Archive for the ‘ChemComm Milestone’ Category

ChemComm Milestones – James Cumby

We are excited to share the success of James Cumby’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Mixed anion control of negative thermal expansion in a niobium oxyfluoride included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with James below.

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

I am interested in how, by substituting oxygen with another anion (such as fluorine) we can directly tune the properties of inorganic materials.

Beneath this simple idea lies a lot of complexity. For instance, while the number of metal oxides known is huge (~100,000) only a few (~5,000) oxyfluorides have been reported. For an experimental chemist, this gives a lot of choice of materials to discover! Even once synthesised, the arrangement of oxide and fluoride ions within the material can have a big influence, but is difficult to analyse. To address these problems, my group combines experimental synthesis with advanced crystallography, as well as using data-driven computational models to predict and understand new materials.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Normally, materials expand as they get hotter. This can lead to problems like concrete cracking or dental fillings failing. A materials-based solution to these problems would be something that could stay the same volume as it was heated or cooled. Such materials exist, but they are very rare and difficult to design or control. In this research, we have discovered that by substituting oxygen with fluorine in a material we can directly control the thermal expansion behaviour. By tweaking the atomic composition, we can get a material that expands, stays the same, or even contracts as we heat it.

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

Having discovered this new thermal expansion control, we hope to develop a better understanding of why it occurs and to extend the use of anion doping to related materials. Beyond this specific study, we will continue to develop machine learning models for predicting new materials, and to continue to develop tools to understand how anion structure influences physical properties.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I began my research career at the University of Birmingham, UK, where I made and characterised magnetic analogues of a rare mineral called Schafarzikite under the supervision of Prof. Colin Greaves. During my PhD, I also used density functional theory (DFT) calculations to understand the magnetic behaviour of these compounds. As a postdoc I joined the group of Prof J. Paul Attfield, FRS at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Here, my focus switched to understanding charge-driven phase transitions in solids such as magnetite. I continued to synthesise new materials and explore or simulate their properties, but also developed my expertise in crystallography. Adding to my expertise in neutron powder diffraction, I helped to push the limits of micro-crystal X-ray diffraction (measuring small powder grains using single crystal diffraction) and gained expertise in total scattering (pair distribution function) techniques for analysing short-range atomic structure. Throughout this time I developed my interest in using crystallographic data to aid materials discovery.

As an independent group leader I combine a variety of approaches to solve research problems, and continue to explore new areas at the intersection of solid state chemistry, materials science, condensed matter physics and crystallography.

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

I’m grateful to the many people who have given me advice during my career so far, but I doubt any of it can be expressed in a single quote! In lieu of that, I think a good guiding principle was best expressed by Prof. Linus Pauling:

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas”

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

The ChemComm format is perfect for studies which highlight a new research area with the potential for further exploration. The broad readership is the ideal audience for our work which shows an interesting chemical phenomenon, even though the exact cause requires a more extensive study.

Dr James Cumby is a lecturer (assistant professor) in inorganic chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, working in the School of Chemistry and Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions. He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Birmingham, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. Following a year in a teaching-focussed role, he launched the functional materials group in 2019.

The functional materials research group aims to understand and exploit the effects of combining multiple anions in materials in order to control physical properties. Structure-property relationships are at the heart of what we do, and we try to ignore existing subject boundaries; methods we apply include experimental synthesis, detailed structural characterisation, and computational or data-driven methods.

Twitter/X: @CumbyLab

Website: www.cumby.chem.ed.ac.uk

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ChemComm Milestones – Rajkumar Misra

We are excited to share the success of Rajkumar Misra’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Metal-driven folding and assembly of a minimal β-sheet into a 3D-porous honeycomb framework included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Rajkumar below.

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

My research group primarily revolves around the strategic design and fabrication of diverse higher order/supramolecular systems resulting from the self-assembly of minimal peptides and peptidomimetics. We eventually study these systems to explore their wide range of applications, including the development of smart biomaterials for tissue engineering and drug delivery, theragnostic agents, and functional materials to address global environmental challenges. We are fascinated the complex structures and functionalities observed in biological systems and are striving to mimic such higher order systems in the laboratory through molecular assembly.  We further work towards engineering the properties of the system by implementing post-synthetic modification.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

To set the article in a wider context, it’s essential to consider the broader landscape of the research in biomimetic materials, nanotechnology, and the interdisciplinary scientific research. Metal-peptide frameworks is an emerging area and presents a promising avenue for future research. Peptides are known to form various secondary structures. Among these, the β-sheet conformation is particularly prone to aggregation and tends to form a 1D-dimensional networks more frequently. The high aggregation propensity of β-sheets is highly evident from their implication in pathogenesis of various proteinopathies such as neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s), diabetes mellitus among others. In our research, we demonstrated a departure from the typical trend. Specifically, we revealed that a minimal β-sheet-forming peptide, incorporating terminal metal-coordinated 4- and 3-pyridyl ligands, can undergo a metal-driven folding and assembly process to form a unique 3D porous framework. Notably, we highlight the significance of the position of the 3 and 4-pyridyl groups in constructing porous frameworks and/or metallogels, which served as a platform for the light-assisted in-situ growth of Ag nanoparticles. More intriguingly, the assemblies of β-sheets reported in this research mimic the tertiary structure of β-barrels, capable of forming channels, pores, and sites for binding and catalysis. Consequently, this article seamlessly integrates into the broader context of interdisciplinary sciences, encompassing biomimicry, functional materials, and bionanotechnology.

