R. Scott Prosser

R.Scott Prosser
Place of Birth: 
Halifax, NS
First Year Employed at UTM/U of T: 
Department / Division: 
Chemistry and Biochemistry

Directing the Master of Biotechnology program was a tremendous opportunity to grow something entirely different for the University of Toronto. We saw immediate gains on the part of the students and the corporate partners. By working with talented administrators and with great colleagues in biology and management, we were able to carve out a wildly successful program.

U of T is one of the very rare places with an incredibly wide spectrum of talent in the medical arena with people whose research has greatly influenced my own work and inspired me to aim higher.

R. Scott Prosser

Professor Scott Prosser grew up in the military enclave of Oromocto, New Brunswick, the son of a Canadian Forces physician and a nurse. Given his strong medical genes, perhaps it’s surprising that he didn’t become a physician, but interests in mathematics and physics led Prosser toward research instead. His undergraduate studies focused on math and physics, his doctoral studies delved into biophysics and since then he has transitioned into physical biochemistry and medically relevant research.

He began his academic career in the United States, taking on a position affiliated with a liquid crystal institute. As his research interests broadened, U of T Mississauga had an opening that allowed Prosser to take his research in a new direction and to return to Canada, “to give back to the society that nurtured me.”

Prosser joined the chemistry department at UTM in 2002 and began conducting research focusing on nuclear magnetic resonance with a biological slant. In 2008, he assumed the directorship of the Master of Biotechnology program and helped shape it into a jewel in the UTM crown before stepping down in 2016.

From an inaugural class of 16 students, the internship-based, two-year MBiotech program now boasts 84 students and a 100 per cent placement rate for its graduates. 

Meanwhile, in the research lab, Prosser is doing research at the molecular level that is “fundamentally paradigm shifting.” He is seeking to discover how enzymes, which are nature’s version of molecular machines, work with great precision and efficiency. He is also exploring the molecular workings of G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), the cellular receptors that are the target of about half the drugs used today, including those for asthma and heart disease. Ultimately, this research, which has spawned a pan-Canadian research network, should contribute to efficient, effective new methods of drug development and delivery.

“The research capabilities of this new network will greatly exceed the output of any one lab and the work will mesh well with research efforts by my UTM colleagues in medicinal chemistry,” says Prosser. “We are on the brink of understanding molecular underpinnings and fundamental mechanisms associated with enzymes and membrane receptors. These are exciting times for structural biology and medicine.”



U of T Mississauga Research Award, 2008. Recognizes excellence in research at UTM.


Selected Publications:

Allosteric nanobodies reveal the dynamic range and diverse mechanisms of G-protein-coupled receptor activation.

Highlights the amazing complexity of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), cell membrane receptors whose dynamism and pliability allow them to bind to other molecules. GPCRs are targets for one-third of all drugs today.

Staus DP, Strachan RT, Manglik A, Pani B, Kahsai AW, Kim TH, Wingler LM, Ahn S, Chatterjee A, Masoudi A, Kruse AC, Pardon E, Steyaert J, Weis WI, Prosser RS, Kobilka BK, Costa T, Lefkowitz RJ.

Nature. 2016 Jul 21;535(7612):448-52.


Activation of the A2A adenosine G-protein-coupled receptor by conformational selection.

Ye L, Van Eps N, Zimmer M, Ernst OP, Prosser RS.

Provides a molecular understanding of the activation mechanism for a prototypical cell membrane receptor, knowledge critical for drug discovery and design.

Nature. 2016 May 12;533(7602):265-8. doi: 10.1038/nature17668.


Structural Insights into the Dynamic Process of β2-Adrenergic Receptor Signaling.

Manglik A, Kim TH, Masureel M, Altenbach C, Yang Z, Hilger D, Lerch MT, Kobilka TS, Thian FS, Hubbell WL, Prosser RS, Kobilka BK.

Explains how a specific cell membrane receptor converts signals from the extracellular environment to intracellular proteins, an interaction that may generally be responsible for the complex signaling behavior observed for many GPCRs.

Cell. 2015 May 21;161(5):1101-11. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.043. Erratum in: Cell. 2015 Sep 10;162(6):1431.


The role of dimer asymmetry and protomer dynamics in enzyme catalysis.
Kim, TH, Mehrabi, P,  Zhong, R, Sljoka, A., Ing, C., Bezginov, A., Ye, L.,  Pomè€s, R., Prosser, RS, Pai, EF
Science, 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aag2355