headshot photo of Dr. Sherif Elshahawi

Dr. Sherif Elshahawi

Assistant Professor
School of Pharmacy
Office Location: Rinker Health Science Campus
Phone: 714-516-5496
Scholarly Works:
Digital Commons
Cairo University, Bachelor of Pharmacy
University of Mississippi, Master of Science
Oregon Health & Science University, Ph.D.


Dr. Sherif Elshahawi is an Assistant Professor of Natural Products and Alternative Medicine at the Chapman University School of Pharmacy (CUSP).

Dr. Elshahawi received his Bachelor in Pharmacy from Cairo University in Egypt (2000) and spent four years teaching Pharmacy students Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry and Herbal medicine.  To pursue his graduate education, he joined the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi in Mississippi to earn his Master’s degree in Pharmacognosy (2006). There, he used natural products isolation, purification and structure elucidation techniques to compare the metabolic profiles of three soft coral species collected through a ten-year period to determine the effect of environmental and time changes on their secondary metabolism.

To increase his expertise in chemical biology, Dr. Elshahawi moved to Portland, Oregon to join the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine in the lab of Professor Margo Haygood where he earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2012). During his Ph.D., Dr. Elshahawi combined the skills he learned from his Master’s research with the expertise he acquired in the Haygood lab towards the discovery and biosynthesis of bioactive secondary metabolites from marine symbionts. Following his Ph.D., he accepted a Postdoctoral Scholar position at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the lab of Professor Jon Thorson and the Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI) at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. There, he led multiple projects that involve the identification of natural product compounds from terrestrial bacteria from unique ecological niche in addition to the identification of gene clusters and the characterization and engineering of biocatalysts.

In 2017, Dr. Elshahawi joined Chapman University to lead a distinct research program in the discovery and development of natural product compounds and enzymes. His research interests include natural products discovery and biosynthesis, biocatalysis, drug development, synthetic biology, protein engineering, microbial genetics and chemical biology.

Dr. Elshahawi has authored 19 peer reviewed articles in high impact journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Nature Chemical Biology, Chemical Society Reviews, Angewandte Chemie and Organic Letters. He also serves as a reviewer in different journals and his research has been recognized in several national meetings and media coverage.

Research Interests 

Bacterial infections and tumor cells are proliferating due to rising levels of resistance against current drugs. The major focus of the Elshahawi lab is to discover and develop natural products-based drug therapeutics for the treatment of tumor cells and infectious diseases and modifying those therapeutics for improved activity and/or pharmacokinetic properties. Research in the Elshahawi lab lies at the interface of chemistry and biology and combines multiple disciplines including natural products chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, bioinformatics, structural biology, synthetic chemistry and molecular biology. The goal is to utilize natural product compounds, genes and enzymes to provide new drug leads against bacterial infections and cancer to strengthen the drug discovery pipeline.

Dr. Elshahawi’s research is focused on four main areas: (i) Isolation of microorganisms from untapped environments capable of producing biologically active small molecules; isolation and structure elucidation of these compounds using various spectroscopic techniques (ii) Identification of the genes, enzymes and mechanisms involved in the biosynthesis of bioactive natural products (iii) Characterization and engineering of late stage tailoring enzymes for drug diversification for improvement of bioactivities and/or physicochemical properties (iv) Identification of the chemical arsenal of pathogenic organisms and their biosynthetic machinery. 

Main Publications

1. Elshahawi SI, Cao C, Shaaban KA,  Ponomareva LV, Subramanian T, Farman ML, Spielmann HP, Phillips GN Jr., Thorson JS, Singh S. Underground coal mine fire-associated microbes as a source for biocatalyst discovery. Nat. Chem Biol.2017, 13(4):366-368[Pubmed]

2. Elshahawi SI*, Shaaban KA*, Kharel MK, Thorson JS. A comprehensive review of glycosylated bacterial natural products. Chemical Society Reviews2015, 44(21):7591-7697. [Pubmed]

3. Elshahawi SI, Ramelot TA, Seetharaman J, Chen J, Singh S, Yang Y, Pederson K, Kharel MK, Xiao R, Lew S, Yennamalli RM, Miller MD, Wang F, Tong L, Montelione GT, Kennedy MA, Bingman CA, Zhu H, Phillips GN Jr, Thorson JS. Structure-guided functional characterization of enediyne self-sacrifice resistance proteins, CalU16 and CalU19. ACS Chem Biol. 2014, 9(10):2347-2358. [Pubmed]

4. Elshahawi SI, Trindade-Silva AE, Hanora A, Han AW, Flores MS, Vizzoni V, Schrago CG, Soares CA, Concepcion GP, Distel DL, Schmidt EW, Haygood MG. Boronated tartrolon antibiotic produced by symbiotic cellulose-degrading bacteria in shipworm gills. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci (PNAS). 2013, 110(4):E295-304. [Pubmed] 

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications