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A new spinout company to transform plastic waste into sustainable fuelsA new spinout company to transform plastic waste into sustainable fuels

Oxford University Innovation has launched Oxford Sustainable Fuels, a new company that aims to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste. The technology, based on research by Oxford chemists Professor Peter Edwards, Dr Tiancun Xiao and Dr Zhaoxi Zhang, enables the transformation of plastic into transportation fuels.

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Developing Safer Cancer TreatmentsDeveloping Safer Cancer Treatments

Professor Chris Schofield, Head of Organic Chemistry, together with Profs. Peter McHugh (Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine) and Opher Gileadi (Nuffield Department of Medicine) have been awarded a £1.6m grant from Cancer Research UK, as reported in the Oxford Mail. The five-year study will investigate metallo B-lactamases, a family of DNA repair proteins. Understanding how cancer cells repair damage to their DNA could help develop ‘kinder’ drugs that target cancer more effectively.

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Oxford Nanopore device used to sequence the human genomeOxford Nanopore device used to sequence the human genome

A handheld device developed by Oxford Nanopore, the spin-out company founded by Professor Hagan Bayley, has been used to sequence the human genome. The breakthrough, detailed in Nature Nanotechnology and reported by the BBC, used the MinION nanopore sequencer. Strands of DNA are passed through a biological pore and the bases that make up DNA can be identified by measuring changes in electrical conductivity. Rapid and portable DNA sequencing opens up exciting new possibilities in genetic medicine.

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Finding ways to make clean, sustainable batteriesFinding ways to make clean, sustainable batteries

Dr Hamish Yeung (Glasstone Research Fellow, Inorganic Chemistry) and his collaborator Prof. John Griffin of Lancaster University have made a short film about their ongoing research into the structure determination of new materials for cleaner, more sustainable battery technology.

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Molecular dynamics on the femtosecond timescale: a closer look at photochemical reactionsMolecular dynamics on the femtosecond timescale: a closer look at photochemical reactions

The first steps in photochemical processes, such as photosynthesis or animal vision, involve changes in electronic and geometric structure over extremely short time scales. The very fast dynamics of a prototypical system, acetylacetone, have been revealed in unprecedented detail by a team of researchers including Professor John Eland and colleagues in Sweden, Croatia, France and Italy. Their approach, based on high-resolution valence photoelectron spectra supported by high-level calculations, paves the way for in-depth investigations of a range of photochemical processes.

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Turning Carbon Dioxide into Fuel – A New UK-China-Saudi Arabia InitiativeTurning Carbon Dioxide into Fuel – A New UK-China-Saudi Arabia Initiative

A major new initiative brings together top scientists in the UK, China and Saudi Arabia to transform CO2 into super-clean fuel and other commodities. Professor Jinghai Li, recently appointed Director of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, is working with Professor Peter Edwards, Dr Tiancun Xiao and colleagues at Oxford and Cambridge and Prof Hamid Almegren of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia on an international and interdisciplinary project that opens up new and exciting possibilities for direct utilisation of CO2 at large-scale sources of fossil fuel combustion.

China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter, and Saudi Arabia the world’s largest oil producer. Despite major improvements in renewable energy technologies, the world still relies on hydrocarbon fossil fuels. Fossil fuel combustion in power plants and petrochemical industries is responsible for the greatest amount of anthropogenic emissions of CO2, one of the most potent greenhouse gases and a major cause of climate change. Mitigating the impact of CO2 with carbon capture and storage (CCS) brings its own challenges and is highly energy-intensive. The unique technology developed in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-Oxford Centre of Excellence in Petrochemicals uses a process called Flue Gas Reforming. Flue gases are converted to synthesis gas (syngas) that is perfectly suited for the production of a wide range of fuels and industrially important chemicals. This is achieved with new-generation, step-change catalysts that are designed to have minimal effect on a power plant’s generation capacity but are sufficiently robust to convert syngas into super-clean fuel or chemicals without the need for CCS. The next challenge is to ensure that the resulting energy/CO2 balance of the entire process is carbon-neutral or ideally, carbon-negative. This international, multidisciplinary approach represents a timely response to the historic achievements of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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Exciting interim data from Summit's PhaseOut DMD clinical trialExciting interim data from Summit's PhaseOut DMD clinical trial

