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Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, Medical Research Council & the University of Cambridge, UK

Ashok Venkitaraman is the Ursula Zoellner Professor of Cancer Research at the University of Cambridge, and the Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cancer Unit at the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre. He is a Collaborative Science Chair at inStem and NCBS, Bangalore, and coordinates the Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics there.

Ashok trained in clinical medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, before completing his Ph.D. at University College, London, and his post-doctoral work at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge His first faculty appointment was also in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and he remained there as a faculty member until his election as the first holder of the Zoellner Professorship.

Ashok is internationally recognized for his research on the molecular mechanisms that preserve the integrity of the human genome, and how defects in these mechanisms cause cancer. His discoveries shed light on how genome instability contributes to carcinogenesis, provide scientific foundations underpinning new approaches to therapy, and reveal new insights into the fundamental mechanisms that repair, duplicate and segregate DNA when cells divide.

Translation of these discoveries to clinical application is a major focus of Ashok’s ongoing work. In Cambridge, he has established a programme that aims to pioneer innovative new approaches for developing next-generation medicines against human diseases like cancer; this work has in turn inspired the development of the new Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at inStem and NCBS. Ashok has had many years’ experience of advising and working with pharma, biotech and venture capital companies involved in the development of new medicines.

Ashok was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, London, in 2001, and as a member of the EMBO European academy, Heidelberg, in 2004. He received the Ranbaxy Award for medical research in 2008.