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Professor Shankar Balasubramanian FMedSci FRS

Portrait of sb10031

Nucleic acids are fundamental to life. Our research is focused on the chemical biology of nucleic acids, and employs the principles of chemistry and the molecular sciences to address questions of importance in biology and medicine. Projects are inherently interdisciplinary and will provide scope for a diversity of intellectual and experimental approaches that include: organic synthesis, biophysics, molecular and cellular biology and genomics. Our scientific goals are problem-driven, which constantly raises the need to invent new methodology.


A major interest is to elucidate and manipulate mechanisms that control the expression of genes (either transcription, or translation). We are particularly interested in the role of non-canonical nucleic acid structures that control gene expression (e.g. G-quadruplexes, micro RNA and RNA structures in the 5' untranslated regions of mRNAs). Our goal is to design and synthesise small organic molecules that target such structures and alter the expression of certain genes of interest. Such small molecule gene regulators are valuable tools to study mechanisms in biology and will also open up new approaches for therapeutics and molecular medicine, particularly for diseases characterized by aberrant expression of certain genes (e.g. various cancers).


Our fundamental science will inevitably create opportunities for translation and commercialisation. One such example was our invention (with Professor David Klenerman) of new DNA sequencing technology ("Solexa sequencing") that was commercialised as a Cambridge University spinout company (now part of Illumina Inc.) and is used routinely for applications in genomics, including human genome sequencing. 

To hear Shankar Balasubramanian discuss some of the group's research click here:


G-quadruplexes regulate Epstein-Barr virus-encoded nuclear antigen 1 mRNA translation.
P Murat, J Zhong, L Lekieffre, NP Cowieson, JL Clancy, T Preiss, S Balasubramanian, R Khanna, J Tellam – Nature Chemical Biology (2014)
Targeting a c-MYC G-quadruplex DNA with a fragment library
HR Nasiri, NM Bell, KI McLuckie, J Husby, C Abell, S Neidle, S Balasubramanian – Chemical communications (Cambridge, England) (2014) 50, 1704
Existence and consequences of G-quadruplex structures in DNA
P Murat, S Balasubramanian – Current Opinion in Genetics & Development (2014) 25, 22
Visualization and selective chemical targeting of RNA G-quadruplex structures in the cytoplasm of human cells.
G Biffi, M Di Antonio, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian – Nature Chemistry (2014) 6, 75
Targeting RNA-protein interactions within the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 lifecycle
NM Bell, A L'Hernault, P Murat, JE Richards, AM Lever, S Balasubramanian – Biochemistry (2013) 52, 9269
Binding interactions between long noncoding RNA HOTAIR and PRC2 proteins
L Wu, P Murat, D Matak-Vinkovic, A Murrell, S Balasubramanian – Biochemistry (2013) 52, 131217102041003
A screen for hydroxymethylcytosine and formylcytosine binding proteins suggests functions in transcription and chromatin regulation.
M Iurlaro, G Ficz, D Oxley, EA Raiber, M Bachman, MJ Booth, S Andrews, S Balasubramanian, W Reik – Genome Biol (2013) 14, R119
Oxidative bisulfite sequencing of 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
MJ Booth, TW Ost, D Beraldi, NM Bell, MR Branco, W Reik, S Balasubramanian – Nature protocols (2013) 8, 1841
Light-mediated in cell downregulation of G-quadruplex-containing genes using a photo-caged ligand
P Murat, MV Gormally, D Sanders, M Di Antonio, S Balasubramanian – Chemical communications (Cambridge, England) (2013) 49, 8453
G-quadruplex DNA as a molecular target for induced synthetic lethality in cancer cells
KI McLuckie, M Di Antonio, H Zecchini, J Xian, C Caldas, BF Krippendorff, D Tannahill, C Lowe, S Balasubramanian – Journal of the American Chemical Society (2013) 135, 9640
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Research Interest Group

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01223 336347

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