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Dr Serena Nik-Zainal

Academic Department of Medical Genetics & MRC Cancer Unit
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Serena is a CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics in Cambridge, UK. Serena went to the UK as a PETRONAS scholar from Malaysia in 1993, obtaining a First in Physiology at University of Cambridge before completing her medical degree in 2000. She trained as a physician and specialized in Clinical Genetics. She undertook a PhD at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in 2009 pioneering exploration of breast cancers through whole genome sequencing (WGS). 

Serena demonstrated how detailed downstream analyses of all mutations present in WGS breast cancers could reveal mutational signatures, imprints left by mutagenic processes that have occurred through cancer development. She also identified a novel phenomenon of localised hypermutation termed 'kataegis'. Serena continues to explore large cancer datasets using computational approaches while investigating biological underpinnings of mutational signatures through cell-based model systems. She led a clinical project, Insignia (www.mutationsignatures.org) recruiting patients with DNA repair/replication defects, aging syndromes and neurodegeneration and is also focused on advancing the field into the clinical domain.