ChemComm Milestones – Yuanting Su

We are excited to share the success of Yuanting Su’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘Crystalline radical cations of bis-BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Yuanting below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

The main interests of our group are focused on the isolation, characterizations, and reactivity of novel main group species, including geometrically constrained compounds and di(poly)radicals. Recently, most of the stoichiometric and catalytic small molecule activations involve transition metal complexes. Additionally, organic radicals have potential applications in functional materials. We believe that main group species with suitable electronic and steric effects could also solve these problems and have their advantages.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Thiele’s hydrocarbon, the first isolable organic diradicaloid reported by Thiele in 1904, has been widely used as a calculated model to investigate the interaction between two unpaired electrons. However, itself and its radical cation are highly reactive, preventing further investigation and practical application. Despite various analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon have been isolated, structurally characterized radical species derived from them are still limited and radical cations of bis-BN-based analogues have not been reported. In this paper, we demonstrate that air-stable bis-BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon have been facilely synthesized by one-pot reaction of bromoborane (HCDippN)2BBr with KC8 in the presence of half an equivalent of pyrazine or quinoxaline in toluene. Moreover, one-electron oxidation with AgSbF6 leads to their radical cations, which could be isolated as crystalline solids. The unpaired electron is greatly delocalized over the central linkers. Therefore, reduction of the halogenated borane in the presence of pyrazine and derivatives is a straightforward way to achieve BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon with multiple stable redox states. This strategy may allow access to novel open-shell diradicaloids or polyradicals.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Make progress in the construction of novel main group species for small molecule activation and functional materials.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

When I was an undergraduate, my research experience with Prof. Suna Wang at Liaocheng University inspired me to pursue an academic research career. After graduation from the group of Prof. Xiao-Juan Yang and Prof. Biao Wu at Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, where I learned a lot of knowledge and techniques on organometallics chemistry and characterizations, I joined the group of Prof. Xinping Wang at Nanjing University and studied the isolation of main group element radicals. Then, I was offered a Research Fellow position in Prof. Rei Kinjo’s group at Nanyang Technological University, where I expanded my research area into the small molecule activations by novel main group element species. I was fortunate to meet such kind and professional chemists, whose strong support helped me to become an independent researcher.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

You can neither rewrite your past nor predict your future. The best thing you can do is holding the present.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm combines the traits of wide readership, rapid publishing, and high quality.

  Yuanting Su received his BSc Degree from Liaocheng University in 2009. Then, he moved to Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS and obtained his MSc Degree in 2012 under the guidance of Prof. Xiao-Juan Yang and Prof. Biao Wu. He earned his PhD in 2015 from Nanjing University under the supervision of Prof. Xinping Wang, studying the isolation of main group element radical species. He stayed as a Research Fellow at Prof. Rei Kinjo’s group at Nanyang Technological University (Sep. 2015 to Sep. 2019), Singapore, focusing on small molecule activation by main group element compounds. In Nov. 2019, he joined the College of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Soochow University as an Associate Professor. His current research interests are new main group species and their applications in small molecule activation and functional materials.

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ChemComm Milestones – Bin Wang

We are excited to share the success of Bin Wang’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘tert-Butyl nitrite triggered radical cascade reaction for synthesizing isoxazoles by a one-pot multicomponent strategy‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Bin below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Our laboratory currently focuses on the glycosylation reaction of nitrogen-containing heterocycles to acquire drug-like molecules. Many bioactive components in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) contain glycosyl groups, which increase the water solubility of these molecules. According to the decoction method used in TCM, these compounds are more likely to be the active components of TCM. Additionally, in the development of synthetic drugs, glycosyl groups are often introduced into poorly soluble lead compounds to increase their hydrophilicity, improve the bioavailability of the target drugs, and finally increase the potential druggability.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

As early as 1888, the synthesis of isoxazole derivatives was first documented through the condensation/cyclization reaction of 1,3-dicarbonyl compounds with hydroxylamine by Claisen. Subsequently, two typical strategies for the synthesis of isoxazoles involve 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of nitrile oxides; and alkynes and cyclo-isomerization of alkynyl ketoxime compounds.