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

In the coming year, we would like to delve deeper into this area with a medicinal chemistry perspective and focus on the development of engineered peptide based therapeutic agents targeting infectious and neurodegenerative disorders as well as smart biomaterials for tissue engineering purposes. We would also be working simultaneously in the area of metal peptide frameworks, aiming to fabricate novel scaffolds with intriguing applications.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After completing my doctorate in the field of functional foldamers at IISER Pune. I commenced my postdoctoral research at the University of Delaware, where my focus was on investigating the structure-assembly relationship of coiled-coil bundlemers. Subsequently, I spent an additional three years as a postdoctoral researcher at Tel Aviv University, delving into the realm of peptide hydrogels. Drawing from these research experiences, I transitioned to working as an independent researcher in the area of “Bioinspired Supramolecular Materials”.

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

The best advice I ever got was to work hard and be patient.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

I chose to publish my work in Chemical Communications as it is a highly reputed peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers a broad range of topics including general chemistry, material science, interdisciplinary sciences etc in the chemical sciences. Moreover, it is known for its high impact factor, ability to reach a wide audience within the chemical community and the most importantly rapid publication process and great journal visibility.

Rajkumar Misra received his Ph.D degree in 2018 from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune under the supervision of Prof. H. N Gopi. Subsequently, he joined as a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Darrin Pochan’s research group, the University of Delaware. After finishing the tenure, he joined Dr. Lihi Adler-Abramovich’s research group under the PBC scholarship program for outstanding post-doctoral students at Tel-Aviv University. He is currently an Inspire Faculty Fellow at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), S.A.S. Nagar. His research interests are the exploration of supramolecular assembly of bioinspired building blocks, artificial peptides, foldamers, and metal-peptide frameworks (MPFs) for asymmetric catalysis, bio-functional and advanced medical applications.

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ChemComm Milestones – Vishal Govind Rao

We are excited to share the success of Vishal Govind Rao’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Insights into interfacial mechanisms: CsPbBr3 nanocrystals as sustainable photocatalysts for primary amine oxidation included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Vishal below.

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

Our research group is dedicated to exploring the fundamental properties of photocatalytic materials, with a focus on addressing pressing challenges in the field. While we have delved into various areas of research, our direction is primarily shaped by the obstacles we encounter. For instance, our exploration of perovskite materials led us to the common challenge of stabilizing them in polar solvents and water, which has become a central focus of our work.

With the depletion of fossil fuel reserves, the transition to solar energy has become imperative. To contribute to this shift, we employ plasmonic catalysis and perovskite catalysis to optimize photocatalytic efficiency. Our core objective revolves around enhancing charge/energy transfer dynamics at interfaces to boost catalytic yields while maintaining cost-effectiveness. This overarching goal underscores our commitment to advancing energy utilization through innovative research approaches.

While we are currently focused on immediate challenges, we recognize the importance of transitioning towards addressing issues related to the hydrogen economy and other emerging areas in the future.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

In our study, we utilized a process called photocatalysis, which typically involves three main steps: (1) a photocatalyst absorbing light to create charge carriers, (2) these charge carriers moving to specific sites where reactions occur, and (3) the transfer of these charge carriers to molecules on these sites, which helps certain chemical reactions happen. Specifically, we used lead halide perovskite nanocrystals to turn primary amines into imines. This research is significant because it contributes to the development of technologies that use renewable energy and support environmentally friendly chemical processes. By understanding how these reactions work on a fundamental level and adjusting how selective they are through surface interactions, our discoveries suggest ways to make energy use more efficient and chemical production more sustainable.

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

In the upcoming year, our lab aims to maintain an active research agenda, acknowledging the unpredictable nature of scientific exploration. While we have specific aspirations, we understand that research entails embracing uncertainty. We appreciate that some of the most significant breakthroughs arise from unexpected observations and chance discoveries.

By remaining open-minded and adaptable, we strive to create an environment conducive to uncovering new insights. History has shown that unforeseen discoveries often pave the way for groundbreaking advancements in science, as demonstrated by numerous Nobel laureates. Thus, in the coming year, our lab eagerly anticipates the journey of discovery, ready to pursue new avenues of research wherever they may lead us.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My journey to becoming an independent researcher has been shaped by a deep appreciation for the collaborative nature of scientific inquiry. Despite being termed an “independent researcher”, I recognize that none of us operate in isolation. Instead, we are indebted to the wealth of knowledge and support that surrounds us. As the proverbial saying goes, “We can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Throughout my career, the guidance and camaraderie of mentors, collaborators, and colleagues have been pivotal in shaping my trajectory. What excites me most about research is the lively exchange of ideas, the iterative process of experimentation, and the eventual thrill of discovery. Every interaction, whether in the lab, at conferences, or through literature, enriches my understanding and ignites my curiosity for exploration.

In essence, my journey to independence as a researcher has been a journey of interdependence—a recognition of the invaluable contributions of others and a celebration of the collective pursuit of knowledge.

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

The most valuable advice I received came from my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Nilmoni Sarkar. Despite being a man of few words, his actions spoke volumes. He taught me that true research springs from within; scientists aren’t inherently geniuses but rather individuals driven by curiosity about the problem of interest. To thrive in research, one must cultivate that innate curiosity and dedicate oneself to the pursuit of answers. He emphasized that while discipline is necessary, forcing a set number of hours of work doesn’t guarantee results in research, as productivity in the field of research doesn’t solely depend on the maximum hours worked.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

In our lab, I often encourage students to assess the paper’s scope and select the appropriate journal for submission. In this instance, Monika chose ChemComm due to its wide readership, recognizing the platform it offers for reaching a broad audience.

