Sunday, 25 July 2010

My first post and a bit about me as a scientist

I have been contemplating the idea of blogging for some time but never really been sure whether its worthwhile..However having managed to join the twittersphere ( - and surely at present being the least followed tweetee? I thought I'd give full blown blogging a try.

So first an introduction to me as a scientist.

I am a Professor of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology at University College London (UCL) in the Department of Chemistry ( and you can find my scientific profile at My lab research interests are in making molecules (i.e. Organic Synthesis) and in the application of the principles of synthesis in chemical biology, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. You can see some of our work at

My group is funded by EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust and a variety of companies including AstraZeneca, GSK, Pfizer and in the recent past Novartis and CEM Microwave Technology. We publish between five and ten papers a year.

In synthetic chemistry we are interested in new reactions - so trying to understand what happens when you put molecules together under certain circumstances - with a view to trying to mediate something new and ideally useful. A recent example of that is in our recent work published in Nature Chemistry ( in which we took aldehydes and electron deficient alkenes and in the absence of any other chemical reagents mediated a bond forming reaction. This was important because, if as seems likely, the reaction proceeds via an acyl radical then we have shown that you can make carbon-carbon bonds under ambient conditions and without the need for reagents. Usually in organic chemistry reagents are required to generate reactive intermediates so we think that reactions that can take place using oxygen as a mediator could potentially be very important.

In recent years we have also had considerable success in developing novel palladium catalysts for cross coupling and amination reactions. With our long term collaborator Professor Geoff Cloke at Sussex ( we have developed palladium(N-heterocyclic carbenes) as very active catalysts in a variety of coupling reactions (Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 2008, 6, 2820). We have also carried out a lot of work on structure and mechanism (Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2003, 125, 10066)

The other major component of my lab's work is in the area of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry. We use our new methods in chemistry to make compound collections using diversity-oriented synthesis (Chemical Communications, 2006, 4814) which can then be used to generate new compound classes for biological studies, for example with Ari Fassati ( we described new anti-HIV compounds (Chemical Biology and Drug Design, 2010, 75, 461 and with Tim Bugg we sought to develop some potentially new anti-bacterials (Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2009, 17, 3443). We also have a lot of interest in the use of synthetic chemistry to modify proteins and with our long term collaborator Dr James Baker ( we have been developing new approaches to the reversible chemical modification of proteins for example working with halo-maleimides we have been able to modify protein domains and peptides (e.g. Somatostatin) - for a key paper see: Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010, 132, 1960.

The laboratory is full of talented young postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows who do all the work and I'm very grateful to all of them for all their hard work.

For a full list of papers, projects see