I am a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry having joined the OU as a Lecturer in 2001. After completing my DPhil at Oxford with Prof Paul Beer I was a research fellow at the Universite Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg with Prof Jean-Pierre Sauvage and then retunred to the UK as research fellow at Durham with Prof David Parker.
My research interests are broadly based around supramolecular photochemistry and coordination chemistry of the lanthanide metals with applications in chemical sensing and medicinal chemistry. This research combines my interests in non-covalent interactions and photochemistry. The aim is to understand how these interactions can be used in the design and synthesis of novel molecular assemblies. The common theme running through the research is the use of light or light-induced processes to impart functions into these assemblies. Spectroscopic techniques are used to study the processes occurring within these systems upon excitation with light energy. The multidisciplinary aspect of the research is reflected in the projects, which range from those with biological applications to those with a more technological aim
Luminescent sensors and probes These systems use combinations of noncovalent interactions, such as hydrogen bonding, to bind target substrates and luminescence as thereporting signal. By monitoring changes in the intensity, lifetime or form of the luminescence upon substrate binding, the binding affinities may be determined. Of particular interest are systems with long-lived emission or able toundergo resonance energy transfer. These features are ideal for sensors designed to investigate and understand the structure and function of biological systems such as oligonucleotides and cell wall receptors. such sensors have medical applications offering refined sensitivity in the early detection and diagnosis of disease at the molecular level particularly when targeted at biomolecules with key roles in physiological processes
Photoactive molecular devices There are many examples of functional molecular devices held together by non-covalent interactions occurring in nature. Much of this research uses a biomimitic approach to duplicate natural processes, such as photosynthesis, using artificial arrays. They have promise in the future as lean renewable energy sources if they can reproduce photosynthesis efficiently. Non-covalent synthetic methods such as anion coordination bonding menas that a range of systems may be generated rapidly and the photophysical properties studies and fine-tuned. The input andoutput signals of the device can then be regulated and such devices have potential as functional materials for use optoelectronic devices
Medical imaging and therapy Current interest is focused on paramagnetic complexes as contrast agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and luminescent complexes as labels for fluorescent microscopy and photodynamic therapy (PDT). A primary objective of this research is to improve the specificity and selectivity of the complexes by targeting particular binding sites on cell walls or physiologically relevant molecules. The aim is produce agents with the dual role of detecting and killing tumour cells. The types of complex under investigation can act as photosensitizers or as radiation sensitizers as part of the cytotoxic process
Previous work in this area has lead to a series of near infra red emitting receptors where interaction with DNA could switch on the NIR emission from a lanthanide complex. Such a signal is readily observed against a complex potentially interferring background. Collaboration with Dr S.Missialidis has produce a chelate- functionalised aptamer capable of delivering a diagnostic or therapeutic agent to tumour cells.
Currently this interest is being applied to problems in the areas of medicinal chemistry and my research group is developing new MRI contrast agents based on gadolinium that display high relaxivities while being capble of being targeted or delivered to specific tumours. This is also being extended in a related project looking at PDT and a means of delivering photosensitizing agents with high specifcity into cancer cells.
Selective Detection and Destruction of Cancer Cells - including PhD project S. Kimani ( in collaboration with Dr Jon Golding and Dr James Phillips)
I currently teach undergraduate courses in organic chemistry and chair of the S346: Drug Design and Synthesis module team
I have been course team chair of S344 Organic Chemistry: A synthesis approach and have been a member of the S205 : Molecular World and S103 Discovering Science course teams.
My other teaching interests lie in the area of postrgraduate study and training and I am chair ofSTM895 - Postgraduate research skills in science, technology, maths and computing. This is webased course that uses the VLE e-portflio to allow researchers to plan and record their skills training. I am alos a member of the S825 module team
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Co-investigator||06 Jul 2015||28 Aug 2015||Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)|
This was to fund an undergraduate student, Kirsten Hawkins, who has approached the department for a summer placement.New approaches that localise radiosensitivity within tumours have the potential to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy and reduce side effects for patients. Here we developed compounds, known as radiosensitisers, containing heavier elements such as metals that produce electrons upon radiotherapy. These electrons promote localised DNA damage in cancer cells leading to their death. Careful design of the complexes aimed to promote their localisation in the DNA of cancer cells so that those that these are most damaged upon radiotherapy. It is significant that we developed one copper containing compound that exhibited a comparatively low cytotoxicity in HEK293T cells (human embryonic kidney cells) over 24 h, for example it was approximately 45 times less cytotoxic to these cells in comparison to the anticancer drug cis-platin. This suggests its further study in targeted radiotherapy where the cytotoxicity in cancer cells would be turned on by the application of the radiotherapy. It is significant that we developed one copper containing compound that exhibited a comparatively low cytotoxicity in HEK293T cells (human embryonic kidney cells) over 24 h, for example it was approximately 45 times less cytotoxic to these cells in comparison to the anticancer drug cis-platin. This suggests its further study in targeted radiotherapy where the cytotoxicity in cancer cells would be turned on by the application of the radiotherapy. Abi Barbour, an A-S level student, also worked on this project under the Nuffield Research Placement scheme and as a result achieved her Gold Crest award.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Co-investigator||01 Jul 2014||15 Aug 2014||Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)|
The project will last for 6 weeks and will provide an OU student with the opportunity to carry out research work in our laboratories.