In this article, we describe a novel and efficient multicomponent cascade reaction that involves sequential acylation/oximation/annulation processes in the presence of alkenes, aldehydes, TBN, and H2O, providing access to diversely disubstituted isoxazoles in one-pot. This strategy features H2O as a rare oxygen source of the isoxazole ring, commercially available substrates, and the construction of diverse new bonds in a single pot, which is distinct from already reported studies. These characteristics meet exactly the needs of environmental protection.

Additionally, we applied the established method to provide 32 isoxazole derivatives, and antioxidant experiments showed that these compounds have positive radical scavenging capacity, especially isoxazole 4al reaching 60% scavenging power at a concentration of 2 μmol/mL, suggesting that these molecules could be utilized as lead compounds for anti-aging drugs.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

In the next year, we will focus on carbohydrate chemistry, especially around the glycosylation reaction to achieve the synthesis of antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory substances.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After completing my master’s degree in physical chemistry (Hunan University, China), I pursued a Ph.D. in organic chemistry for synthesis methodology to explore the functionalization of alkenes or alkynes in the aqueous phase. (University of Science and Technology of China, China), followed by an Associate Professor position focused on the synthesis of nitrogen-containing heterocycles to acquire drug-like molecules (Anhui University of Chinese Medicine, China). Subsequently, I accepted a visiting scholar position from the Georg-August-University of Goettingen, working on glycosylation reactions. Currently, my research group consists of 1 Ph.D. student, 7 masters, and 9 undergraduates. Inspired by the experiences described above and with an interest in exploring TCMs, I begin my independent career to navigate new fields between nitrogen-containing heterocycles and carbohydrate chemistry.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

“Do important and useful chemistry”. Innovation and practicality could go hand in hand. The application of chemical synthesis to solve problems in social life is more in agreement with the needs of human development, for instance, the total synthesis of natural products, synthesizing drug molecules, etc. Therefore, in the course of my academic research, this word has been guiding and inspiring me.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is a highly readable journal. The novelty of the published paper and the rapid publication process attracted me deeply to publish my first research article.

Dr. Bin Wang completed his Ph.D. at the University of Science and Technology of China working with Prof. Zhiyong Wang, where he explored the functionalization of alkenes or alkynes in the aqueous phase. In 2021, he accepted a visiting scholar position in the group of Prof. Dr. Lutz Ackermann at the Georg-August University of Goettingen, working on synthetic methodology. Currently, he holds the position of Associate Professor position at the Key Laboratory of Xin’an Medicine of the Ministry of Education of the Anhui University of Chinese Medicine. His research is focused on the application of glycosylation to acquire drug-like molecules.

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ChemComm Milestones – Philip Norcott

We are excited to share the success of Philip Norcott’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘Current electrochemical approaches to selective deuteration‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Philip

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

I am interested in finding simple ways to synthesise new molecules that are designed for particular purposes or show unusual chemical properties. One of these synthetic methods is electrochemistry – using electrical potential to drive oxidation or reduction reactions instead of chemical reagents. An outcome of synthesis where I’m focused is in field of NMR hyperpolarisation, which is a technique to increase signal levels and detect trace intermediates or other compounds. In NMR studies, deuteration can be very important, but making deceptively simple deuterated molecules comes with its own synthetic challenges. 

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Electrosynthesis is becoming far more accessible as a synthetic technique, even for self-described ‘non-experts.’ Part of the attraction of this method is the potential to produce valuable molecules in a more efficient, safer, milder, and controllable way. In the context of deuteration, instead of using deuterium gas under forcing conditions or very expensive analogues of deuterated synthetic reagents, electrochemistry opens up access to a wide range of reactive intermediates which can readily acquire deuterium from simple, cheap sources. Often, and ideally, this can simply be D2O. This article identifies the current strategies and substrates able to undergo selective deuteration in this way, and suggests areas where the burgeoning interest in electrochemistry currently in the synthetic community can play a part to develop further labelling processes.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

I hope to be able to demonstrate reactions which display interesting chemoselectivity enabled by electrochemistry, and a new process for hyperpolarising organic compounds.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I did my PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Sydney, Australia, then went on to do two postdocs at the University of York, United Kingdom, then the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Working on very different projects in each provided me with an opportunity to try out some new areas of chemistry, and these topics ended up laying the groundwork for my current research interests. I was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) in 2021 to begin my independent research career.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

When reading articles or attending conference presentations and seminars, try to identify at least one part you don’t understand: a reaction, chemical reagent, word or concept that’s new to you, and take it as a chance to broaden your knowledge.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is renowned for quality and timely research in all of chemistry, and so appeals to a wide audience in terms of readers’ fields, backgrounds and interests; by submitting to ChemComm I hoped to engage as broad an audience as possible with my article topic.

