Degano Massimo Professore AssociatoMedicineBIO/10




Professor Massimo Degano graduated in Chemistry summa cum laude at the University of Padua, and decided to devote his research activity to the application of structural biology techniques, primarily X-ray crystallography, to the fields of enzymology and immunology. He joined the Department of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University as a post-doctoral research associate in the labs of Jim Sacchettini and Vern Schramm, determining the structures of enzymes involved in nucleotide metabolism. Then he moved to the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, where under the supervision of Ian Wilson he worked on immune system molecules, most notably part of the team that determined the structures of the first T cell receptors, and their complexes with peptide-MHCs. In 1999 he relocated to Italy, becoming an independent scientist at the Italian synchrotron source ELETTRA, working on X-ray beamline development and plant allergens. In 2001, he joined the IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute as head of the Biocrystallography Unit where he established a research program on immune system receptors in neoplastic diseases and drug design against multidrug-resistant pathogens. Professor Degano authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publication (including Science, Nature Communications, Immunity, Blood) with an average impact factor of 10.11 and more than 4500 citations for a H-index of 30 (March 2023).

Since 2003 he is a lecturer in chemistry, biochemistry and structural biology at the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in the diploma courses of Medical School, Dental School, Biotechnology and the international MD Program.


Unique identifiers

ORCID: 0000-0002-0787-1883

Scopus author ID: 6701697207

Publons: K-4669-2018

Google Scholar:


Web Site



1996-1999     Post-doctoral research associate, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla – CA (USA)

1992-1996     Post-doctoral research associate, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx – NY (USA)

1992                           Doctoral degree in Chemistry, University of Padua (Italy)


Research activity

2001 –                  Head of unit/group leader, Biocrystallography Unit, IRCCS Scientific Institute San Raffaele, Milan (Italy). Field of study: structure-activity correlation in proteins involved in human pathology; development of novel therapeutics for conditions caused by multidrug-resistant pathogens.

1999-2001            Staff scientist, Crystallography and Structural Biology division, Italian Sinchrotron source ELETTRA. Field of study: immune system molecules, plant allergens.

1996-1999            Research associate Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla – CA (supervisor Ian A. Wilson). Field of study: T cell receptors, MHC and non-classic MHC molecules, and their mutual recognition.

1992-1996            Research associate, Department of Biochemistry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx – NY (supervisors James C. Sacchettini and Vern L. Schramm). Field of study: structural enzymology for rational drug design.

1991-1992            Thesis student, Crystallography laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Padua (Italy) (supervisors Mario Mammi and Giuseppe Zanotti). Field of studies: crystallography applied to proteins involved in transport of hydrophobic ligands.


Professional activities

2020-                    Coordinator of the Italian BAG (block allocation group) “ItaBag”, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF, Grenoble, F).

2015-2021            Member and chair of the beam time allocation panel (BTAP C10) of the  European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF, Grenoble, F)

2010-2019            Member of the Hiring and Promotions committee, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute

2004-2006            Member of the steering committee for the "Myelin Autoimmunity Research in Europe" network, European Science Foundation.

2000-ad oggi       Member of the European Crystallographic Association (ECA)

1999-ad oggi       Member of the Associazione Italiana di Cristallografia (AIC)

1999-ad oggi       Member of the Italian Society of Immunology and Clinical Allergology (SIICA)


Peer-reviewing activities. Biochemistry, Journal of Immunology, PLoSONE, Scientific Reports, Protein Science, Acta Crystallographica sect F, FEBS Journal, Journal of Structural Biology, Proteins, Journal of Physical Chemistry, BMC Structural Biology, Bioinformatics, Chemistry – a European Journal, International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.


Grant reviewing. Italian Foundation for research on Multiple Sclerosis (FISM), Flanders Research Foundation (FWO), Italian Ministry of University and Research. 


Review editor for Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences



• Member of the Organizing Committe of the 49° meeting of the Italian Crystallographic Association, Parma (2021)

• Chair for the microsymposium “Hot topics in macromolecular crystallography”, 49th AIC Congress, Parma (2021)

• Co-organizer of the trimonthly meeting “Joint Structural Biology Lab Meeting” for reseaerch groups active in the fields of biocrystallography, NMR and cryo-electron microscopy in the Lombardy area (2018-ongoing)

• Chair for the mycrosymposium “Facilities for DITID”, DITID scientific retreat, Milan (2017)

• Organizer and chair of the microsymposium “Structural Biology and the Immune System”, IUCr 2005 General Assembly, Florence (2005) 

• Organizer of the course “Structural biology and disease” for the PhD program in Molecular Medicine, Open University and Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele (2003)

• Organizer of the “Experimental crystallography workshop”, Sincrotrone Trieste Elettra, Trieste (2000)


