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Mimicking natural evolution to improve the diversity of drugs.

21 August 2014

A revolutionary new scientific method developed at the University of Leeds will improve the diversity of ‘biologically active molecules’, such as antibiotics and anti-cancer agents. The research was inspired by evolution in nature and may uncover new pharmaceutical drugs that traditional methods would never have found.

In nature both the chemical structure of organisms and the methods to produce them have evolved over millennia because they were of benefit and this is the approach researchers wanted to emulate to discovering new drugs. This novel approach takes different combinations of lots of different ingredients and if the result ‘tastes’ promising then this is used as the starting point for another set of experiments. To assess the effectiveness of the reaction products as drugs, researchers studied how well they could activate a particular biologically relevant protein called the ‘androgen receptor’, which is important in the progression of certain cancers. Only at the end, when something really good has been identified, is it worked out exactly what has been made.
The key to this method is using very promiscuous reactions which can lead to many different interesting products. Normally, these are the sort of reactions that chemists would steer well clear of, but in this case it’s actually an advantage and gives us the chance of finding some diverse and active structures,
The research, carried out by George Karageorgis (PhD student), Professor Adam Nelson and Dr Stuart Warriner from the School of Chemistry and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, is reported online in Nature Chemistry.

Cholera vs Cholera

6 August 2014

Research from Dr Bruce Turnbull’s group has appeared on the cover of Angewandte Chemie and has been flagged as a “Very Important Paper”, placing it in the top 5% of papers in this prestigious journal.

The paper describes work undertaken by Drs Tom Branson and Tom McAllister, along with other colleagues in Leeds and at Wageningen University, to develop a novel strategy for making inhibitors that can neutralise toxins produced by bacteria.

Cholera, travellers’ diarrhoea, and related diseases caused by E. coli O157, are caused by protein toxins that comprise a single toxic A-subunit and five copies of a non-toxic B-subunit that delivers the A-subunit into cells that line the intestine. The team re-engineered the cholera toxin B-subunit to make a non-toxic glycoprotein that was no longer able to interact with cell membranes, but could bind tightly to the parent toxin protein. By matching the size and valency of the binding sites on the toxin, the inhibitor is able to form a very stable complex discrete complex. This strategy could be adapted to develop inhibitors of a broad range of bacterial toxins and other multimeric proteins.

The cops and robbers inside cover image was designed by Tom Branson who writes about journal cover art for Chemistry World. On his own blog, Chemically Cultured, Tom has posted an article about the development of the cover image.

The research was supported by EPSRC and COST Action network “Multivalent Glycosystems for Nanoscience” which is led by Bruce Turnbull. A press release on the article can be found on the Angewandte website and has been picked up by several news websites.


6 August 2014

The School played host to 30 outstanding sixth form students from all over the UK, attending the inaugural Headstart Residential Summer School in Chemistry at the University of Leeds, only the second such event in the UK.

Our guests, all of whom have indicated their desire to apply for a physical science degree at University next year, were put through their paces on synthetic & analytical chemistry, entrepreneurship in science over four days and got the chance to make and market healthcare products on exercise at Unilever, Seacroft as part of their activities.

Headstart is managed by the Engineering Development Trust and we thank both them, STEM team within MAPS and the SoC for their support.

Young Researcher of the Year!

28 July 2014

Kelly Houton from Prof Andrew Wilson's group was awarded this prize at the Macro Group Young Researchers meeting in Durham.

The meeting took place on the 24th and 25th of July with twenty students presenting talks about their work and plenary lectures from Dr Aline Miline (Manchester) and Prof Sebastien Perrier (Warwick).

Kelly received the award for her oral contribution "Heterocomplementary Hydrogen Bonding Motifs for Supramolecular Materials Chemistry".

Sustainable skincare

16 July 2014

University of Leeds spin-out, Keracol Limited, has teamed up with Marks & Spencer to produce a natural skin care range using the waste products of grapes.

The research team at Keracol found a new way to extract resveratrol, a natural molecule found in the outer skins of red grapes, which is an antioxidant and known to have protective anti-ageing properties.

Using the grape skin pulp from English Pinot Noir grapes left over from the production of M&S own English sparkling and rose wine, the new extraction process has now helped M&S become the first high street retailer to recycle their own grape waste into a new beauty product range.

For further details see the University research news

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