Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2022

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Prof Sir Shankar Balasubramanian


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SIR SHANKAR BALASUBRAMANIAN, who was born in India, came to Britain as a toddler and is now a top chemistry professor in Cambridge, is working on a crucial aspect of cancer research that is likely to touch the lives of millions of people throughout the world if it comes off – and he is reasonably confident there will be major advances in how patients are treated in the next five to 10 years.

Instead of using general chemotherapy which kills both good and bad cells because the chemicals drip fed into patients are so toxic, the idea in future is to devise drugs aimed at combating individual cancers – simply because there are so many of them and each one can be unique. This move towards personalised cancer treatment that is less toxic is what Balasubramanian has been working on for many years now.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he tells GG2 Power List. “The pursuit of ideas each day, each year, is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s continuously stimulating. And also working in an environment with students, post-docs and colleagues who are all drawn to that, is very infectious. I love what I do.”

Talking about his work life balance, he added: “I love to spend time with my family as and when I get chance. I have a son, Sachin, who is doing engineering in Birmingham. I have a daughter Sashi who is in the final year of school. My wife Veena is a GP. I live in Cambridge and walk and cycle everywhere. My other main thing is endurance running.”

His formal title is that he is the Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Yusuf Hamied department of chemistry (named after the head of Cipla) at Cambridge University. Balasubramanian, who

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