Summit Therapeutics plc, an Oxford spin-out company based on pioneering work by Professor Steve Davies, Professor Angela Russell and Professor Dame Kay Davies (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics; DPAG) has announced that its candidate drug, ezutromid, currently in a Phase II clinical study for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), has significantly reduced muscle damage in patients with DMD. The findings come after evaluation of the trial's 24-week interim data. DMD is a devastating disease caused by the absence of a large protein called dystrophin in all muscle cells; patients are generally wheelchair bound by the age of 12 and die in their twenties. At present there is no effective treatment, but Summit's approach is to identify a drug that will increase the amount of the dystrophin-related protein utrophin in muscle. The latest results with ezutromid have shown a statistically significant and meaningful reduction in muscle damage as measured by a 23% decrease in mean developmental myosin (biomarker of muscle damage) in muscle biopsies at 24 weeks compared to baseline. Further, a total of 14/22 patients showed a decrease in development myosin, with five of those showing a greater than 40% reduction. The research team here at the Chemistry Department in collaboration with DPAG and Summit Therapeutics as part of the UtroDMD Alliance is currently building on the exciting ezutromid data to develop second and third generation utrophin modulators, thus driving pre-clinical studies towards developing a best-in-class therapy for DMD patients worldwide.

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Best talk award for Jutta ToscanoBest talk award for Jutta Toscano

Jutta Toscano, a DPhil student in the Heazlewood group, won the best talk award at the recent Spectroscopy and Dynamics Group (SDG) meeting in Durham. Jutta spoke about her work on “Making a pure beam of radicals”. The 2018 annual meeting of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s SDG group was held in Durham on January 8th-10th.

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Andrew Goodwin and Philipp Kukura honoured in Blavatnik Awards for Young ScientistsAndrew Goodwin and Philipp Kukura honoured in Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

Professors Andrew Goodwin and Philipp Kukura are among the winners of the Inaugural Blavatnik Awards for young scientists in the United Kingdom. The Awards, established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honour and support exceptional early-career scientists and engineers and are the largest unrestricted cash prizes available exclusively to young scientists in the UK. A distinguished jury of leading senior scientists and engineers from throughout the UK selected the Laureates and Finalists.

Professor Andrew Goodwin has been named as the 2018 Chemistry Laureate. Professor Goodwin is a world leader in the study of the chemistry and physics of functional materials, which have unique magnetic, optical, and electrical properties. His work has revealed the role of structural disorder in these materials, and how this phenomenon can explain unique material properties such as negative thermal expansion, negative compressibility, and exotic magnetic states.

Professor Philipp Kukura has been named as a Chemistry Finalist. He is a physical chemist recognised for pioneering efforts in single-molecule scale microscopy and spectroscopy that enable the study of native, unlabelled molecules in real time. His particular focus is on biological macromolecules such as proteins as they interact with drugs or self-assemble with each other.

The Laureates and Finalists will be honoured at a gala dinner and ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 7th March, 2018.

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Speaker Prize at the 11th Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Symposium for PostgraduatesSpeaker Prize at the 11th Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Symposium for Postgraduates

Oliver Coleman, 4th year DPhil student on the SBM CDT (AK & CJS groups), was selected as a speaker for the 11th Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Symposium for Postgraduates. At the event, organised by the RSC BMCS and hosted at the University of Cambridge on the 8th December, Oliver was awarded a runner-up prize for his presentation ‘Cyclic Peptide Inhibition of Epigenetic Reader Domains’. Congratulations!

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Professor Charlotte Williams wins outstanding achievement award in the field of catalytic scienceProfessor Charlotte Williams wins outstanding achievement award in the field of catalytic science

The UK catalysis hub has awarded Charlotte Williams the Sir John Meurig Thomas (JMT) Catalysis Medal for 2017. The award recognises the development of catalysts and applications in sustainable chemistry. Professor Williams was presented with the medal at the UK Catalysis Hub Winter Conference on 14 December.

