Stephen Withers is a biochemist whose research into enzyme reaction mechanisms has had a profound impact on his field. His understanding of the way in which natural catalysts function has allowed him to develop and apply his own ‘designer enzymes’ to accelerate specific chemical reactions.
Perhaps the most important of these artificial enzymes have been the glycosynthases, a new class of enzyme capable of synthesising complex sugars. Stephen’s work on perfecting the production and functionality of such chemicals has enormous societal potential in the generation of pharmaceuticals and new materials. His mechanistic studies have led to the development of compounds that are useful for the treatment of diabetes and influenza.
A founding member of the Canadian Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence, Stephen was awarded the Centenary Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2012 for his pioneering work on enzyme mechanisms, their engineering and their inhibition.