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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


Landscape of G-quadruplex DNA structural regions in breast cancer
R Hänsel-Hertsch, A Simeone, A Shea, WWI Hui, KG Zyner, G Marsico, OM Rueda, A Bruna, A Martin, X Zhang, S Adhikari, D Tannahill, C Caldas, S Balasubramanian
– Nature Genetics
The regulation and functions of DNA and RNA G-quadruplexes.
D Varshney, J Spiegel, K Zyner, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
– Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology
Affinity-selected bicyclic peptide G-quadruplex ligands mimic a protein-like binding mechanism
KC Liu, K Röder, C Mayer, S Adhikari, DJ Wales, S Balasubramanian
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
A Spontaneous Ring Opening Reaction Leads to a Repair- Resistant T Oxidation Product in Genomic DNA
AB Sahakyan, A Mahtey, F Kawasaki, S Balasubramanian
– Chembiochem
An activatable cancer-targeted hydrogen peroxide probe for photoacoustic and fluorescence imaging
J Weber, L Bollepalli, AM Belenguer, MD Antonio, N De Mitri, J Joseph, S Balasubramanian, CA Hunter, SE Bohndiek
– Cancer Res
Unusual Activity of a Chlamydomonas TET/JBP Family Enzyme.
L Aravind, S Balasubramanian, A Rao
– Biochemistry
The structure and function of DNA G-Quadruplexes
S Balasubramanian, S Adhikari, J Spiegel
– Trends in Chemistry
Genetic interactions of G-quadruplexes in humans
KG Zyner, DS Mulhearn, S Adhikari, S Martínez Cuesta, M Di Antonio, N Erard, GJ Hannon, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
– eLife
METTL1 Promotes let-7 MicroRNA Processing via m7G Methylation.
L Pandolfini, I Barbieri, AJ Bannister, A Hendrick, B Andrews, N Webster, P Murat, P Mach, R Brandi, SC Robson, V Migliori, A Alendar, M d'Onofrio, S Balasubramanian, T Kouzarides
– Molecular Cell
Correction to: RNA G-quadruplexes at upstream open reading frames cause DHX36- and DHX9-dependent translation of human mRNAs
P Murat, G Marsico, B Herdy, AT Ghanbarian, G Portella, S Balasubramanian
– Genome Biology
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Research Group

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01223 336347

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