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On the Cover of RSC ChemCommOn the Cover of RSC ChemComm

A collaboration between Professor J Green and Professor G Cloke (University of Sussex) has been highlighted on the cover of the RSC ChemComm. The work investigates a dititanium complex which undergoes C-H activation to form a “tucked-in” bridging hydride complex. The “tuck-in” process is reversed by the addition of hydrogen, which yields a dihydride featuring terminal and bridging hydrides. The cover was designed by Dr Karl Harrison.

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RSC Poster Symposium: Three Wins for Oxford SBM CDT StudentRSC Poster Symposium: Three Wins for Oxford SBM CDT Student

Heyao Shi and Thomas Davies, 4th year DPhil students on the SBM CDT, have each been awarded prizes at the RSC organic division graduate poster symposium. Heyao (DJD group), took the runner-up prize and the flash presentation prize for his poster entitled “Total Synthesis of (-)-Himalensine A”, whilst Thomas (MCW group), won the Industry Prize with his poster titled "One-pot Sulfonimidamide Synthesis via the Sulfinylamine Reagent TrNSO". It was a great year for Oxford, with Dimitri Caputo (EAA group/SBM CDT), Alison Fugard (MDS group/SBM CDT) and Wasim Akhtar (TJD group) also invited to the prestigious symposium.

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Cambridge Chemistry Challenge AwardsCambridge Chemistry Challenge Awards

On Tuesday 21 November, Dr Andrew Worrall (Laboratory Course Developer) was part of a reception at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London to reward the 55 Lower Sixth students who were given Roentgenium Awards in the 2017 Cambridge Chemistry Challenge competition. This competition was started in 2011 by a group of chemists including Andrew, who were on the RSC Olympiad committee and who were convinced that a chemistry challenge was needed for Year 12 A-level chemists in schools. Every year an exam is written by the committee and it is sat by over 7000 students in 500 schools in the UK. The students attending the reception on Tuesday each gave a short lecture on their favourite element and were all presented with a trophy of a glass cube which contained a laser-generated image of a 2p orbital. If you fancy having a look at some of the questions that the committee have come up with in the past, visit the competition website

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Highlighted with ChemComm Cover Art Highlighted with ChemComm Cover Art

Asymmetric metal-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions are relatively new but of potentially huge importance to Chemistry Research and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Recent work by Mireia Sidera, Philipp Schafer, Thomas Palacin and others in the Fletcher group on developing cross-coupling reactions with racemic starting materials, and their application to the synthesis of natural products and drugs has been highlighted as a Feature Article in Chem Comm. The Cover of the issue also highlights the work and uses an illustration by Karl Harrison.

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On the Cover of Angewandte ChemieOn the Cover of Angewandte Chemie

Research from the Carol Robinson group has been highlighted on the cover of Angewandte Chemie. The image shows schematically the electrospray plume liberating trapped soluble or membrane proteins, which are then transferred into the gas phase and so native desorption electrospray ionization releases intact protein complexes deposited on surfaces enabling rapid characterization in a mass spectrometer.

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Pfizer-sponsored Symposium prizesPfizer-sponsored Symposium prizes

Many congratulations to Sam Chan (JWB group), Heyao Shi (DJD group), Florence Downs (HB group) and Moses Moustakim (DJD group and Paul E. Brennan group, Structural Genomics Consortium, Target Discovery Institute,) for winning prizes for poster presentations at the Pfizer-sponsored Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology Symposium. Winners are pictured here with judges: Dr David Blakemore (Pfizer), Dr Celine Cano (Newcastle University), Prof Nicholas Westwood (University of St. Andrews) and Prof Tom Brown (University of Oxford).

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President-Elect of the RSC Faraday DivisionPresident-Elect of the RSC Faraday Division

Professor Claire Vallance has been declared President-Elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Faraday Division. The Faraday Division provides a forum for physical and biophysical chemistry, molecular and chemical physics and theoretical chemistry and seeks to promote and raise the profile of all aspects of physical chemistry. Prof. Vallance's research interests include reaction dynamics, applications of velocity-map and spatial-map imaging to mass spectrometry, and the development of laser spectroscopy techniques for microfluidics and chemical sensing applications.

