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C-Capture wins £40000 of funding

C-Capture, a spin out from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, was named regional winner at the recent Shell Springboard event in Edinburgh, seeing off competition from 140 other businesses across the UK. The company wins a prize of £40,000 and a place in the prestigious national final, to be held in London in March, where they have the opportunity to win a total of £150,000 prize money.


C-Capture is a new ‘clean energy’ technology company, whose goal is to make energy cleaner through decarbonisation and exploitation of renewable fuels, without making it more expensive to the customer.

The team at C-Capture have developed new chemistry and combined it with engineering expertise, to develop innovative technology capable of removing CO2 from different industrial gas streams, from large scale point sources such as power stations, to smaller scale applications such as biogas upgrading.
C-Capture’s technology is able to separate CO2 from other gases using 50-90% less energy than other approaches. They use a patented solvent system specially formulated to minimise environmental hazards, and are currently conducting trials using a mobile demonstrator unit (see photo) which can separate over a tonne of CO2 per day.

Having previously received funding from the Department for Energy and Climate Change under their prestigious Energy Entrepreneurs programme, and  from IP Group plc, the timing of additional funding from Shell comes at an important time in the development of the company.

Prof. Chris Rayner of C-Capture Ltd said:
“This is well-deserved recognition for all the hard work and ingenuity that the team have shown over the last few years. They have developed some fantastic technology which really has the potential to revolutionise areas such as biogas upgrading and industrial CCS. Shell Springboard is really helping us to move to the next phase of the company’s development - full scale commercialisation of our technology.”

More information about C-Capture can be found at

Shell Springboard is a nationwide awards programme for the next breakthrough in low-carbon enterprise. It is part of Shell’s strategy to support bright energy ideas and provide a platform for innovation, collaboration and conversation about the global energy challenge, while helping to create jobs and growth among UK small businesses. Since 2005 Shell Springboard programme has awarded £3.15 million to 98 low-carbon entrepreneurs, who have gone on to create over 250 new jobs and have an annual combined turnover of £60 million. More information about Shell Springboard can be found at

Anticancer peptides

A team from the University of Leeds has carried out a study published in Chemical Science that explains the role of pre-organization in anti-apoptotic peptides that have potential use as inhibitors of apoptosis – an important therapeutic target in cancer therapy.

The study led jointly by members of the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology; Prof Andy Wilson and Dr Stuart Warriner (Chemistry) together with Dr Edwards (Molecular and Structural Biology)  focused on the effects of adding a constraint to members of the pro-apoptotic effector BH3 peptides BID and BIM.  Apoptosis – programmed cell death – is an important process that mis-functions in many cancers, hence the Bcl-2 family of protein-protein interactions have been the focus of anticancer drug-discovery efforts by many pharmaceutical companies. One potential approach is to use peptides derived from the BH3 proteins which act to regulate Bcl-2 family function, however peptides are known poor drugs because they do not typically adopt a bioactive conformation  in solution, have poor pharmacokinetic properties (such as facile degradation by proteases) and are not usually cell permeable. An emerging strategy in medicinal chemistry to combat these limitations has been to introduce constraints on the peptide of interest, so as to pre-organize it in a bioactive conformation; in theory this should lead to enhanced binding of the ligand to its target arising from a reduced entropic cost of binding.

In this study the team used introduced hydrocarbon constraints on two BH3 peptides (BID and BIM) using olefin metathesis and performed detailed structural and biophysical analyses on their interactions with the Bcl-2 family proteins Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 using x-ray crystallography, SPR and fluorescence measurements. These established that the peptides bind their targets through and induced fit mechanism, and, that enthalpy-entropy compensation operates for these binding events. These results contradict the widely held view that pre-organization improves binding potencies and will be important in informing future drug-discovery efforts against these important anticancer targets!divAbstract

Researcher to use supercomputer to 'hack' Ebola

A £200,000 grant secured from the Wellcome Trust will help to find drugs to cure the Ebola disease. A team from the Schools of Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology will use the equivalent of password cracking software to find the chemical keys to defeating the Ebola virus.

Although several Ebola vaccines are being developed, there are currently no effective anti-viral drugs to treat people once they get infected. This is a particularly serious issues because of barriers to implementing vaccine programmes in the most at-risk communities and the difficulty of predicting where the disease will strike next. Researchers will focus on finding anti-viral drugs.

Instead of the traditional approach of biologically testing hundreds of candidate drug compounds in the lab, the researchers will run computer software loaded with a library of about a million drug compounds and match them against the atomic structure of the Ebola virus’s key proteins.

The second phase of the project will then test the most promising compounds to see if they inhibit Ebola-like molecules in biological tests.

Colin Fishwick, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, will lead the computer-based phase of the study. He said:

"The use of the computer hugely increases our ability to identify the right compounds. It is a bit like trying to crack a password by brute-force: we are able to run through hundreds of thousands of drug compound structures to see if they fit into key 'holes' we have identified in the structure of the virus.

However, our computers are not dealing with strings of characters but minutely detailed 3D maps of molecules. We are matching key atomic details of the compounds and virus molecules and looking for chemicals that might block the virus’ growth and replication. It is an incredibly powerful system that transforms our ability to rapidly identify new drug leads."

The project is looking for anti-viral drugs capable of combating Ebola in infected patients, rather than vaccines.

The study will focus on two key components of the Ebola virus: its NP and VP30 proteins. The atomic structures of both have been mapped in high resolution and both are known to be critical to the virus’ replication and growth. Two other proteins - the L and VP35 proteins - will also be studied by the team, which includes Dr Thomas Edwards, an expert in protein structure, and Dr Richard Foster, a medicinal chemist.

All of the researchers are members of The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, which brings together scientists from across the University of Leeds to allow interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the molecular basis of life.

Uncertainty principle on Leeds Student Radio

Between 2-3pm on Wednesday 10th February, Dr. Marcelo Miranda will be discussing scientific, philosophical, and dancefloor consequences of the Uncertainty Principle on Leeds Student Radio.

The discussion will be part of this week’s edition of The Heart of Science, the weekly show presented by our very own Adil Shah, who is in the final year of his Natural Sciences degree. You can listen to the program on While the program is on air, you can also tweet your questions to #heartofscience.

Graduates sail a log for charity

Three Chemistry graduates have completed a charity sailing trip down the coast of Tanzania and around Zanzibar in a hollowed out log with a bed sheet for a sail.

They faced 8ft swells in a Ngalawa, a hollowed out mango tree trunk with two planks lashed on across for balance, in 40C heat.

The friends, who met at the University of Leeds, will donate their funds to rainforest charity Cool Earth and a cancer hospice that looked after another of their friends.

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