Meet our researchers:
Daniele Rosa-Gastaldo obtained his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Padova in 2020 under the supervision of Prof. Fabrizio Mancin, studying the use of gold nanoparticles as NMR chemosensors. After a postdoctoral experience at the same university in Dr. Gabrielli’s group, he moved to the University of Geneva and joined as a post-doc Prof. Thomas Bürgi’s group, where his research is focused on the properties and applications of atomically precise gold and silver nanoclusters.
Vytautas Pečiukėnas studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge obtaining MSci diploma in 2018. There he carried out his Masters project on informational oligomers in Prof. Hunter’s group under the direct supervision of Dr. Gabrielli. Currently he is a PhD student in Dr. Josep Cornella’s group at the the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Germany. His research is focused on developing catalytic cross-coupling protocols by employing Bi(III)/(V) redox platform.
Christopher A. Hunter was born in New Zealand and educated at the University of Cambridge, graduating with a PhD in 1989. He was a lecturer at the University of Otago till 1991, when he moved to the University of Sheffield. He was promoted to a chair in 1997, and in 2014, he took up the Herchel Smith Professorship of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. In 2008, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and he is an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy.
Luca Gabrielli obtained his MSc and PhD in Chemistry at the University of Milano-Bicocca with Laura Cipolla, spending part of his PhD at the Ben G. Davis’ group (University of Oxford). After a post-doc experience with Fabrizio Mancin at the University of Padova, he moved to the group of Chris Hunter (University of Cambridge) as an MSCA-IF fellow. In 2019 he moved back to the University of Padova, where is currently an assistant professor. His research interests span from information molecules to kinetically controlled and out of equilibrium systems.
What inspired your research in this area?
The way living systems store information as a sequence of nucleotides, and how this information is copied, transcribed, and translated into a functional molecule, represents the main inspiration of our research. However, these outstanding properties are currently unique to nucleic acids. Synthetic recognition-encoded oligomers have the potential to display similar properties, which would open the way for the directed evolution of function in synthetic polymers.
What do you personally feel is the most interesting/important outcome of your study?
One of the challenges in the realization of synthetic oligomers capable of sequence-selective duplex formation is the competing intramolecular folding interaction between complementary recognition units. Thanks to the modular approach adopted for designing duplex-forming oligoanilines (Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 561-566), we investigated how variations in the steric bulk around the H-bond acceptor unit and on the backbone structure would affect folding and duplex formation. We observed that using a long rigid linker as the backbone connecting two monomer units successfully prevents 1,2-folding and leads to the formation of a stable mixed-sequence duplex, while increasing the acceptor bulkiness was not effective in preventing the undesired folding.
What directions are you planning to take with your research in future? What are you going to be working on next?
The observation of imine polymerase activity in one of these single-stranded oligomers (Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 7408-7414) suggested that more interesting analogies between natural biopolymers and the chemistry of synthetic recognition-encoded oligomers will come to light. Hence, our future research will be focused on developing synthetic duplex-forming oligomers able to perform templated synthesis of the complementary sequence molecule, which is the key property that allows to copy, transcript, and translate nucleic acids.
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