Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Chemistry at the Interface with Biology and Medicine

Theme Coordinators: Ben Davis and Justin Benesch

The central science of chemistry, working in strong partnerships across the University, allows us to observe, quantify, exploit and reprogramme the mechanisms of life.

Current chemical technologies are overcoming the limits experienced by traditional approaches to biology, biochemistry, medicine, plant sciences and zoology.  If we can understand the molecular processes of life we can exploit this knowledge, allowing us to manipulate and modulate living organisms in beneficial and sustainable ways.

Oxford Chemistry is one of the world’s leading centres for the study of the chemistry of biology.  We use methods that range from single-molecule biophysics to translational use of chemical processes inside living organisms that lead to new therapeutics.  Innovation and translation in this area has led to unparalleled societal contribution and wealth creation, with spin-outs and licensing since the 1980s leading to > £3Bn worth of global capitalization (e.g. Oxford Asymmetry-Evotec and Oxford Nanopore Technologies).  This theme represents over 40% of the groups in the Department and spans experimental, computational and theoretical work, while senior members of this theme account for six of the Departments ten national academy members (Royal Society Fellows).

This theme also crosses many themes including Advanced functional materials and interfaces, Catalysis, Kinetics, dynamics and mechanism, Energy and sustainable chemistry, Synthesis and Theory and modelling in the chemical sciences.

Chemical biology

Biology at the molecular level; synthesis and modification of biomolecules; development of biomolecular machines; molecular basis of biological mechanism.

Bio-inorganic chemistry

Mechanistic studies of metalloenzyme redox catalysis; small molecule activation at metal centres in enzymes; new energy storage and generation solutions.

Enzyme chemistry

New mechanisms; biocatalysts for fine chemical synthesis; applications of immobilised enzyme cascades as heterogeneous catalysts in industrial biotechnology for chemical synthesis; quantification of catalysis.

Medicinal chemistry/probe synthesis and analysis

Creation of hit-lead-probe-drug candidates; development of diagnostic methods; molecular imaging of disease; novel methods for the interrogation of diseased systems; molecular strategies in targeted delivery; De Novo synthetic biology, novel therapeutic strategies.

Biophysical chemistry

Energetics and rates of biological reactions and interactions; novel spectroscopic and spectrometric methodologies; novel spectroscopic and spectrometric methodologies; protein two-dimensional assembly,  protein recognition interfaces (immune, aptamer, peptide), direct imaging of biomolecules, biomolecular self-assembly; protein folding and aggregation; mechanism of magnetoreception.


Bio-inspired devices; detectors and sensors for biomolecules; derived diagnostic configurations, synthetic cells and tissues, industrial biotechnology.

Researchers associated with this theme

Dirk Aarts, Fraser Armstrong, Ed Anderson, Harry Anderson, Andrew Baldwin, Hagan Bayley, Paul Beer, Justin Benesch, Alice Bowen, Tom Brown, Tim Claridge, Stuart Conway, Steve Davies, Ben Davis, Jason Davis, Darren Dixon, Jonathan Doye, Nicola Farrer, Stephen Faulkner, Emily Flashman, Peter Hore, Akane Kawamura, Philipp Kukura, Matthew LangtonJames McCullagh, Shabaz Mohammed, Mark Moloney, William Myers, Stephan Rauschenbach, Jeremy Robertson, Carol Robinson, Angela Russell, Chris Schofield, Lorna Smith, Chris TimmelClaire Vallance, Kylie Vincent, Charlotte Williams, Michael Willis, Luet Wong.