Vishal Govind Rao holds the position of Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Banaras Hindu University in 2007, followed by his Master of Science and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, under the supervision of Professor Nilmoni Sarkar. During his doctoral research, Vishal delved into various photophysical and dynamical phenomena within microheterogeneous systems containing ionic liquids.

Following the completion of his Ph.D., Vishal embarked on a 3.5-year postdoctoral stint at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. During this period, he employed single-molecule spectroscopy to investigate the interfacial electron transfer dynamics in dye-sensitized solar cells. Subsequently, he transitioned to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he dedicated 2 years to studying the mechanism of photocatalysis on plasmonic metal nanoparticles.

In 2019, Vishal returned to India and joined IIT Kanpur as an Assistant Professor, where he has remained committed ever since. His research team is actively engaged in addressing challenges related to perovskite stability and exploring their applications in photocatalysis. Additionally, they focus on plasmonic photocatalysis, interfacial charge transfer dynamics, strategies for efficient solar energy utilization, and the conversion of carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels.

Twitter: @VishalGovindRao

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ChemComm Milestones – Yi (David) Ju

We are excited to share the success of Yi (David) Ju’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Engineering poly(ethylene glycol) particles for targeted drug delivery included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with David below.

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

My research has two main streams: 1) understanding how physicochemical properties of nanomaterials mediate protein interactions and modulate downstream biological responses; 2) engineering advanced nanoparticle systems for biotechnology and medical applications. The most significant challenge in the development of nanomedicines is the recognition and inactivation by the immune system. When synthetic nanoparticles are introduced into the blood, they are coated with a multitude of host-derived biological components (including proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids) within the bloodstream. These coatings on the surface of the nanomaterials make up the biomolecular corona and regulate the downstream immune responses. The understanding of bio–nano interactions is essential in the therapeutic field and the development of nanomedicine formulations because it influences the final product utility. My vision is to exploit this goal towards developing new functional nanoparticles to overcome biological barriers and increase delivery efficiency to the target.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

It is well known that poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) is the gold standard for the low-fouling surface modifications of nanomaterials. Various nanoparticles (NPs) have shown improved colloidal stability and stealth properties through PEG modification. Since 2013, we have focused on engineering PEG-based NPs, in which PEG is the only or one of the main components of the NPs. The present feature article summarizes our recent research in engineering PEG-based NPs via different methods (i.e., mesoporous silica-assisted templating, metal–phenolic network-assisted assembly, metal–organic framework-assisted templating, and sono-polymerization) for bio–nano interaction studies and targeted drug delivery applications. The use of different engineering strategies enables the tuning of the physiochemical properties of PEG-based NPs (e.g., size, structure, elasticity, and compositions) for controlled bio–nano interactions (e.g., stealth and targeting) and drug-loading capabilities. A perspective is also provided on the major challenges of PEG-based NPs and their potential immunogenicity as well as future research directions. This feature article is expected to serve as a reference to guide the engineering of PEG-based NPs and facilitate the rational design of PEG-based NPs for diverse emerging applications.

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

We aim to make progress on engineering advanced nanoparticle system for drug and gene delivery and understanding the interactions between nanoparticles and the human immune system.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My PhD was conducted in Prof. Frank Caruso’s lab at the University of Melbourne. During this period, I developed interests in the development of ‘stealth’ nanomaterials and investigation of fundamental bio–nano interactions in complex biological environments. After my PhD completion, I hold a Research Fellow position in the same group exploring various low-fouling nanomaterials for controlled bio–nano interactions and served as a Co-Leader of the Signature Project ‘Mediating Protein Interactions’ within the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio–Nano Science and Technology (CBNS). During my postdoctoral career, I have begun to pursue and demonstrate research leadership. I received an Early Career Researcher (ECR) Grant from the University of Melbourne. With this grant, I led a team producing a first-author publication in ACS Nano, which received the 2020 Most Significant Publication Award from CBNS. I was also awarded an Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher Award at University of Melbourne in 2019. In 2021, I moved to RMIT University as a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral fellow and published my first co-corresponding author paper in 2022. During this fellowship, I received research grants and awards, including an ECR Lectureship from Australasian Colloid and Interface Society and a Victoria Fellowship from Victorian State Government, which supported me to conduct an oversea research visit at the University of Manchester from January to September 2023. After coming back from the UK in 2023, I started my ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) fellowship at RMIT University.

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

‘Not only work hard but work smart’ from my PhD supervisor.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm was one of my favourite journals which provides key research messages in a short format. The journal has a good reputation with a broad readership in chemistry.

Yi (David) Ju is an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow at RMIT University. He received his Ph.D. in 2017 from the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Prof. Frank Caruso and thereafter conducted postdoctoral research at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology and the University of Melbourne. He moved to RMIT University in 2021 as a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. During his appointment, he conducted an overseas research visit (January to September 2023) at the University of Manchester funded by a Victoria Fellowship. His research interests focus on studying the interactions between nanomaterials and the immune system and engineering advanced nanoparticle systems for biotechnology and medical applications.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/david-yi-ju

Twitter/X:@David_Yi_Ju

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ChemComm Milestones – Ioana M. Ilie

We are excited to share the success of Ioana M. Ilie’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Unlocking novel therapies: cyclic peptide design for amyloidogenic targets through synergies of experiments, simulations, and machine learning” included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Ioana below.

