Stephen Withers


  • email: withers@chem.ubc.ca
  • phone: 604-822-3402
  • office: CHEM A333
  • lab: CHEM A307, 315/323, A342 and NCE 324, 327
  • website: http://withers.chem.ubc.ca/


Professional Profile

  • Postdoctoral, Alberta (N.B. Madsen and B.D. Sykes, 1978-82)
  • Ph.D., Bristol (M.L. Sinnott, 1977)
  • B.Sc., Bristol (1974)

Research Area

My research interests have always focused around the fascinating question of how enzymes function as such formidable catalysts. Enzymes involved in glycosyl transfer have served as useful model systems for developing this understanding, especially since they are amongst nature’s most proficient catalysts, accelerating reactions by some 1017 fold.

To address these questions we have combined our ability to synthesise substrates and inhibitors with classical enzymology and molecular biology such that we can alter the structures of both the substrate and the catalyst and then measure the consequence of the modifications on reaction rates. Collaborations with structural biologists have allowed us to then visualise the enzyme in action. The role of non-covalent interactions between the enzyme and substrate in stabilisation of ground and transition states has held a particular fascination for me, as well as the development of methodologies to stabilise or trap intermediates in catalysis. Increasingly I am becoming interested in applying our understanding to the development of new tools and hopefully therapeutics. 

Research Keywords

Biochemistry, biotechnology, biological imaging, drug discovery, enzymology, synthetic biology, microbiome, macromolecular biochemistry, microfluidics, catalysis, natural products, organic/synthetic chemistry

To learn more about the Withers Lab, please visit withers.chem.ubc.ca.