Recognitions and awards

1996               Belfer Fellow Award, A. Einstein College of Medicine

1992               Laurea summa cum laude, University of Padua


Teaching activities

Since 2003, lecturer for the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele:

                        Medical School: Chemistry and Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology

                        Dental School: Medical Chemistry

                        Biotechnology: Structural Biology

                        International MD Program: Chemistry and Biochemistry


Selected publications

Full list is available at:


Google Scholar


  1. Gemenetzi K, Psomopoulos F, Carriles A, Gounari M, Minici C, Plevova K, Sutton L, Tsagiopoulou M, Pasentsis K, Anagnostopoulos, Sandaltzopoulos R, Rosenquist R, Davi F, Pospisilova S, Ghia P, Stamatopoulos K, Degano M*, Chazidimitrou A* – Higher order immunoglobulin repertoire restrictions in CLL: the illustrative case of stereotyped subsets #2 and #169 (2021) Blood 137:1895-1904. doi: 10.1182/blood.2020005216
  2. Minici C, Gounari M, Übelhart R, Scarfò L, Dühren-von Minden M, Schneider D, Tasdogan A, Alkhatib A, Agathangelidis A, Ntoufa S, Chiorazzi N, Jumaa H, Stamatopoulos K, Ghia P, Degano M – Distinct homotypic B-cell receptor interactions shape the outcome of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. (2017) Nat Commun 8: 15746 doi:10.1038/ncomms15746
  3. Giannese F, Berg M, Van Der Veken P, Castagna V, Tornaghi P, Augustyns K, Degano M – Crystal structures of purine nucleosidase from Trypanosoma brucei bound to isozyme-specific trypanocidals and a novel metalorganic inhibitor. (2013) Acta Cryst D Biol Crystallogr 69, 1553-1566
  4. Minici C, Cacciapuoti G, Di Leo E, Porcelli M, Degano M - New Determinants in the Catalytic Mechanism of Nucleoside Hydrolases from the Structures of Two Isozymes from Sulfolobus solfataricus. (2012) Biochemistry 51, 4590-4599
  5. Fornili A, Giabbai B, Garau G, Degano M – Energy landscapes associated with macromolecular conformational changes from endpoint structures. (2010) J Am Chem Soc 132, 17570-17577
  6. Vandemeulebroucke A, Minici C, Bruno I, Muzzolini L, Tornaghi P, Parkin DW, Versées W, Steyaert J, Degano M – Structure and mechanism of the 6-oxopurine nucleosidase from Trypanosoma brucei brucei. (2010) Biochemistry 49, 8999-9010
  7. Iovane E, Giabbai B, Muzzolini L, Matafora V, Fornili A, Minici C, Giannese F, Degano M – Structural basis for substrate specificity in group I nucleoside hydrolases. (2008) Biochemistry 47, 4418-4426
  8. Giabbai B, Sidobre S, Crispin MD, Sanchez-Ruiz Y, Bachi A, Kronenberg M, Wilson IA, Degano M – Crystal structure of mouse CD1d bound to the self-ligand phosphatidylcholine: a molecular basis for NKT cell activation. (2005) J Immunol 175, 977-984
  9. Giabbai B, Degano M – Crystal structure to 1.7 Å of the Escherichia coli pyrimidine nucleoside hydrolase YeiK, a novel candidate for cancer gene therapy. (2004) Structure 12, 739-749
  10. Markovic-Housley Z*, Degano M*, Lamba D*, von Roepenack-Lahaye E, Clemens S, Susani M, Ferreira F, Scheiner O, Breiteneder H – Crystal structure of a hypoallergenic isoform of the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 and its likely biological function as a plant steroid carrier. (2003) J Mol Biol 325, 123-133
  11. Degano M, Garcia KC, Apostolopulos V, Rudolph MG, Teyton L, Wilson IA – A functional hot spot for antigen recognition in a superagonist TCR/MHC complex. (2000) Immunity 12, 251-261.
  12. Wingren C, Crowley M, Degano M, Chien Y-S, Wilson IA – Crystal structure of a gd T cell receptor ligand T22: a truncated MHC-like fold. (2000) Science 287, 310-314.
  13. Degano M, Almo SC, Sacchettini JC, Schramm VL – Trypanosomal nucleoside hydrolase. A novel mechanism from the structure with a transition-state inhibitor. (1998) Biochemistry 37, 6277-6285
  14. Garcia KC*, Degano M*, Pease LR, Huang M, Peterson PA, Teyton L, Wilson IA – Structural basis of plasticity in T cell receptor recognition of a self peptide-MHC antigen. (1998) Science 279, 1166-1172.
  15. Garcia KC, Degano M, Stanfield RL, Brunmark A, Jackson MR, Peterson PA, Teyton L, Wilson IA – An αβ T cell receptor structure at 2.5 Å and its orientation in the TCR-MHC complex. (1996) Science 274, 209-219

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