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ABInBev PrizesABInBev Prizes

The Department of Chemistry was delighted to present the prizes generously sponsored byABInBev at the Departmental Prize giving ceremony on 12 October 2017.

These five prizes are awarded to 2nd year undergraduates who have shown excellence in the field of chemistry: Daniya Aynetdinova - 1st place; Philip van Heusde - 2nd place; Daniel Sheldon - 3rd place; Benjamin Shennan - Joint 4th place; Simon Hulse - Joint 4th place

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Bruker PrizesBruker Prizes

The Department of Chemistry was delighted to present the prizes generously sponsored by Bruker at the Departmental Prize giving ceremony on 12 October 2017. These three prizes are awarded to 1st year undergraduates who have shown excellence in the field of chemistry: Jing Yee Kee - 1st place; Wojciech Gruchot - 2nd place; Chuyan Tang - 3rd place

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GlaxoSmithKline Prizes 2017 PresentationGlaxoSmithKline Prizes 2017 Presentation

The Department of Chemistry was very pleased to welcome Dr Jacob Bush to present the GlaxoSmithKline Awards at the Departmental Prize-giving:

The GlaxoSmithKline 3rd Year Undergraduate Prizes in Practical Organic Chemistry

Callum Hall (Part II supervisor – Professor Veronique Gouverneur)

Hikaru Seki (Part II supervisor – Professor Steve Davies)

Leila-Mei Tan (Part II supervisor – Professor Stuart Conway)

These three prizes are awarded to 3rd year undergraduates who have shown excellence in their experimental work and written submission.

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GlaxoSmithKline Prizes 2017 PresentationGlaxoSmithKline Prizes 2017 Presentation

The Department of Chemistry was very pleased to welcome Dr Jacob Bush to present the GlaxoSmithKline Awards at the Departmental Prize-giving:

The GlaxoSmithKline Awards in Organic Chemistry Part II

Alistair Sterling – 1st prize (Part II supervisor: Professor Ed Anderson; currently Synthesis for Biology and Medicine CDT student)

Jonathan Moloney– 2nd prize (Part II supervisor: Professor Jeremy Robertson; currently Synthesis for Biology and Medicine CDT student)

Jack Sutro – 3rd prize (Part II supervisor: Professor Martin Smith; currently Synthesis for Biology and Medicine CDT student)

These prizes are awarded to the highest ranked Oxford graduates (based on their combined Part I and Part II performance) who continue into postgraduate research in Organic Chemistry in Oxford, in the same calendar year.

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Scientific glassblowing – a crucial but endangered craftScientific glassblowing – a crucial but endangered craft

The weekend edition of the Guardian features an interview with Terri Adams, Scientific Glassblower for the Department of Chemistry, in which she talks about her career and the challenges of maintaining this important skill for the future. Earlier this year, the Heritage Crafts Association published a report on endangered traditional crafts in the UK. Scientific glassblowing was on the red list of those that might die out completely, with fewer than 50 currently employed in the UK.

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President-Elect of the Royal Society of ChemistryPresident-Elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Professor Dame Carol Robinson, interviewed by the Royal Society of Chemistry, shares some reflections on her extraordinary career and her thoughts on her upcoming term as President. Carol is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Her research has attracted international awards including the Anfinsen Award from the Protein Society and the Davy Medal and Rosalind Franklin Award from the Royal Society. Carol also holds five honorary doctorates and received a DBE in 2013 for her contribution to science and industry.

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Reimagining How We Diagnose Disease: a New Chemistry Spinout based on the work of Professor Jason DavisReimagining How We Diagnose Disease: a New Chemistry Spinout based on the work of Professor Jason Davis

Osler Diagnostics, a new Oxford spinout based on the work of Professor Jason Davis, aims to revolutionise the way diseases are diagnosed by producing a simple, cheap, and effective handheld device that is as easy to use as its famous cousin, the blood glucose monitor developed by Oxford chemists in the 1980s.

