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Department of Chemistry Rock Mancini

Mancini, Rock


Assistant Professor

Washington State University
Department of Chemistry
Troy Hall Room 222
Pullman, WA 99164-4630

Phone: (509) 335-1144


Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, 2012
University of California, Los Angeles

B.S., Polymer Chemistry, 2007
University of Pittsburgh


Dr. Mancini received his B.S. in Polymer Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. He received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from The University of California, Los Angeles while working as an IGERT fellow through the California Nanosystems Institute. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine prior to joining the Washington State University faculty in 2015.

The Mancini research group uses the molecular control of chemistry to effect macroscopic changes in biological and physical systems. Researchers in the lab acquire expertise in synthetic organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, and chemical biology while working in several key research areas.

1) 3D Printable Cell Cultures: Several pairs of optically active compounds that associate upon irradiation with visible light have emerged from the field of optogenetics. We are developing a light-driven biochemical toolbox based on the active components of these systems. By attaching these molecules to cell surfaces and biodegradable matrix materials, we enable light-mediated control of reversible cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion in 3D space. This strategy has far reaching implications from the culture of organelles, to the growth of cells with stringent spatially resolved matrix requirements such as beta-cells in the Islets of Langerhans.

2) Cancer Immunotherapeutics: Pro-inflammatory immunostimulants activate the immune system and typically cause systemic inflammation; this limits their clinical route of administration to topical use. Tumors evade immunosurveillance, in part, through a highly immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. By adding targeting and burst-release functionality to pro-inflammatory immunostimulants, we can direct the resulting immune response to solid tumors, thereby overcoming the immunosuppressive microenvironment and training the body’s own immune system to raise an anti-cancer immune response.

3) Synthetic Macromolecular Asymmetry: Synthetic polymer-linked protein heterodimers represent a growing class of experimental biological therapeutics. Protein heterodimers are typically produced using combinations of grafting-from and grafting-to approaches with at least one conjugation reaction implemented post-polymerization. These multi-step procedures decrease reaction yields, necessitating extensive optimization for each reaction step.  We are developing reactions that result in asymmetric radical-radical recombination and using these methodologies to form protein-polymer heterodimers in high-yielding one-pot reaction sequences.

Now Hiring!

The Mancini group is looking to hire an exceptional postdoctoral researcher and new graduate students. Information on our research group and how to apply is available here.


  • Burt, A. J.; Hantho, J. D.; Nielsen, A. E.; Mancini, R. J. “An Enzyme-Directed Imidazoquinoline Activated by Drug Resistance” Biochemistry, 2018, 57, 15, 2184-2188. [LINK]
  • Nielsen, A. E.; Hantho, J. D.; Mancini, R. J. “Synthetic Agonists of NOD-Like, Rig-I-Like, and C-Type Lectin Receptors for Probing the Inflammatory Immune Response” Future Medicinal Chemistry, 2017, 9, 12, 1345-1360. [LINK]
  • Hantho, J. D.; Strayer, T. A.; Nielsen, A. E.; Mancini, R. J. “An Enzyme-Directed Imidazoquinoline for Cancer Immunotherapy” ChemMedChem, 2016, 11, 22, 2496-2500. [LINK]
  • Mancini, R. J. Paluck, S. J.; Bat, E.; Maynard, H. D. “Encapsulated Hydrogels by E-beam Lithography and Their Use in Enzyme Cascade Reactions” Langmuir, 2016, 32, 4043-4051. [LINK]
  • Mancini, R. J.; Stutts, L.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. “Controlling the Origins of Inflammation with a Photo-Active Lipopeptide Immunopotentiator” Angw. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl., 2015, 54, 20, 5962-5965. [LINK]
    *Selected as Wiley-VCH Hot Paper
    *Highlighted by Chemical & Engineering News, “Chemists Manipulate the Immune System”
  • Ryu, N.; Stutts, L; Tom, J. K.; Mancini, R. J.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. “Stimulation of Innate Immune Cells by Light-Activated TLR7/8 Agonists” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2014, 136, 31, 10823-10825. [LINK]
  • Mancini, R. J.; Stutts, L.; Ryu, K.; Tom, J. K.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. “Directing the Immune System With Chemical Compounds” ACS Chem. Biol, 2014, 9, 1075-1085
    *Highlighted by Powell, R. “Introducing our Authors” ACS Chem. Biol. 2014, 9, 5, 1063-1065. [LINK]
  • Mancini, R. J.; Tom, J. K.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. “Covalently Coupled Immunostimulant Heterodimers” Angw. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl., 2014, 53, 1, 189-192. [LINK]
  • Tom, J. K.; Mancini, R. J.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. “Covalent Modification of Cell Surfaces Improves Immune Stimulation” Chem. Commun., 2013, 49, 10133-10135. [LINK]
  • Mancini, R. J.; Lee, J. Y.; Maynard, H. D. “Trehalose Glycopolymers for Stabilization of Protein Conjugates to Environmental Stressors” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, 134, 8474-8479. [LINK]
    *Highlighted by Chemical & Engineering News, “Polymer Protects Proteins”
    *Highlighted by UCLA Newsroom, “UCLA Researchers Develop Way to Strengthen Proteins with Polymers”
  • Mancini, R. J.; Li, R. C.; Tolstyka, Z. P.; Maynard, H. D. “Synthesis of a Photo-caged Aminooxy Alkane Thiol”, Org. Biomol. Chem., 2009, 7, 4954-4959. [LINK]


  • Mancini, R. J.; Nielsen A. E.; Hantho, J. D. “Enzyme-Directed Pro-Immunostimulants of Cancer Therapy” Provisional Patent Application, WSU 1734, September 30, 2016.
  • Mancini, R. J.; Esser-Kahn, A. P.; Tom, J. K. “Novel Immunostimulants and Synthesis Thereof” United States Patent 14/458,988, August 16, 2013.
  • Maynard, H. D.; Mancini, R. J.; Lee, J. Y. “Stabilization of Biomolecules Using Sugar Polymers”, International Patent WO/US2013/112897, January 27, 2012.