Chris Abell

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Chris Abell
Born (1957-11-11) November 11, 1957 (age 58)
Nationality British
Fields Biological chemistry
Institutions University of Cambridge
Brown University
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge
Thesis  (1982)
Doctoral advisor James Staunton
Doctoral students Shankar Balasubramanian
Known for Astex, biosynthesis as targets for the rational design of antimicrobials; fragment-based approaches to enzyme inhibition; and biological nanotechnology
Notable awards FMedSci, FRS

Christopher Abell FRS FRSC[1] FMedSci (born 11 November 1957)[2] is a British biological chemist. As of 2016, he is Professor of Biological Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Cambridge and Todd-Hamied Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge. On his 2016 election to the Royal Society, the society described his research as having "changed the face of drug discovery."[3]

Education and career[edit]

Abell attended St John's College[2] of the University of Cambridge, gaining an MA in Natural Science (1979) and a PhD on the topic of polyketide biosynthesis under the supervision of James Staunton, FRS (1982).[4] He held a research fellowship in the laboratory of David E. Cane at Brown University, Providence, USA, studying terpene biosynthesis (1982–83).[2][4]

In 1984, Abell joined the Department of Chemistry of the University of Cambridge, successively holding the positions of demonstrator, lecturer and reader in chemical biology, and becoming Professor in Biological Chemistry in 2002.[2][4] He has held visiting professorships at the Australian National University in Canberra, University of Santiago de Compostela, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, and the Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse.[2][4][5] He has been a fellow of Christ's College since 1986; and is the college's Todd-Hamied Fellow.[6] In 2013 he was appointed the first Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Cambridge,[7] and in 2016 was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research.


Abell has published over 200 papers.[2] His research interests include vitamin and amino acid biosynthesis as targets for the rational design of antimicrobials; fragment-based approaches to enzyme inhibition; bacterial and plant riboswitches; reactions in microdroplets; and biological nanotechnology.[8]


His awards include a Research Fellowship at King's College, Cambridge, the ICI Prize in Organic Chemistry in 1992, the Hickinbottom Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and a Yamada Science Foundation Award.[2][4] In 2008 he was the MIT Novartis Lecturer, and in 2011 was a BIC International Fellow at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.[9] He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2012[10] and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2016.[11]


Abell is the co-founder of several companies. In 1999, he co-founded Astex Technology Ltd, which uses fragment-based drug discovery technology to discover cancer therapeutics.[2][5] In 2001, he co-founded Akubio, which developed biosensors for detecting bacteria and viruses; it was acquired by Inverness Medical Innovations in 2008.[12] In 2010, he co-founded Sphere Fluidics to develop microdroplet technology.[13] In 2012 he co-founded Aqdot, a company developing a new microencapsulation technology.[citation needed]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Ciulli A, Abell C. (2007) Fragment-based approaches to enzyme inhibition. Curr Opin Biotech 18: 489–496
  • Blundell TL, Jhoti H, Abell C. (2002) High throughput crystallography for lead discovery in drug design. Nat Rev Drug Discov 1: 45–54

Research papers[edit]

  • Fidalgo LM, Whyte G, Bratton D, Abell C, Huck WTS. (2008) From microdroplets to microfluidics: selective emulsion separation in microfluidic devices. Angew Chimie (Intl Ed) 47: 2042–2045
  • Huebner A, Srisa-Art M, Holt D, Abell C, Hollfelder F, deMello AJ, Edel JB. (2007) Quantitative detection of protein expression in single cells using droplet microfluidics. Chem Commun Mar 28: 1218–1220
  • Kerbarh O, Ciulli A, Chirgadze DY, Blundell TL, Abell C. (2007) Nucleophile selectivity of chorismate-utilizing enzymes. ChemBioChem 8: 622–624
  • Howard N, Abell C, Blakemore W, Carr R, Chessari G, Congreve M, Howard S, Jhoti H, Murray CW, Seavers LCA, van Montfort RLM. (2006) The application of fragment screening and fragment linking to the discovery of novel thrombin inhibitors. J Med Chem 49: 1346–1355
  • Bruckbauer A, Zhou D, Kang DJ, Korchev YE, Abell C, Klenerman D. (2004) An addressable antibody nanoarray produced on a nanofabricated surface. J Am Chem Soc 126: 6508–6509
  • Bulloch EM, Jones MA, Parker EJ, Osborne AP, Stephens E, Davies GM, Coggins JR, Abell C. (2004) Identification of 4-amino-4-deoxychorismate synthase as the molecular target for the antimicrobial action of (6S)-6-fluoroshikimate. J Am Chem Soc 126: 9912–9913
  • Webb ME, Stephens E, Smith AG, Abell C. (2003) Rapid screening by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry to probe binding specificity at enzyme active sites. Chem Commun Oct 7: 2416–2417
  • Cooper MA, Dultsev FN, Minson T, Ostanin VP, Abell C, Klenerman K. (2001) Direct and sensitive detection of a human virus by rupture event scanning. Nat Biotechnol 19: 833–837
  • Albert A, Dhanaraj V, Genschel U, Khan G, Ramjee MK, Pulido R, Sibanda BL, von Delft F, Witty M, Blundell TL, Smith AG, Abell C. (1998) Crystal structure of aspartate decarboxylase at 2.2 Å resolution provides evidence for an ester in protein self-processing. Nat Struct Biol 5: 289–293
  • McKendry R, Theoclitou ME, Rayment T, Abell C. (1998) Chiral discrimination by chemical force microscopy. Nature 391: 566–568


  1. ^ "Fellows (FRSC)". The Times. 27 October 2015. p. 57. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Abell, Prof Christopher. In Debrett's People of Today 2012 (accessed 15 January 2012) (subscription required)
  3. ^ 50 leading scientists elected as Fellows of Royal Society, 29 April 2016, retrieved 2 September 2016 
  4. ^ a b c d e Abell Group Home Page: Curriculum vitae: Professor Christopher Abell at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2006) (accessed 15 January 2013)
  5. ^ a b Astex Therapeutics: Scientific Advisors and Clinical Consultants (accessed 5 January 2009)
  6. ^ Christ's College, University of Cambridge: The Fellows of Christ's College (accessed 7 January 2013)
  7. ^ University of Cambridge: New senior post to support post-doc community (accessed 28 November 2013)
  8. ^ University of Cambridge: Department of Chemistry: Professor Chris Abell (accessed 5 January 2009)
  9. ^ International Fellows, University of Canterbury - Christchurch, Retrieved December 3, 2013
  10. ^ The Academy of Medical Sciences: Fellows: Newly elected fellows (accessed 7 January 2013)
  11. ^ "Professor Christopher Abell Biography". Royal Society. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  12. ^ Vargas L. Recycled Cambridge biosensor technology attracts millions in investment Business Weekly (27 August 2008) (accessed 5 January 2009)
  13. ^ Sphere Fluidics: 2010 News (accessed 7 January 2013)

External links[edit]