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Nearly Electrolyte-Free VoltammetryNearly Electrolyte-Free Voltammetry

Researchers in the Compton Group have developed a simple and efficient way to prepare ultra-low conductivity water for use in electrochemical experiments. CO2 dissolution in water has a large impact on its conductivity - within tens of seconds after leaving a water purifier, conductivity increases substantially due to CO2 absorption from the atmosphere. The Compton Group researchers removed the CO2 using ion exchange resin beads to prepare aqueous media with very low conductivity, allowing a wider potential window to be studied. This method provides a platform for fundamental studies on, for example, the electrical double layer structure, conductivity mechanisms, water behavior at interfaces, and under high electric fields.

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Microwaving CokeMicrowaving Coke

Many industrial petrochemical reactions are carried out over zeolite-based catalysts. The build-up of hydrocarbon side-products (coke) on zeolite catalysts leads to their deactivation and is a ubiquitous problem in the petrochemical and energy transformation industries. Characterising the coke that forms is important to understanding and mitigating catalyst deactivation. Tiancun Xiao, Peter Edwards, and colleagues in the UK and Saudi Arabia have developed a microwave cavity perturbation method to examine the type and quantity of coke produced. They measured the dielectric properties of the coked catalysts by positioning the sample in an electric field that is generated inside a microwave resonant cavity. The dielectric loss value, normalised by the weight of coke formed, provides a unique identifier for various types of coke that can be deposited. Measurements take milliseconds to perform and the technique is non-invasive and fully penetrates the sample, allowing even coke that is contained deep within the porous structure of the catalyst to be probed.

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Learning from Nature at the Curiosity Carnival 2017Learning from Nature at the Curiosity Carnival 2017

Members of the Vincent group brought their research to Oxford’s Curiosity Carnival on Friday September 29th. Part of European Researcher’s Night, the first-ever Curiosity Carnival was designed to explain research through fun, interactive learning, providing a unique opportunity to meet scientists, ask questions and discover how research affects and changes all our lives. Visitors to the Vincent group stand enjoyed games and demonstrations (including foam explosions!) illustrating how chemists learn from nature, and how chemists can intensify nature to make the everyday chemicals we all need, on the scale that we need them. The HydRegen project in the Vincent group is developing new ways to harness enzymes for producing complex chemicals that are hard to synthesise in the laboratory and to provide more sustainable methods for making the essential chemicals we rely on every day.

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AstraZeneca-sponsored Final Year D.Phil. SymposiumAstraZeneca-sponsored Final Year D.Phil. Symposium

The AstraZeneca-sponsored Final Year D.Phil. Symposium was held in the Chemistry Research Laboratory across two days this week. This annual event celebrates the strength and depth of graduate research in organic chemistry and chemical biology at Oxford and recognises the achievements of graduate students in their final year. Prizes were awarded to Wasim Akhtar (Donohoe group), Ellen Gallimore (Schofield group), Stephen Hyde (Gouverneur group) and Kat Badiola (Martin Smith group) by Jeremy Parker and Bill McCoull from AstraZeneca.

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First paper from the UCB-Oxford Late Stage Functionalisation Group appears onlineFirst paper from the UCB-Oxford Late Stage Functionalisation Group appears online

The Late Stage Functionalisation Project, a collaboration between UCB BioPharma and Oxford, has published its first paper “C–H Cyanation of 6-Ring N-Containing Heteroaromatics” in Chemistry – A European Journal. The transformation is achieved through triflic anhydride activation, nucleophilic addition of cyanide, followed by elimination of trifluoromethanesulfinate to regenerate the cyanated heteroaromatic ring. This one-pot protocol is simple to perform, and is shown to be effective in the presence of sensitive functional groups, and across a range of substitution patterns. It has been applied to the late stage functionalisation of several complex drugs, demonstrating its great potential utility for medicinal chemists. Computational studies have shown that site selectivity can be easily predicted through the use of Fukui indices, aiding the application of the methodology to complex substrates.

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