Stephen Cusack, born in London, studied mathematics, physics and theoretical physics as an undergraduate at Cambridge University and obtained a PhD in theoretical solid-state physics at Imperial College, London in 1976.
Switching to molecular biology, in 1977 he joined the newly founded laboratory of EMBL at Grenoble as a postdoc to study virus structure using neutron scattering. In 1985, he spent a year learning X-ray crystallography with Don Wiley at Harvard, working on influenza virus hemagglutinin.
In 1989, he became Head of EMBL Grenoble, a post he still occupies. Benefitting from the establishment of the ESRF on the EPN science Campus, he has focussed on using X-ray crystallography, and more recently cryo-electron microscopy, to study protein-RNA systems in gene expression, viral replication and innate immunity. He has also strongly promoted development of advanced instrumentation for synchrotron crystallography and been very active in integrating structural biology at the European level.
He is best known for his structural analysis of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, the anti-viral pattern recognition receptor RIG-I and his pioneering structure determination of influenza RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, for which he received the Ivano Bertini Award in 2015. Several of his projects evolved a structure-based drug development aspect in collaboration with various pharmaceutical companies and in 2009, he co-founded Savira pharmaceuticals to develop anti-influenza drugs. In 1998, he became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and in 2015, he was elected as a member of the Royal Society of London.