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

In my lab we develop computational tools aiming (1) to understand and control the aggregation mechanisms of polypeptides and their response to the biological environment, (2) to design peptide-based therapeutics and (3) to build smart (bio)materials with tunable and responsive properties. More specifically, we use atomistic simulations to gain insight into the biochemical mechanisms of protein folding, which we then modulate by rationally designing and evolutionary optimizing agents to control their response. We also develop coarse-grained models for proteins and biomaterials uniquely capturing their intrinsic flexibility to understand the interaction mechanisms with the biological environment on the nanoscopic scale, which we then exploit to design novel materials. Importantly, we parametrize the coarse-grained models relying on our atomistic simulations and experimental input. Hence, we learn across scales, linking and incorporating the relevant properties at different spatio-temporal resolutions.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Current therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease address symptoms rather than preventing their onset. This work opens new doors for novel (preventive) therapeutic interventions and beyond. Particularly, it underlines the synergies between simulations, experiments, and machine learning when designing cyclic peptides as promising anti-amyloidogenic candidates.

This feature explores recent advancements in cyclic peptide design against amyloidogenic targets from a computational perspective, emphasizing the synergies with machine learning and experiment in optimizing the design process. The discussion encompasses the difficulties encountered in designing novel peptide-based inhibitors and proposes innovative strategies that incorporate “the powerful trio”: experiments, simulations, and machine learning .

In the broader context, the proposed combination of strategies extend beyond cyclic peptide design, serving as a template for the de novo generation of any type of (bio)materials with programmable properties.

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

Scientifically, in the coming year, on the one hand my lab will focus on the development of machine learning algorithms for the iterative design of cyclic peptides against amyloidogenic and cancerous targets. On the other hand, my lab will continue our endeavours in building versatile coarse-grained models for biomaterials and developing agents to control their fate in specific environments.

On the team side, I expect my team to grow, which will further strengthen our international position in the peptide design and computational soft matter fields.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I am trained as a computational biophysicist with a PhD from the University of Twente in the Netherlands. During my PhD, advised by Profs. Briels and den Otter, I developed coarse-grained models of proteins and studied their aggregation dynamics. Wanting to understand the microscopic origin of aggregate formation, I switched focus towards higher resolution models during my postdoctoral stay at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany in the group of Prof. van der Vegt. I continued with adding a biochemical perspective to my biophysical background by joining the Computational Structural Biology group of Prof. Caflisch at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Both postdoctoral experiences contributed significantly towards my growth as an independent researcher, which led to my current Assistant Professorship at the University of Amsterdam in the van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences.

The Multiscale Simulation of Biomolecular Systems group uniquely combines my international and multidisciplinary experience to tackle fundamental biomedical and technological problems from diverse disciplinary and methodological angles, i.e. atomistic, coarse-grained.

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

Be patient.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm has an excellent reputation for publishing urgent research of outstanding significance and appeal to experts in the field, supported by a rigorous peer review process. Furthermore, ChemComm has a broad chemistry readership, which is in line with my research that lies at the interface of chemistry and physics and biological sciences. Another compelling aspect was the chance to showcase my lab’s research through publication in the Emerging Investigators edition of the journal.​​

Ioana M. Ilie is an Assistant Professor in Computational Chemistry at the van ‘t Hoff Institute of Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She received her PhD from the University of Twente, where she worked with Prof. Wim Briels and Prof. Wouter den Otter on the development of coarse-grained models of proteins to understand their aggregation dynamics. She continued with postdoctoral experiences in the group of Prof. Nico van der Vegt at the University of Darmstadt, Germany, and then received a Peter und Traudl Engelhorn Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to carry out further postdoctoral studies in the group of Prof. Amedeo Caflisch at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

In 2022, Ioana embarked on her independent career at the van ‘t Hoff Institute of Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, supported by a Career Development Award from the Synapsis Foundation.

Webpage: https://www.compchem.nl/staff_members/dr-ioana-illie/

Twitter/X: @ioana_ilie_UvA

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ChemComm Milestones – Jeffrey Ting

We recently caught up with Jeffrey Ting (Nanite Inc.) – our latest ChemComm Milestones author. We wanted to find out about Jeff’s research and experiences as a first-time corresponding author in the interview below. You can now read Jeff’s research paper ‘Frontiers in nonviral delivery of small molecule and genetic drugs, driven by polymer chemistry and machine learning for materials informatics’ in our growing ChemComm 1st collection.

 

Graphical abstract: Frontiers in nonviral delivery of small molecule and genetic drugs, driven by polymer chemistry and machine learning for materials informatics

 

Our interview with Jeff

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

Nanite is a next-generation nonviral gene delivery startup company headquartered in Boston, MA, focused on developing a new class of programmable polymer nanoparticles for a range of therapeutic modalities and indications. Polymers have been widely used in medicine as excipients for pharmaceutical small molecules. They generally offer shelf-life stability, low cost, and controlled release profiles. However, while they have been widely investigated as gene delivery nanocarriers for decades, the design space with genetic cargo is near infinite and must balance noncovalent interactions across multiple biological barriers. To this end, SAYER™ is the company’s proprietary platform that combines high-throughput methods to rationally design delivery vehicles at the intersection of biology, materials science, and artificial intelligence (AI).

