Santiago Schnell, DPhil (Oxon), FRSC

Interim Chair, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
John A. Jacquez Collegiate Professor of Physiology
Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Professor, Computational Medicine & Biology

5132 Brehm Tower
1000 Wall St.
Ann Arbor, MI  48105

(734) 615-8733


Dr. Schnell joined the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology in 2008.  He is a William K. Brehm Investigator at the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research at the University of Michigan Medical School.  Currently he serves as Program Director of the Educational Program Interfacing Computation and Engineering with Digestive and Metabolic Physiology, and Associate Director of Systems and Integrative Biology Training Program.

He received his Licentiate in Biology (degree equivalent to a M.Sc.) from Universidad Simón Bolívar (Venezuela) and then his D.Phil. in Mathematical Biology from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom), respectively. After his D.Phil. he held two prestigious research positions at the University of Oxford: Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church (a college of Oxford) and Senior Research Fellow of the Wellcome Trust at the Centre for Mathematical Biology within the Mathematical Institute.  Before joining the University of Michigan, he was Assistant Professor of Informatics at the Indiana University School of Informatics & Computing, and Associate Director of the Biocomplexity Institute.

Areas of Interest

Dr. Schnell interests are currently focused in three areas: 

(1) Mechanism and regulation of protein folding, translocation and processing.  For proteins to function properly, they need to fold into the correct shape, and protein misfolding is thought to underlie many diseases (known as protein folding diseases).  These diseases include Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and new variant CJD.  The Schnell lab is interested in the identification of protein misfolding and aggregation mechanisms, and mechanisms of protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum. 

(2) Molecular mechanisms of pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction in diabetes.  Pancreatic beta-cell failure is increasingly recognized as central to the progression of diabetes mellitus. Different causes are implicated in the onset of β-cell stress, dysfunction or dead. One of the causes of beta-cell dysfunction is failure in modulating the capacity and quality of the endoplasmic reticulum protein-folding machinery controlling insulin production. The Schnell lab investigates how the high burden imposed by the insulin biosynthesis on the unfolded protein response can be a leading cause of certain diabetes phenotypes.

(3) Methods for modeling reactions inside cells.  For many years, Dr. Schnell and his collaborators have been investigating the best approaches for modeling and estimating kinetic parameters of reactions occurring under physiological conditions.  Dr. Schnell continues investigating how the cellular environment affects the rate of reactions and the best approaches for modeling the dynamical behavior of reactions inside cells.


Honors & Awards

  • José Gregorio Hernández Fellow, Venezuelan Academy of Medicine and Pembroke College (Oxford)
  • Junior Research Fellow (Christ Church), University of Oxford
  • Research Fellow of the Wellcome Trust, London
  • Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, Indiana University
  • 21st Century Scientist Award, James S. McDonnell Foundation
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • League of Educational Excellence, University of Michigan


Licentiate, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela, 1996
D.Phil., University of Oxford , 2003

Published Articles or Reviews

S. Schnell and C. Mendoza (1997). A closed-form solution for time-dependent enzyme kinetic. Journal of theoretical Biology 187, 207-212.

S. Schnell and P. K. Maini (2000). Enzyme kinetics at high enzyme concentration. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 62, 483-499. S. Schnell and T. E. Turner (2004). Reaction kinetics in intracellular environments with macromolecular crowding: simulations and rate laws. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 85, 235-260.

J. Srividhya, E. J. Crampin, P. E. McSharry and S. Schnell (2007). Reconstructing biochemical pathways from time course data. Proteomics 7, 828-838.

S. Schnell (2009). A model of the unfolded protein response: Pancreatic -cell as a case study. Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry 23, 233-244.

C. I. Sandefur and S. Schnell (2011). A model of threshold behavior reveals rescue mechanisms of bystander proteins in conformational diseases. Biophysical Journal 100, 1864-1873. (cover article)

M. L. Wynn, P. Kulesa and S. Schnell (2012). Computational modeling of collective cell migration reveals mechanisms that sustain follow-the-leader chain behavior. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 9, 1576-1588.

M. L. Wynn, N. Consul, S. Merajver and S. Schnell (2012). Logic-based models in systems biology: a predictive and parameter-free network analysis method. Integrative Biology 4, 1323-1337. (cover article)

K. D. Waltonal, Å. Kolterudac, M. J. Czerwinskia, M. Bell, A. Prakasha, J. Kushwaha, A. S. Grosse, S. Schnell and D. L. Gumucio (2012). Hedgehog-responsive mesenchymal clusters direct patterning and emergence of intestinal villi. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of United States of America 109, 15817-15822.

E. R. Shellman, C.F. Burant and S. Schnell (2013). Network motifs provide signatures that characterize metabolism. Molecular BioSystems 9, 352-360. (cover article)

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