  Philip L. Norcott completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, Australia, in 2016 with a focus on organic synthesis using catalysis in aqueous emulsions. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of York, United Kingdom, at the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance, with an emphasis on the synthesis of isotopically labelled materials for NMR applications. Following this he returned to Australia as a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, investigating the application of electrochemistry and electrostatic effects on organic chemical reactivity. He was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) in 2021 to launch a research program which is focused on synthetic methods to improve NMR hyperpolarisation through activation of para-hydrogen, and the synthesis of isotopically labelled molecules enabled by electrochemistry.

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ChemComm Milestones – Simon Sieber

We are excited to share the success of Simon Sieber’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm; ‘Catch-enrich-release approach for amine-containing natural productsincluded in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Simon

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

The variety and complexity of natural product structures and their potential to treat diseases fascinate me. The research in my group focuses on the discovery of natural products and the development of new strategies to isolate them. The recent progression of current bacterial, viral, and fungi infections is the main driving force of our research.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Natural products in drug discovery suffer from the high isolation costs and the re-discovery of known compounds. Several approaches have been developed to mitigate those issues by identifying active compounds at an early stage. One of those strategies consists of chemoselective methods that can be applied to a minimum amount of sample to extract compounds of interest. In this study, we are focusing on targeting amine, since this functional group has been present in many bioactive natural products. The development of our novel chemoselective approach led to the catch, enrichment, and release of amine-containing natural products. This represents the first chemoselective approach yielding underivatized amine-containing compounds.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

In the future, we will apply our advanced technology to identify bioactive natural products. Our protocol improves the identification of known compounds at an early stage and uses a minimal amount of biological resources. We are aiming to find novel antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

The idea of becoming a researcher started through my fascination for natural products during my master’s thesis with Professor Deniz Tasdemir. This passion was emphasized during my Ph.D. with Professor Karl Gademann, where natural product isolation and structure elucidation were used as tools to understand communication between organisms. The decision to continue in academic research was further cemented by conducting challenging projects during my postdoctoral position with Professor Shana Sturla and for my following career as a senior scientist. Recently, I started a new chapter in my career becoming an independent researcher with the trust of the Swiss National Science Foundation with the Spark grant award, which led to the development of this study.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

The best advice I have ever received is to follow my passion and interest. This advice has always been central in all my decisions throughout my studies and career.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm was our first choice journal due to its high impact, its broad audience and the compact format that makes it ideal for short communication.

Simon Sieber completed his undergraduate studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. His Ph.D. work, under the guidance of Professor Karl Gademann at the University of Basel, Switzerland, was on natural product isolation and synthesis. Simon then moved to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), Switzerland as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the group of Professor Shana Sturla. Since 2017, Simon is a Senior Scientist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, focusing his research on the discovery of novel natural products and the development of novel analytic strategies.

You can reach out to Simon on Twitter (@Simon__Sieber), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-sieber-11624a1a) and ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Simon-Sieber)

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ChemComm Milestones – Claudia Contini

We are excited to share the success of Claudia Contini’s first article as an independent researcher in ChemComm; ‘ Manufacturing polymeric porous capsules included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Claudia below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Our research harnesses the power of bottom-up synthetic biology to engineer motile artificial cells that can move, squeeze, climb and synergistically organise each other in collective behaviours.
We use a bottom-up approach to create minimal cell-like model systems from scratch that can help us to investigate biological properties and re-create biological functions. Our model systems are 100% controllable, made of different molecular tools and used as models to gain insights into biological processes.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

We use a bottom-up approach to create minimal cell-like model systems from scratch that can help us to investigate biological properties and re-create biological functions. Our model systems are 100% controllable and made of different molecular tools, in the case of this article, they are fully polymeric.
This review article illustrates how different methods can be employed to generate polymeric porous capsules. Thanks to a controlled permeability, micro or nano capsules have applications in the fields of drug delivery, biosensing and bottom-up synthetic biology, for the engineering of a more sensitive through-shell communication, applied for gene expression, protein exchange and artificial quorum sensing.
Polymeric capsules represent a versatile alternative to more conventional lipid-based structures, which are the basis of biological membranes and many therapeutic delivery systems. Controlling their permeability through the introduction of pores is a powerful strategy that allows enhanced control of their molecular exchange capabilities with the surrounding environment. Indeed, low permeability is a common shortcoming of existing lipid and polymeric self-assembled capsules, which often impedes their applicability in biotechnological and therapeutic areas. Porous structures have the potential to alleviate this limitation.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

