Stephen G. Withers, FCIC

University of British Columbia
2016

Stephen Withers completed his PhD in chemistry with Michael Sinnott at the University of Bristol in 1977 and came to Canada as a postdoctoral fellow (Madsen and Sykes) in biochemistry at the University of Alberta, where he used heteronuclear NMR to probe enzyme mechanisms. In 1982 he joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia as assistant professor, and moved through the ranks to full professor in 1991 and Khorana professor in 1997. He has served as scientific director of the Protein Engineering NCE (PENCE), founding director of UBCs Centre for High-Throughput Biology and co-director of the new Genome Science and Technology Graduate program. He is the author of over 450 scientific articles that centre on the mechanisms of the enzymes that assemble and degrade glycan structures. Based on these insights he has developed and optimised new classes of engineered enzymes for the synthesis of glycosidic bonds, through site-directed mutagenesis and directed evolution. He has also designed several new classes of glycosidase inhibitor, including novel inhibitors of therapeutically relevant targets such as the influenza neuraminidase and human alpha-amylase, which are in pre-clinical trials for treatment of influenza and diabetes. Withers has been recognised for this work through election as Fellow of the Royal Societies of Canada (2002) and London (2012).