I was motivated to join Nanite because of the potential of bringing polymer-based gene therapy solutions forward. There are unresolved fundamental questions around how to tailor polymers to protect and release nucleic acids across dynamic biological environments, which is intellectually stimulating and fun to pursue as a polymer scientist. I enjoy contributing to and learning from talented Nanite coworkers that have expertise from adjacent disciplines in data science and molecular biology. The emergence of lab automation and AI has begun to change how we think about doing chemistry research more effectively and creatively. In terms of need, with Katalin Karikó’s and Drew Weissman’s 2023 Nobel Prize for enabling the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, it truly seems like we are at a turning point in how we can treat diseases with new genetic vaccines and drugs. It has been extremely rewarding to learn from genetic medicine companies and patient advocacy groups that Nanite partners with, such as the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Research Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and already discover polymer nanoparticles that potentially compete with alternative nanocarriers. In short, it has never been a more exciting time to be a polymer scientist working in the biotech field!

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Our Highlight article shows the immense progress and potential of nonviral delivery with polymers, propelled by advances in materials informatics (MI). To give an update on the state of MI for this area, we first review recent examples of how research groups combine polymer chemistry with machine learning to design high-performing biomaterials with therapeutic small molecule drugs, nucleic acids, and protein. In each case, the teams use rapid data generation to train machine learning models. Next, we provide an outlook for expanding these themes to pharmaceutical applications in nonviral gene therapy, emphasizing laboratory workflow automation and data management best practices. We hope that these practical lessons learned as a growing biotech startup provide a unique perspective for the global chemistry community.

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

It has been incredible seeing the growth of the company in a short amount of time. In terms of synthesis, I am proud to lead the first polymer production campaigns that got SAYER™ off the ground with thousands of well-defined polymers for high-throughput screening and bioevaluation. Now, because of the diverse backgrounds and talent in our team, we are uniquely poised to not only rapidly identify key structure-property relationships of these materials across multiple length scales, but also leverage this understanding to AI-driven biodelivery applications. Delivery with tissue selectivity is the current rate-limiting bottleneck for advancing more nonviral gene therapies into safer and more affordable treatments. In the coming year we are expanding the number of partner projects that uses our platform’s core technology to down select high-performing polymer nanoparticle candidates in shorter time frames.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I began my career as an industrial scientist at 3M in 2020. I was hired as a Senior Polymer Scientist in the Materials Informatics Group, as part of 3M’s Corporate Research Materials Lab. Though this was an interesting time to start a new job at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a transformative time in changing how I think about integrating my polymer chemistry background with new advances in data science and machine learning. I gained experience on working closely with small teams to automate the collection of systematic datasets to enable predictive, data driven materials and process development.

I joined Nanite in 2022 as a senior scientist and its first employee at our initial incubator lab site. One of my PhD advisors, Dr. Theresa Reineke, co-founded the company with a group of serial entrepreneurs who have previously led successful biotechnology companies in various executive roles. Theresa has always been a supportive mentor at all stages of my independent career. My graduate work focused on synthesizing tunable polymers as solubilization agents for oral drug delivery, and my postdoctoral work aimed to better understand the fundamental physical properties of polyelectrolyte complex assemblies. This initial experience gave me a unique perspective on how to think about polymer nanoparticles from a chemistry, physics, and engineering viewpoints.

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

For students, the best advice is to be open to change and opportunities that may not be apparent at the present. For myself, I have always hyper-focused on specific goals as guiding beacons for figuring out my professional career path. But you don’t know what your future self wants— as I was finishing up my chemical engineering degree in college before going to grad school, I had no desire to do anything in biology. At the end of grad school, I had meticulously positioned myself to go into academia with my postdoc position. Before each of these major inflection points, you haven’t met the extraordinary people (mentors, friends, partners, collaborators) that can come in and fundamentally change the trajectory of your life. Your future self will be different than what you may expect it to be, so don’t let the endless possibilities of what could have been (and what can be) overwhelm you. Play an active role in crafting the person you are going to become.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm has had a longstanding reputation for spotlighting cutting edge research in the chemistry community with fast turnaround time for publication. I am proud to have Nanite’s first independent publication in this journal. Please reach out if you have any questions about our mission or if our nonviral delivery platform is of interest for further discussions.

  Dr. Jeff Ting (he/him) received his BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas. Jeff received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2016, working with Frank Bates and Theresa Reineke on synthesizing tunable polymers for oral drug delivery. During his doctoral studies, he was a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the AIChE Pharmaceutical Discovery, Development and Manufacturing Student Award, and the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. Afterward, Jeff worked as a NIST-CHiMaD Postdoctoral Fellow with Matt Tirrell as part of the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD), supported by NIST and the Materials Genome Initiative. His work focused on understanding the fundamental static and dynamic properties of polyelectrolyte complex assemblies. In 2020, Jeff joined 3M as a Senior Polymer Scientist as part of the Materials Informatics (MI) Group in the Corporate Research Materials Laboratory. He was a lead experimentalist in launching a broad effort to strategically apply MI tools and data-driven methodologies for industrial materials research and product development workflows. He was recognized as 1 of 12 individuals for the 2021 Young Observers Program by the U.S. National Committee of IUPAC. In 2022 Jeff became a Senior Scientist and the first employee at a venture-backed stealth biotech startup, Nanite, in Boston, MA.

Twitter/X: @J_Ting1

LinkedIn: jting1

Nanite Inc.