By using molecular building blocks, my research group will create compartmentalised structures that resemble the compartmentalisation observable in biology at the nano and microscale level and impart to them life-like behaviours such as motility. Engineering well-defined bespoke synthetic protocells from scratch that exhibit autonomous and directional motion in response to their environment will pave the way for applications of artificial motile protocells in clinical and industrial settings. For example, synthetic motile systems will allow an intelligent and active delivery of therapeutics directly to a specific target site or the swimming to specific sites that require bioremediation or also the generation of artificial tissues and dynamic materials, adaptive to their environment.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After completing an MRes in pharmaceutical chemistry sciences (University of Padua, Italy and the University of Sheffield, UK), I pursued a PhD in physical chemistry applied in devices for drug delivery (UCL, UK), followed by a postdoctoral position focused on investigating the interaction of nanomaterials with model membranes at the bio-nano interface (ICL, UK). This has been followed by an ISSF Fellowship on understanding cellular processes through the use of innovative protocells (ICL, UK) and a second postdoctoral position focused on fusing natural and artificial cells to design hybrid systems. This has been followed by the award of two prestigious fellowships: the L’Oréal-UNESCO UK Engineering Fellowship and a 3-years BBSRC Fellowship. Particularly the latter marks the beginning of my career as independent researcher.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

“Concentrate in what you can control”. A career in academia can be very competitive and comparing yourself to other extremely successful academics is sometimes demoralising. A career in academia is also full of ups and downs and uncertain for an early career researcher. Everyone should focus instead in focusing in what they can control and be motivated on achieving personal and career goals.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is one of the most respected journals that offer a rapid publication process of short communications. It has also the open access option which helps in sharing novel findings that will benefit the entire research community.

Dr Claudia Contini is a BBSRC Fellow at Imperial College London, working in bottom-up synthetic biology. Her multidisciplinary training comprises a Master’s degree in medical chemistry at the University of Padua, Italy and a PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University College London, UK. This has been followed by a postdoctoral position focused on investigating the interactions at the bio-nano interface at Imperial College London (ICL). She then obtained an ISSF Fellowship (ICL, UK) to create innovative protocells. This has been followed by the award of a L’Oréal-UNESCO UK Engineering Fellowship and a 3-years BBSRC Fellowship. Multiple awards have recognised her research, including the ‘Italy Made Me’ award from the Italian Ambassador in London to recognise her innovative research carried out in the UK.

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ChemComm Milestones – Nazar Rad

We are excited to share the success of Nazar Rad’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm; ‘Effect of Na+ and K+ on the cucurbituril-mediated hydrolysis of a phenyl acetate included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Nazar

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Currently, our focus is in application of catalytically active macrocycles that mimic the behaviour of natural enzymes. Like natural enzymes, the macrocycles confine the substrate and accelerate its conversion. The great advantage of macrocycles over enzymes is their simple structure. Thus, examination of macrocycles allows us to elucidate enzyme behaviour and construct new functional systems.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

We demonstrate that abundant sodium and potassium cations can affect the catalytic activity of enzymes by directly binding to the active site. Therefore, when enzyme activity is studied in vitro using a buffer solution, the cation effect should be considered along with the ionic strength effect. Otherwise, the cation binding to the active site can reduce the concentration of the active form of the enzyme. I believe that taking the cation effect into account will solve many misunderstandings related to enzyme behaviour.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Generally, uncompetitive inhibitors are more effective drugs than a more generic competitive ones. Meanwhile, their mechanism of action is not clear. Thus, we plan to study and elucidate the nature of uncompetitive inhibition using the macrocycle as a model system for enzyme behaviour.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My decision to become a scientist germinated when I started my second year at the university. After classes, I spent more time in the chemistry lab working as Undergraduate Research Assistant getting acquainted with organic synthesis. And when I joined a graduate school as a PhD candidate, I started planning majority of my research, performing experiments, and analysing the obtained results. I was deciding the research directions on my own. My supervisor helped me to develop my understanding of the field and senior colleagues in the lab always supported me with advice and encouragement throughout my doctorate career path. The experience gained while participating in internships in Poland and Germany has broadened my vision of science and deepened my understanding in the field. After a two-year industrial experience, I continued my academic career in Poland working as a post-doc. Shortly, I secured a funding for my first project and currently holding an Assistant Professor position at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Poland.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

