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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

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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. 

Hear Shankar Balasubramanian discuss some of the group's research.

Watch Professor Balasubramanian discuss his research

Take a tour of the Balasubramanian Lab


Chemical profiling of DNA G-quadruplex-interacting proteins in live cells
S Balasubramanian, X Zhang, J Spiegel, S Adhikari, S Martinez Cuesta
– Nat Chem
Reduced Bisulfite Sequencing: Quantitative Base-Resolution Sequencing of 5-Formylcytosine5-formylcytosine (5fC)
MJ Booth, S Balasubramanian
– Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
Promoter G-quadruplex folding precedes transcription and is controlled by chromatin.
J Shen, D Varshney, A Simeone, X Zhang, S Adhikari, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
– Genome Biol
G-quadruplexes are transcription factor binding hubs in human chromatin
J Spiegel, SM Cuesta, S Adhikari, R Hänsel-Hertsch, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
– Genome Biol
Landscapes of cellular phenotypic diversity in breast cancer xenografts and their impact on drug response.
D Georgopoulou, M Callari, OM Rueda, A Shea, A Martin, A Giovannetti, F Qosaj, A Dariush, S-F Chin, LS Carnevalli, E Provenzano, W Greenwood, G Lerda, E Esmaeilishirazifard, M O'Reilly, V Serra, D Bressan, IMAXT Consortium, GB Mills, HR Ali, SS Cosulich, GJ Hannon, A Bruna, C Caldas
– Nature communications
TET2 is a component of the estrogen receptor complex and controls 5mC to 5hmC conversion at estrogen receptor cis-regulatory regions
R Broome, I Chernukhin, S Jamieson, K Kishore, EK Papachristou, S-Q Mao, CG Tejedo, A Mahtey, V Theodorou, AJ Groen, C D'Santos, S Balasubramanian, AM Farcas, R Siersbæk, JS Carroll
– Cell Rep
Selective chemical functionalization at N6-methyladenosine residues in DNA enabled by visible-light-mediated photoredox catalysis
M Nappi, A Hofer, S Balasubramanian, MJ Gaunt
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Natural, modified DNA bases.
MK Bilyard, S Becker, S Balasubramanian
– Curr Opin Chem Biol
Single-molecule visualisation of DNA G-quadruplex formation in live cells.
M Di Antonio, A Ponjavic, A Radzevičius, RT Ranasinghe, M Catalano, X Zhang, J Shen, L-M Needham, SF Lee, D Klenerman, S Balasubramanian
– Nature Chemistry
Genome-wide DNA Methylation Signatures Are Determined by DNMT3A/B Sequence Preferences.
S-Q Mao, SM Cuesta, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
– Biochemistry
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Research Group

Research Interest Group

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01223 336347

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