Ashok Venkitaraman
Founder / Chief Scientific Adviser

Ashok Venkitaraman

Ashok is the Ursula Zoellner Professor of Cancer Research in the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge. He is a physician-scientist who qualified in medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, before completing his Ph.D. at University College London, and his postdoctoral work at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Ashok’s first faculty position was also at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, before his election as the inaugural holder of the Zoellner Professorship.

Ashok is internationally recognized for his contributions to understanding the genetics and biology of cancer, particularly in elucidating the impact of genome instability in carcinogenesis and cancer therapy. His laboratory discovered the functions of the breast cancer gene, BRCA2, in preserving genome stability, and how its inactivation predisposes to cancer. These discoveries have led to new approaches for cancer diagnosis, risk stratification and therapy. Thus, Ashok’s research has not only illuminated the fundamental mechanisms governing genome repair, replication and segregation during cell division, but has also provided insight into their connections with cancer pathogenesis and treatment.

Translation of these insights to clinical practice is a major focus in Ashok’s current work. He leads a multidisciplinary initiative in Cambridge that aims to pioneer new approaches for chemical biology and the development of small-molecule therapeutics against cancer. He directs the Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, which mirrors these aims. Ashok has worked extensively with industry, and has held scientific advisory board appointments for over a decade with companies advancing biologic (eg., Cambridge Antibody Technology/MedImmune) or small-molecule therapies (eg., Astex, Sentinel Oncology) for cancer.

Work in Ashok’s academic lab laid the scientific foundations for the development of “protein interference” at PhoreMost, which he co-founded with Chris Torrance and Grahame McKenzie in 2014. He is a member of the Board of Directors, and serves as the Chief Scientific Adviser to PhoreMost’s leadership team.

Ashok has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, London, and a Member of the EMBO European academy, Heidelberg.