Svend Petersen-Mahrt

Born in Hamburg Germany, Svend Petersen-Mahrt came to Italy and IFOM in 2011.   Head of the DNA Editing in Immunity and Epigenetics laboratory, Svend Petersen-Mahrt researches DNA deaminases.

In high school, Svend Petersen- Mahrt became fascinated with computers and genetics, and combining these interests led him to do a degree in Microbiology, at Texas A &M University. Pursuing an academic career. Svend Petersen-Mahrt specialized in Biochemistry, and obtained a PhD in Pathology and Immunology at Boston University School of Medicine. Here he had focused on engineering anti-DNA antibodies  mimicking the somatic hypermutation (SHM) processin vitro.

Svend Petersen-Mahrt then embarked on a postdoc in Virology and Biochemistry at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, where he became absorbed in RNA biology.  Nonetheless, the question of how the precise molecular pathways of SHM works remained important to him, and in late 1999 he went to do his second postdoc with Micheal Neuberger, a leading SHM expert, at the University of Cambridge. While collaborating with Neuberger on the identification of various SHM pathways, Professor Tasuku Honju of Kyoto University discovered AID (activation induced deaminases), a fundamental enzyme in the process of SHM. This allowed Professor Neuberger and his lab, in 2001, to theorize that AID might mutate the genome through targeting DNA.  Further exploring this discovery, Svend Petersen-Mahrt headed his own DNA editing research group at Cancer Research UK. Here his interest in DNA instability and oncological research began to grow.

Since childhood Svend Petersen-Mahrt has endlessly questioned how things work, and it is this curiosity that has led him to head original inquiries. Thanks to his mentor, Thomas Lindhal, Svend Petersen-Mahrt was introduced to IFOM where he now has '"he opportunity to pursue oncological research with great intellectual freedom, which is critical for every researcher, but not always granted. " Together with his team he is exploring how DNA instability, lead by DNA deaminases, can be advantageous for an organism and how AID, activated by estrogen, can induce cancer.


research program

Research programs




A year in review
A key insight on the enzymatic
activity of AID

A commentary to Svend Petersen-Mahrt's paper published on PloS one
by Michael Neuberger

video interview

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