The best advice that always encourages me is: “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” I have often heard this statement from my senior colleagues. These words helped me throughout my scientific career to keep working towards the set targets and learn from gained experience be it positive or negative. I believe, this is the one of the best advice for an early career scientist.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

The article shows how the sodium and potassium cations, which are common in every laboratory, can affect reaction rates. Therefore, I believe that the results should be of interest to the broad community of chemists. Furthermore, ChemComm is one of the most widely read interdisciplinary journals. I also appreciate ChemComm’s venue for rapid publication.

  Nazar Rad is originally from Ukraine, born in Lviv, 1985. After earning a MSc degree in Chemical Science from the Lviv National University after Ivan Franko in 2008, he continued graduate education as a PhD candidate at the same university in the group of Prof. M. Obushak. His PhD thesis was focused on the transformation of the nitro group during the nucleophile attack on nitroethenes and nitrothiophenes. Further, he studied the formation of aryltriflouroborate complexes with diazonium salts at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (Poland, 2010–2011) as a Fellow of the Visegrad Fund. In 2011–2012, N. Rad joined the group of Prof. A. Schmidt at the Clausthal University of Technology (Germany) as a DAAD Fellow developing organocatalysts of the Hayashi-Miyaura reaction. Then, he gained experience in industry working as an analytical chemist at the Enzyme Company (Ukraine, 2015-2016). After PhD defense in 2016, he joined Prof. M. Mąkosza’s group at the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 2017, he accepted a post-doc position in the group of Prof. V. Sashuk at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, working on light-controlled supramolecular switches. Currently, Dr. Rad holds the position of Assistant Professor at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Poland. His research is focused on the application of macrocycles as enzyme mimics.

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ChemComm Milestones – Samuel Jones

We are excited to share the success of Samuel Jones’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm;  Deoxyribonucleic acid polymer nanoparticle hydrogels – Chemical Communications (RSC Publishing)’ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Samuel

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Research in my lab focuses on material/virus interactions with a specific focus on developing biocompatible virucidal materials and viral detection systems. I completed my undergraduate degree and PhD in Chemistry, so it is often a surprise to others that my research is now so closely linked to virology. However, the main focus of my PhD was the supramolecular assembly of nanoparticles and viruses are the ultimate self-assembled nanomaterial. Viruses can be thought of as non-living, making them merely an nanoscale assembly of genetic material, proteins and (in some cases) lipid envelopes. The self-assembly of these complex structures inside cells in fascinating but by treating virions as supramolecular assemblies it has been possible to design novel, destroy on contact, antivirals.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Hydrogels are used in a wide array of research fields from contact lenses through to drug delivery systems. Physically cross-linked, and notably polymer-nanoparticle (PNP), hydrogels have been used for a wide range of application due to their dynamic nature and ease of manufacture. A gel like the one we published on here, made of abundant and cheap constituents that self heals, releases cargo and degrades upon addition of DNase has a broad scope of applications, including in drug delivery and tissue engineering.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Current work in my lab is focussing on developing the next generation of broad-spectrum biocompatible virucides and showing that they have significant potential for the real-world treatment of viral infections. We are hoping to publish on this and the development of new viral detection and sensing systems within the next year. This year will also see the first PhD student graduate from my group, which will be a very exciting time.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

As part of my undergraduate degree (MChem with professional Experience) at the University of Warwick, I spent 3 months in the research labs of Dr. Adrian Blackman at the University of Tasmania, Australia. It wasn’t until this period that I had even considered going into research, yet after my first real taste of scientific research, I loved it. I returned to Warwick to complete my degree, undertaking further research in the lab of Prof. Stefan Bon and my love of research grew. This was also where I saw first hand how to successfully run a research group.

