CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist
Serena Nik-Zainal is an alumna of the College (NH, 1995) and is a CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist and an Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics. She qualified in medicine in 2000 on a scholarship from Petronas, Malaysia. She undertook a PhD at the Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI) in 2009 exploring breast cancer using whole genome sequencing (WGS). She demonstrated how detailed downstream analyses of all mutations present in WGS breast cancers could reveal mutation signatures, imprints left by mutagenic processes that have occurred through cancer development. She also identified a novel phenomenon of localised hypermutation termed “kataegis”.
Serena was awarded a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship in 2013. She joined the Sanger Institute faculty team in 2014 and continued to develop particular expertise in the analysis and interpretation of WGS tumours. Apart from using computational approaches, she also studies mutational signatures experimentally using cell-based model systems. She was awarded a CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowship in 2017 and moved to the University of Cambridge in order to accelerate the translation of her genomics expertise towards clinical applications and to further her work into the physiological mechanisms underpinning mutagenesis.
In 2019, Serena was awarded the Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Prize, originally also known as the “Nobel Prize for Cancer Research”. Thanks to her research, mutations in cancer tumours can be analysed using new bioinformatic methods, which enables new approaches to targeted therapies.