaun Olsen studies the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway which plays a key role in maintaining homeostasis but has also been implicated in cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. In his lab, he uses a multidisciplinary approach that combines X-ray crystallography and biological and chemical techniques to understand why proteins become dysregulated and result in human pathologies.

Dr. Olsen, who is fluent in Japanese, spent two years at the RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center in Yokohama, Japan. While there, he worked on the structural biology of proteins regulating immune function and led a team that trapped unstable intermediates during Ub/Ubl activation utilizing a technique pioneered at Rockefeller University.

"My goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which ubiquitin proceeds through its enzymatic cascade and is ultimately conjugated to target proteins in a specific and regulated manner."

Key Publications:

  1. Olsen SK, Lima CD. Structure of a ubiquitin E1-E2 complex: insights to E1-E2 thioester transfer. Molecular Cell 2013 Mar 7
  2. Olsen SK, Capili AD, Lu X, Tan DS, Lima CD. Active site remodeling accompanies thioester bond formation in SUMO E1. Nature 2010 Feb 18
  3. Lu X, Olsen SK, Capili AD, Cisar JS, Lima CD, Tan DS. Designed semisynthetic inhibitors of Ub/Ubl E1 activating enzymes. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010 Feb 17