From there, I joined the University of Cambridge in the group of Prof. Oren A. Scherman. The 4 years of my PhD were some of the best in my research career to date. I made life long friends, worked on interdisciplinary research with groups from across Europe and was fortunate to travel to many countries for research meetings and conferences. I was afforded a great deal of independence during this time and relished the opportunity to work collaboratively on new projects and ideas. I was also actively involved in the supervision of students from lab demonstrating in 1st year natural science labs through to supervision of masters students projects. I found that I really enjoyed the teaching and mentoring opportunities these roles afforded me.

Marrying the summer before my thesis submission and defending not long after returning from honeymoon, I was ready for my next research challenge. My new wife and I made the move across Europe to Switzerland. I joined the group of Prof. Francesco Stellacci to work on chemotactic nanomaterials, initially for a one year period. We both loved our time in Switzerland, and the Stellacci group, so much that we ended up staying for three years, had our first child and embraced the Swiss lifestyle as much as possible. During this time, my research focus shifted to the development and testing of virucidal materials, as I became fascinated with these non-living biological nanoparticles. I worked alongside some great scientists who were always open and willing to share knowledge and experience, ultimately allowing us to work together to produce novel antivirals.

When I was offered an independent fellowship at the University of Manchester, I was delighted and looked forward to bringing all my knowledge and experience together to produce my own independent research and train the next generation of scientists. Although the process of establishing an independent research group has its ups and downs, I would not change it. My research group currently consists of 8 PhD students and one PDRA and working with each of them to develop their own research is a joy.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

Maybe not direct advice but over the course of my research career, I’ve learned the importance of a healthy work-life balance. At times during my career, the balance was not always the healthiest and over longer time periods this can have a negative impact. Ensuring that I take time to see friends, be with family and exercise are just as important as any work I may have to do. This is something that I now promote with my own students and I hope they are better off for it.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

I have been a long time reader of ChemComm for the excellent and diverse range of manuscripts it publishes. My first ever research article was published in ChemComm, as part of an Emerging Investigator issue and we were fortunate to be able to provide the cover image there also, just like this paper. The broad-audience and communication format made it a good fit for this research and I hope to be able to publish with the journal again in the future.

Sam completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge working with Prof. Oren A. Scherman, where he explored the supramolecular assembly of nanomaterials using cucurbit[n]uril. He then moved to the EPFL, Switzerland to the group of Prof. Francesco Stellacci where his research focused on chemotactic nanomaterials and broad-spectrum virucidal materials. In 2017, he was awarded a Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellowship at the University of Manchester, which allowed him to establish his independent research programme. Now a lecturer in the Department of Materials at the University of Manchester, and resident member in the Henry Royce Institute, his research focuses on virus/material interactions with a specific interest in the development of novel virucidal materials and viral detection systems. Find Samuel on Twitter; @Scientist_Sam

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Keary Engle and Thomas Bennett: Winners of the ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship 2021!

On behalf of the ChemComm Editorial Board, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship – Keary Engle and Thomas Bennett! Our warmest congratulations to Keary and Thomas!

Keary and Thomas join recent past winners Raffaella Buonsanti (2019), Corinna Schindler (2019), and Bill Morandi (2020). Learn more about Keary and Thomas below.

Image of Keary Engle

Keary Engle received his PhD in chemistry from Scripps Research and his DPhil in biochemistry from Oxford University in the unique, five-year Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship program that he completed in 2013. Within the program, he trained with renowned chemists Jin-Quan Yu at Scripps Research and Véronique Gouverneur and John M. Brown at Oxford. Among his many honours, Keary has been awarded a 2019 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the 2019 Novartis Early Career Award in Chemistry, a 2020 Cottrell Scholar Award, a 2020 Eli Lilly Organic Chemistry Award, the 2020 Amgen Young Investigator Award, and most recently, a 2021 NSF CAREER Award.

He is currently a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Scripps Research. His group harnesses the power of catalysis to advance the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of chemical synthesis. You can learn more about Keary’s group and his research on Twitter @englelab.

Learn more about Keary’s research by reading his recent Feature Article in ChemComm:

Recent advances in palladium-catalyzed (hetero)annulation of C=C bonds with ambiphilic organo(pseudo)halides

Keary M. Engle et al.

Chem. Commun., 2021, 57, 7610-7624

This article will be free to read from 1st December 2021 – 1st January 2022.

