We do lots of different kinds of projects, though are probably best known at the moment for the Open Source Malaria project, our open science work more generally and for the use of click-derived triazoles in chemical sensing.
We live in the age of the internet, one of the truly transformative inventions of our age. Software people immediately understood what the internet meant - we could all work together with no barriers. Scientists are playing catch up. We can now work with each other in fantastically productive ways if only we are willing to forego secrets.
We have adapted open source principles to experimental lab science. The first project successfully used this idea to find a way of producing the important drug praziquantel (used to treat the dreadful disease Schistosomiasis) as a single enantiomer. All data and ideas were freely shared and anybody could take part. People did - about 30, and the problem was solved much more quickly than we could have done it alone because people we did not know at the outset came along and contributed where they were particularly able to do so. The science was published here (check out the awesome links to actual lab notebook pages) and the way we did it was published separately in Nature Chemistry.
This made us think What about drug discovery? Could we maybe discover new drugs using a totally open approach and where there are no patents? We decided to start a project to see if this would work and we're now driving the Open Source Malaria project, a fully open, borderless, patentless drug discovery project for malaria that aims to discover a compound that will enter Phase I clinical trials. It's a fantastically exciting project funded made possible by the continual contributions of a large number of scientists.
The group's motto is To make the right molecule in the right place at the right time. While nobody understands what this means it is crucial that we know how to make molecules. The group is mainly interested in developing methods for the construction of new bonds in small molecules, i.e. the development of ways of making bonds that cannot currently be made.
Sensing of Metal Ions
Responsive Metal Complexes
We've recently done some very cool things with metal complexes interacting with biological molecules.
One of the most useful yet difficult things an organic chemist can do is to work out how to make one enantiomer of a molecule selectively, and the most impressive way to do that is to use catalysis. So we really like talking about asymmetric catalysis, and particularly about how we as a species are no good at predicting new catalysts for asymmetric reactions.
Research Related to Education
We made up a very cool Treasure Hunt for chemical education that you can read about here. Essentially the answers to questions guide you round a campus so that you find certain objects, and when you have found all the objects you draw them out on a campus map and the shape gives you the structure of a molecule, which is the "treasure". This could work for lots of other disciplines too and it'd be possible to use Google Maps to make a global version, though we've not yet tried.
We also like chemical animations (soon) We like getting students involved with making real molecules in large numbers (soon)