Shankar Balasubramaniam, Cambridge University, UK
Sir Shankar Balasubramanian is the Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and senior group leader at the Cambridge Institute. He works on the chemistry, structure and function of nucleic acids. He is a co-inventor of the leading next generation DNA sequencing methodology, Solexa sequencing (now Illumina) that has made routine, accurate, low-cost sequencing of human genomes a reality and has revolutionised biology. He has worked on the identification, elucidation and manipulation of non-coding genetic elements, particularly four-stranded structures called G-quadruplexes. His work on the intervention of nucleic acid function using small molecules has revealed a number of molecular mechanisms that can be exploited, e.g. to modulate the biology of cancer. His more recent contributions include the development of methods for sequencing the epigenetic DNA bases 5-methylcytosine, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine and 5-formylcytosine at single base resolution, as part of a broader investigation of the importance of wider, natural DNA alphabet. His collective contributions span fundamental chemistry and its application to the biological and medical sciences.