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School of Chemical Sciences

Organic and Medicinal Chemistry

Key Staff Involved

Dr David Barker

David Barker

Dr David Barker's research focuses on synthesising and modifying naturally occurring bioactive compounds. The synthesis of these bioactive molecules also allows the preparation of analogues of the natural compound which may lead to improvements in biological activity and a greater understanding of the way the naturally occurring compounds act.

Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble


Over the last decade Professor Margaret Brimble's group in Australasia has focused on the development of flexible synthetic approaches to several complex natural products that have important biological activity.  The synthesis of the molecules has also allowed the preparation of synthetic analogues of the natural compound thus leading to improvements in biological activity and an understanding of the way the naturally occurring compounds act.

Find more information about Margaret's research on the Brimble Group website.

Associate Professor Brent Copp

Brent Copp

Associate Professor Brent Copp's Research Group investigates New Zealand marine organisms as sources of new compounds with potential applications against human diseases including cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. While bio-assay directed fractionation leads to the isolation of the biologically active constituents of an organism, we are also interested in the intellectual challenge of solving the structures of new natural products whether hey exhibit biological activity or not. Exploitation of bioactive natural products requires access to comprehensive bioassays, for which we have collaborations with leading medical research groups targeting anti-inflammatory, antitumour, antitubercular and antimalarial agents. 

In addition to natural products chemistry, the group also has a strong interest in the discovery and development of new classes of antituberculosis and antimalarial agents. These projects combine both aspects of natural product drug discovery as well as rational design and synthesis of new compounds. 

Dr Viji Sarojini

viji sarojini. 1jpg

The major focus of Dr Viji Sarojini's  reserach is the denovo design, synthesis and structure activity studies of bioactive peptides.Research group use Solid Phase Peptide Synthesis following Fmoc- chemistry as well as conventional solution phase peptide synthesis procedures. The peptide sequences are tailor made from naturally occurring proteins. Polypeptide Modelling software is made use of for this purpose. Structure-activity studies of the synthetic peptides are carried out in order to optimise the structure for specific applications.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Circular Dichroism (CD) are used to elucidate the secondary structure of synthetic peptides. Of particular interest to the group are

  • Antimicrobial Peptides against Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) Biofilms
  • Multifunctional Anticancer Peptides with increased tumor selectivity
  • Cell Penetrating Peptides for Drug Delivery
  • Antifreeze Peptides for Frozen Food Preservation
  • Biomarkers
  • Polypeptide Biosensors
  • Self-assembling Peptides
  • Non-protein amino acids in Peptide Design
  • Synthetic strategies for novel linear and cyclc lipopeptides

Dr Jonathan Sperry

Jon Sperry

Dr Jonathan Sperry's interests can be split into three main areas:

Organic Synthesis

  • C-H functionalization
  • Study of natural product synthesis as a platform for methods development.
  • Particular emphasis is placed on compounds that possess unprecedented architecture, biomimetic synthesis and novel reaction development.

Medicinal chemistry

  • Design and synthesis of novel biologically active entities based on leads from Nature.
  • The structure aided design of novel 3C-protease inhibitors - in collaboration with Prof M. A Brimble (Auckland) and Dr Stephen Connelly/Prof Ian Wilson (Scripps Research Institute, USA).
  • Synthesis of compounds to target superbugs (MRSA, vancomycin resistance, etc.)

 Sustainable Synthesis / Green Chemistry

  • Value-added chemicals from biomass derived building blocks.
  • Green solvents and reagents.