 

Thomas Bennett

Tom was awarded his PhD in 2012 at the University of Cambridge, where he worked with Professor Anthony Cheetham FRS on the physical properties of hybrid frameworks. He has received several fellowships and awards, including a Royal Society Research Fellowship (2016), the Woldemar A. Weyl award for glass science (2019), the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Chemistry (2019) and the Royal Society of Chemistry Harrison Meldola Memorial Prize (2020). He has held visiting positions at the University of Kyoto, the Wuhan University of Technology, and the University of Canterbury New Zealand | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, and is vice-chair of the international MOF advisory committee, and outgoing chair of the Royal Society of Chemistry Porous Materials Group.

He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Cambridge, where his research group are best known for the discovery of hybrid melt-quenched glasses, and seminal works exploring the interface of the coordination polymer, MOF and glass domains. Find out more about Tom and his group on Twitter @thomasdbennett.

Learn more about Thomas’ research by reading his recent Open Access Communication in ChemComm:

Glassy behaviour of mechanically amorphised ZIF-62 isomorphs

Thomas D. Bennett et al.

Chem. Commun., 2021, 57, 9272-9275            

As part of the Lectureship award, Keary and Thomas will each be presenting lectures over the coming 12 months. Details of the lectures will be announced in due course but keep an eye on Twitter @ChemCommun for details!

Keep up-to-date with our latest journal news on Twitter @ChemCommun or via our blog! Learn more about ChemComm online!

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Cell-penetrating poly(disulfide)s based targeted delivery of antibodies into cancer cells

Antibodies emerge as a key player for disease detection and biologics due to its specificity of interaction and high binding affinity at target site. The application site for antibodies restricted to extracellular compartment as it has a poor plasma membrane permeability. Vehicles for direct intracellular delivery of antibodies are an extremely important alternative approach and various route have been explored including nanocarriers, liposomes, cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs). For most of these cases, loss of protein activity due to endolysosomal trapping or loss of protein activity lowers the efficacy of the antibody. So, it is highly desirable to formulate a fabrication strategy that is easily operable and antibody can be directly delivered to cytosol. In this aspect, cell-penetrating poly(disulfide)s (CPDs) which consist of disulfide polymer backbone with arginine-rich side chains permits thiol-mediated cellular uptake, which is insensitive to endocytosis inhibition, ensuing an efficient cytosolic availability. A team of researcher from Zhejiang University of China, reported a pH-responsive monomer to form new CPDs for enhanced intracellular delivery of antibodies into cancer cells. They tried to explore the stimuli responsiveness (lower pH) of tumor environment compared to healthy cells.

They have replaced the positively charged arginine moiety with neutral imidazole-based side chains. The resulting neutral CPD converts to positive charge upon protonation of the imidazole groups in acidic tumor environment. The advantage of charge reversal is easier cellular uptake by a combination of thiol-mediated and counter ion-activated uptake without significant endosomal trapping. The authors used a GSH-controlled NIR probe labelled at the N-terminal of the cargo protein so that the CPD could insert the cell followed by spectroscopic signal activation. Live-cell imaging of cancer cells using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) showed higher green fluorescence at pH 6.5 using IgGFITC-CPDIMD than neutral pH. This suggests higher uptake of imidazole based CPDs into cancer cells.

Fig2: In-vivo results show long-term effect by using the synthesized conjugate

For in-vivo experiments, the authors used GSH-activatable NIR fluorophore DCM-NH2 and attached it to CPDIMD. In vivo imaging of mice after intratumoral injection of the conjugate shows fluorescence signal at 1 h, that became stronger at 4 h, which indicate high drug dose accumulation at the tumor site. Both live-cell and in vivo results showed the great potential of this strategy for trackable and cancer-selective protein delivery with immediate cytosolic bioavailability. This new class of CPDs are expected to open an efficient platform for future cancer theranostics.

For details, please follow the article Chem. Commun., 2022, 58, 1314

About the blogger:

Dr Damayanti Bagchi is a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Los Angeles, United States. She has obtained her PhD in Physical Chemistry from Satyendra Nath Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, India. Her research is focused on spectroscopic studies of nano-biomaterials. She is interested in exploring light enabled therapeutics. She enjoys travelling and experimenting with various cuisines, which she found resembles with products/ side products of chemical reactions!

You can find her on Twitter at @DamayantiBagchi.