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Yasutomo Segawa

We are excited to share the success of Yasutomo Segawa’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Synthesis of penta- and hexa(3,4-thienylene): size-dependent structural properties of cyclic oligothiophenes” included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Yasutomo below.

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

Structural organic chemistry. I am always impressed when I synthesize a molecule that no one else in the world has yet see its structure.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

The cyclic thiophene molecules synthesized in this study serve as a platform for the nonplanar polycyclic arenes. This is a major step toward the systematic synthesis of non-planar molecules that are expected to have 3D carrier transport.

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

We will achieve the synthesis of a 3D organic π-conjugated framework. This is the beginning of synthetic organic chemistry that designs 3D electronic structures.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After studying supramolecular chemistry (Prof. Takuzo Aida), organic main-group chemistry (Prof. Makoto Yamashita), and organometallic chemistry (Prof. Kyoko Nozaki) as a student, I spent 10 years at Nagoya University working on structural organic chemistry of non-planar aromatic hydrocarbons with Prof. Kenichiro Itami. Based on these experiences, I started my own chemistry to establish the synthetic organic chemistry that can design not only single molecules but also three-dimensional solid-state structures.

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

“Some red lights are not to be crossed.” (Prof. Kyoko Nozaki)

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

Simply because I like ChemComm. My milestone articles are in ChemComm including my first corresponding author paper in the group of Prof. Kenichiro Itami (2012, 48, 6642), and a memorial paper with Prof. Douglas W. Stephan (2012, 48, 11963). At the beginning of my academic career, I read through the ChemComm journal in 1980s (around the year of my birth) for inspiration of research ideas.​​

Yasutomo Segawa was born in Chiba, Japan (1982). He studied chemistry at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and completed his PhD in 2005 under the supervision of Prof. Kyoko Nozaki. In 2009, he became an Assistant Professor in the group of Prof. Kenichiro Itami at Nagoya University, and in 2013 a Group Leader of the JST-ERATO Itami Molecular Nanocarbon Project (Designated Associate Professor, Nagoya University). Since 2020, he is an Associate Professor (a Principal Investigator) at the Institute for Molecular Science and SOKENDAI, and a research fellow of JST-FOREST since 2022. His research focuses on the design and synthesis of three-dimensional and topologically unique organic systems.

Twitter: @Segawagroup, @YasutomoSegawa

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Ashok Kumar Pandey

We are excited to share the success of Ashok Kumar Pandey’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Ru(II)/Ru(IV)-catalyzed C(sp2)–H allylation with alkene difunctionalization to access isochroman-1-imines” included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Ashok below.

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

Our research team is working in the “Transition Metal Catalysis in Organic Synthesis” research area and developing new methodologies to access biologically relevant organic molecules in both racemic and enantioselective forms.

We are designing new approaches for the efficient synthesis of natural products and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) using ruthenium and nickel catalysts. We are currently focusing on C-H functionalization and cross-coupling strategies to construct diversified organic scaffolds using these metal catalysts. The current pharmaceutical industry’s demand for affordable and sustainable synthetic methods to access APIs and bioactive molecules has motivated us to work on transition metal catalysis.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

In this article, it has been discovered the first time that the Ru(IV)allyl complex formed from [Ru(p-cymene)Cl2]2 and MBH acetate, and transferred its allyl group to the ruthanacycle via a redox process. This new mechanistic finding of Ru(IV)allyl complex in the C-H allylation reaction has greatly enriched the ruthenium catalysis in organic synthesis and the Ru(IV)allyl complex may serve as a new allylating reagent in synthetic chemistry. Additionally, the C-H allylated products have been telescoped into medicinally important isochroman-1-imine in a single operation. The synthesis of a natural product Cytogenin (antibiotic) and its analogues can be accomplished using this isochroman-1-imine in a concise pathway.

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

It has been mentioned in our manuscript that this methodology can provide a short and sustainable synthetic route to design isochrominone-based natural products and bioactive molecules. As a result, it can be possible to synthesize the antibiotic Cytogenin and its analogues in the upcoming years. In this study, we discovered a novel Ru(IV)allyl complex that was difficult to stabilize and isolate. In the coming years, we will put our efforts into stabilizing and derivatizing this Ru(IV)allyl complex so that it can be used as an allylating reagent in synthetic organic chemistry for its practical application.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My research career started as a postgraduate student at the University of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. During my M.Sc., I worked on the preparation of organic compounds via Aldol condensation, Cannizzaro reaction, etc., and their characterization using spectroscopic techniques. My training and skills were primarily developed while pursuing doctoral studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar (IIT Ropar), India, under the supervision of Prof. Prabal Banerjee. I have worked on the development of new and convenient methodologies to access various carbocyclic and heterocyclic molecules using strained rings e.g. cyclopropane, epoxides, aziridines, etc. under Lewis acid catalysis. After that, I relocated to South Korea for my postdoctoral studies at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) under the guidance of Prof. In Su Kim. At SKKU, I have worked on C-H functionalization reactions using rhodium and ruthenium-based metal catalysts and their mechanistic studies. In addition, I have synthesized numerous organic molecules in a single step that are very suitable for designing of natural products and pharmaceuticals. In summary, all the aforementioned studies and research experiences have skilled and enabled me to work as an independent researcher in the area of “Sustainable Transition Metal Catalysis in Organic Synthesis”.