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ChemComm Milestones – Dong-Dong Zhou

Congratulations to Dong-Dong Zhou for publishing his first independent research article in ChemComm. Be sure to read Dong-Dong’s #ChemComm1st article ‘Single-crystal superprotonic conductivity in an interpenetrated hydrogen-bonded quadruplex framework‘ in our collection, ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles.

Find out about his experience as a first-time author in our recent interview.

 

 

 

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

The design and syntheses of new crystalline porous materials, such as porous coordination polymers (PCPs) or metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), and we pay more attention to the influence of their dynamic behaviours on their properties of adsorptive separation, catalysis, conduction and so on. MOF materials possess the advantages of designable and modifiable structures, more importantly, the structure-activity relationship between their structures and properties can be revealed at the atomic or molecular level, which is helpful to guide the design new materials with specific performance. Moreover, MOF materials are expected to have unique properties that traditional materials cannot, such as the “intermediate-sized molecular sieves” we reported earlier in Nat. Mater.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

New crystalline porous materials based on supramolecular interactions such as coordination bonds and/or hydrogen bonds show good prospects in many application fields. However, this kind of materials is easy to dynamically change under external stimuli, which may help us to discover some new things/mechanisms, or to further understand some certain processes in nature. For example, proton dynamic behaviour’s in fuel cells and beings are closely related with their performances and life processes. In this work, we designed and synthesized a porous hydrogen-boned quadruplex framework (like G-quadruplex in the chromosome), in which there exists one-dimensional spiral water chains in the channels. We prepared their large-size single crystals and measured the anisotropic proton conductivity, which demonstrated that it showed a super protonic conductivity along the water chains. Computation simulations showed that the protons of water transfer between oxygen atoms accompanied with water molecules moving, that is proton vehicle mechanism.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

I hope that students in the our lab will discover “the beauty of crystals”, “the secret of dynamics” and “the rigor of science”, and quickly grow into the relevant researchers with independent thinking and judgment through scientific research training in the next year, so that they can start their own favourite and skilled scientific research fields in one day.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher

During my undergraduate period, I joined Prof. Chunlin Ni group in South China Agricultural University, where I deeply felt in the power of single crystal X-ray diffraction technology and began to study the growth of single crystals. In 2011, I went to Sun Yat-Sen University for further study, and mainly carried out the researches on the design and synthesis of crystalline porous materials under the guidance of Prof. Jie-Peng Zhang, and obtained my Ph.D. degree in 2016. Then as an associate researcher, I assisted to guide graduate students and Ph.D. candidates to carry out their researches on porous materials for adsorptive separation and catalysis in the group of Prof. Xiao-Ming Chen and Jie-Peng Zhang. In 2019, I became an associate professor in Sun Yat-sen University, and began to independently guide graduate students to carry out scientific research. My research interests mainly focus on the dynamic behaviours of crystalline porous materials playing roles in the related properties.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Maybe it is from the Zhouyi “天行健,君子以自强不息;地势坤,君子以厚德载物”, which means “As heaven maintains vigor through movements, a gentle man should constantly strive for self-perfection. As earth’s condition is receptive devotion, a gentle man should hold the outer world with broad mind”.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

Coincidentally, my first academic paper was also published in ChemComm as outside front cover, and all three papers during my Ph.D. candidate stage were published in ChemComm, which caused I was teased as “the king of ChemComm” by my friends at that time. Actually, as a chemistry researcher, we all know ChemComm is a very good chemistry journal for quick reporting of significant results with scientific value. And I’ve been focus on the papers published on ChemComm, in which a lot of good ideas also inspires me. In the future, I also hope we have more opportunities to publish my works in ChemComm.

 

Dr. Dong-Dong Zhou was born in China in June 1990. He received his B.Sc. degree (2011) from South China Agricultural University, and his Ph.D. degree (2016) in inorganic chemistry under the supervision of Professor Jie-Peng Zhang from Sun Yat-Sen University. Then, he became an associate researcher in Xiao-Ming Chen Group at Sun Yat-Sen University. Since 2019, he has been an associate professor in School of Chemistry at Sun Yat-Sen University. His current research interest focuses on the design and syntheses of porous coordination polymers or metal–organic frameworks, especially for their dynamic structural changes playing a role in the applications of adsorptive separation, catalysis, proton conduction etc.

 

 

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