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

The time of failure is the best season to sow the seeds of success” advice was given by my beloved grandfather in my childhood.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

Chemical Communication Journal is one of the most renowned journals in chemical science with a broad readership and followers all over the world. Results that have been published in this journal have a good opportunity of being read and noticed by a global research community working in different research areas of chemical science. Our presented article can be helpful in exploring ruthenium chemistry in a new direction that can benefit the chemical industries. These unique features of ChemComm have motivated me to publish our work in this prestigious journal.

​​

  Dr. Ashok Kumar Pandey is currently working as a scientist and assistant professor in the Fluoro-Agrochemical division, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology Hyderabad (CSIR-IICT Hyderabad) under the umbrella of “Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)” New Delhi, India. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), South Korea, before joining CSIR-IICT Hyderabad. He received a Ph.D. degree in 2016 from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar (IIT Ropar), India. He has received several awards for research in India viz. “Junior Research Fellowship (JRF)” and “Senior Research Fellowship (SRF)” from CSIR, New Delhi, “International Travel Support (ITS)” and “National Postdoctoral Fellowship (NPDF)” from Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), New Delhi. Recently, SERB has awarded him with a “Start-up Research Grant (SRG)” to support his independent research career at CSIR-IICT Hyderabad. His current research interest is focused on the development of new sustainable methodologies to access biologically relevant molecules using ruthenium and nickel-based transition metal catalysts and their application in the synthesis of natural products, pharmaceuticals, and agrochemicals.

Webpage: https://www.iict.res.in/People/view?id=570

Twitter: @akpandey_lab

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-ashok-pandey-79672b35/

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ChemComm Milestones – Naoyuki Shimada

We are excited to share the success of Naoyuki Shimada’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Catalytic dehydrative amide bond formation using aqueous ammonia: synthesis of primary amides utilizing diboronic acid anhydride catalysisincluded in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Naoyuki below.

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

My research focuses on the development of efficient synthetic methodologies taking advantage of the properties of organoboron compounds. Specifically, the development of amide bond and peptide bond formation reactions based on the electrophilic activation of carboxylic acid derivatives utilizing multi-organoboron catalysts, and the development of site-selective functionalizations and glycosylations of carbohydrates based on the nucleophilic activation of hydroxyl groups utilizing Lewis base-containing organoboron catalysts. My motivation for promoting the research is that organoboron compounds exhibit interesting and diverse reactivities, and that the development of new organoboron catalysis has the potential to lead to the efficient synthesis of bioorganic molecules such as peptides, sugar chains, and glycolipids.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Primary amides are important chemical linkages found in many pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, and bioactive natural products. So, the development of efficient synthetic methodologies for primary amides are in high demand. Although many synthetic approaches of primary amides have been developed, the direct amidation of readily available carboxylic acids with ammonia equivalents is one of the most direct approaches. Moreover, inexpensive and safe aqueous ammonia is the ideal ammonia equivalent. A wide variety of organoboron-catalyzed dehydrative amidations have been developed to synthesize secondary and tertiary amides. However, these have been difficult to apply to the synthesis of primary amides using aqueous ammonia because common organoboron catalysis requires dehydrative operations such as the addition of dehydrating agents or azeotropic reflux to remove water. In this study, my research group reported the development of a catalytic synthesis of primary amides by dehydrative condensation of a-hydroxycarboxylic acid or b-hydroxycarboxylic acids with aqueous ammonia. The key to the success of this research is the use of my unique diboronic anhydride (DBAA) catalyst.

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

In this report, it was clarified that the dehydrative amide condensations proceed even under hydrous conditions using aqueous ammonia as the amine substrate by utilizing diboronic anhydride catalyst (DBAA), so in the future, I would like to challenge the development of a dehydrative condensation in aqueous media. Since the development of a reaction that proceeds even at lower temperatures without any dehydrative operations is also another challenge, I would like to overcome this problem by creating new diboronic acid anhydride catalysts. Finally, I hope that the first graduate students in my lab will complete their degrees and work as researchers.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My journey started with the development of Brønsted acid catalysis in water utilizing water-soluble calix arenes as inverse phase-transfer catalysts under the supervision of Prof. Shoichi Shimizu at Nihon University (“Mannich-type reactions in water using anionic water-soluble calixarenes as recoverable and reusable catalysts; Green Chem., 2006, 8, 608–614; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/B603962F”). During that time, I experienced the wonders of scientific research and obtained my Master’s degree in engineering. After that, I joined the research group of Prof. Shunichi Hashimoto at Hokkaido University to develop the enantioselective carbon–carbon bond formation reactions using dirhodium catalysts incorporating N-phthaloyl amino acids as chiral bridging ligands (Hashimoto catalyst). After I received my Ph.D. at Hokkaido, I spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Tius’ research group at the University of Hawaii, where I developed an asymmetric Nazarov cyclization reaction. In this way, my experience in developing catalytic reactions with different approaches, such as reaction processes, catalysts, and reactions, has become my asset as a researcher. After returning to Japan, I worked in the Prof. Makino research group at Kitasato University, developing catalytic reactions utilizing the unique reactivities of organoboron compounds, and received the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan Division of Organic Chemistry Award in 2021. I got the opportunity to start my independent research group in the department of chemistry and moved to Nihon University in April 2022.

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

“A person cannot live alone. People live by being supported by many people and things. The only way to repay that kindness is to nurture people and make use of things.” This is the advice I got from my great-grandfather who was a monk when I was in elementary school.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is one of the leading journals in chemical science, publishing new and important findings in short communications. ChemComm has readers all over the world, because of its long history and high reliability. A rapid peer review system is also attractive to researchers. In addition, ChemComm was the first paper for Professor Shimizu, the birth father of my research, after starting his new independent research project (“Water-soluble calixarenes as new inverse phase-transfer catalysts. Nucleophilic substitution of alkyl and arylalkyl halides in aqueous media; Chem. Commun., 1997, 1629–1630; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/A704347C”). After starting my own independent research group, I wanted to publish my first paper in ChemComm.

Naoyuki Shimada obtained his B.Eng. in 2001, and M.Eng. in 2003 from Nihon University under the guidance of Prof. Shoichi Shimizu. He received his Ph.D. in 2007 from Hokkaido University under the supervision of Prof. Shunichi Hashimoto. After that, he worked as a Research Associate and an Assistant Professor (non-tenure) at Hokkaido University, he joined Prof. Tius’ Research Group at University of Hawaii at Manoa as a Postdoctoral Researcher in 2009. He returned to Japan as an Assistant Professor at Kitasato University in 2011, and was promoted to Junior Associate Professor in 2019. He moved to the Department of Chemistry, Nihon University as a Principal Investigator in 2022. He received the Kaneka Award in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, Japan, Pharmaceutical Society of Japan Division of Organic Chemistry Award, and the UBE Young Researcher Award. His research interest is the development of organic reactions using organoboron catalysts and their application to the synthesis of biological molecules.

 

Group website: https://www.shimadalab.org/en

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ChemComm Milestones – Weijin Li

We are excited to share the success of Weijin Li’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Bionic electroluminescent perovskite light-emitting device” included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Weijin below.

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

My lab’s research areas include open framework materials (e.g. metal-organic frameworks, hydrogen organic frameworks), thin films and their electrical (e.g. dielectric)/ luminescent/sensing properties. Focus on the scientific questions inside the energy conversion, I am motivated to take the direction of dielectric control of open framework materials and film assembly. By controlling the dielectric constant and consumption, we aim to design either high-dielectric materials for energy storage or dielectric materials for electromagnetic radiation shielding. Besides, human health will face a great threat if one contacts polluted gas, water and some other agents. Inspired by the sensing mechanism of open framework materials based on a dielectric or luminescent behaviour change, we will also take the direction of dielectric and luminescent materials for sensing devices.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

The novelty of this work is in its configuration of fluorescent films. The ultrafast dynamic color change with ultra-high-definition flat panel display was realized in a simple and facile way based on perovskite light-emitting-diodes (PeLED). A PeLED displaying green color is combined with a brown fluorescent coating layer to form a hybrid FC-PeLED system. The FC-PeLED system can simulate the complete cycle of bionic plant colors from green to yellow through low energy (<0.6 mW) input. Thanks to the low-power-consumption/high-brightness of the PeLED and the color adjustability of the fluorescent layer, we built a new type of bionic electroluminescence system (FC-PeLED). The bionic process for the entirely natural process of ginkgo leaves realized by the obtained FC-PeLED will promote the future development of low-cost and low-power consumption bionic technology.

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

In the coming year, we hope to develop crystalline coordination polymers with fast bionic color change at the stimulation of an electrical field and reveal the electrochromic mechanism. Focus on our research direction, both theoretical and experimental insights of dielectric materials based on conductive coordination polymers are going to be brought to light in the coming year.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I obtained my PhD degree under the supervision of Prof. Rong Cao (NSFC distinguished professor) at the Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015, where my thesis was “Preparation and properties of carboxyl-based metal-organic frameworks film”. Since 2016, I join Prof. Cao’s lab in Xiamen University, with the close collaboration of Prof. Xinchen Wang at Fuzhou University and Prof. Lasheng Long and Prof. Jun Tao at Xiamen University, on the topic of dielectric properties of metal-organic framework thin film. After a one-year postdoctoral stay at Xiamen University, I joined Prof. Roland A. Fischer’s group at the Chair of Inorganic and Metal-organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Munich, Germany (2016-2021), under funding support from the Joint Chinese Scholarship Council-German Academic Exchange Service (CSC-DAAD), an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and German Research Foundation (DFG), and worked on preparation and study of metal-organic framework thin film for electrocatalysis. I was awarded the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship under the host of Prof. Takuzo Aida in Riken with the research on “mass transport in two-dimensional nanospace formed by polymeric nanosheets”. Unfortunately, due to the 2019-coro pandemic situation, I was unable to join Prof. Aida and just worked with Prof. Aida and colleagues online for some research exchanges and discussions. By chance, I was granted an Overseas High-level Recruitment of Talents-Youth Project in 2021. Then, I began my independent Professorship at the School of Materials Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology with an interest in open framework materials and their dielectric/luminescent/sensing properties.

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

“Perseverance is helpful for researchers since it is common that researcher obtains more negative results than good results.”

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

I published a work “patterned growth of luminescent metal-organic framework film: a versatile method for electrochemical-assisted microwave deposition” and also see recent publications in ChemComm related luminescent materials. Consideration of the novelty of my work, thus I decide to submit it to ChemComm.

Weijin Li received his Ph.D. at Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015. During six years of postdoctoral experience across Xiamen University, China (2015-2016) and Technical University of Munich, Germany (2016-2021), Weijin received the research awards of an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Granted Overseas High-level Recruitment of Talents-Youth Project, Weijin began his independent Professorship at the School of Materials Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology in 2021. His research interest focuses on inorganic and organic hybrid materials and their dielectric/luminescent/sensing properties.

Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Weijin-Li

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