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Department of Chemistry

Portrait of srb39

Current positions

I am a Teaching Fellow in Inorganic Chemistry for the Department of Chemistry, the acting Senior Tutor at Churchill College, and I teach a summer course at the Institute of Continuing Education in Madingley.  My teaching duties include lecturing, demonstrating in the practical classes and small group tutorials for chemistry students from all four years of the Natural Sciences degree.  I encourage students to think laterally about the subject and to make connections between topics through collaborative discussion and linking theoretical chemistry work to practical sessions.

Research interests

My research is aimed at understanding the chemistry of ruthenium-containing molecules in biological settings such as anticancer treatments, with the aim of creating less toxic and more effective drug therapies.

Ruthenium organometallic fragments for augmenting binding of validated medicinal compounds

Ruthenium is one of the most promising metals used in the synthesis of anti-tumour compounds for chemotherapy.1 The properties of the metal lend themselves well to medicinal applications in terms of geometry, accessible oxidation states and relevant substitution kinetics and the diversity of ruthenium compounds that show cytotoxicity is somewhat startling (Figure 1).


Fig. 1 - Chemical structures of a selection of ruthenium compounds that display cytotoxicity. Clockwise from top left: NAMI-A1, RAPTA-B3,4, a tri- ruthenium cluster5 and α-[Ru(azpy) 2Cl2]3.6

The targets of ruthenium-based antitumour compounds have yet to be defined, however, and so the rationale design of new, more potent compounds presents a problem. Recently, a small body of research has been aimed at the "directing" of precious metal interactions to specific enzymatic targets by connection of such complexes to an organic ligand. Precious metals are ideally suited to this end; their (relatively slow) ligand exchange rates are similar to the lifetimes of cellular processes and they are capable of forming highly energetically-favourable coordination bonds to the physiological target. Owing to their enthalpic favourability, as few as one or two such bonds would be sufficient to impart a marked increase on target inhibition. Indeed, given the hypothesis of Kuntz et al7, it is predicted that compounds of this nature should display augmented ligand efficiency compared with the organic directing molecule alone.

The aim of my research is to build ruthenium organometallic groups into validated, medicinal compounds such that the ligand efficiency of these existing compounds can be improved upon. In the longer term, it is hoped that the central approach described will set a precedent for inclusion of metal-containing fragments in libraries for fragment assembly. The capacity to dramatically increase ligand efficiency and to offer tunable lability and variable hypervalancy within a library could signal a new era in the field of fragment-based drug discovery and medicinal pharmaceuticals.


Use of a fluorinated probe to quantitatively monitor amino acid binding preferences of ruthenium(ii) arene complexes
GS Biggs, MJ O'Neill, P Carames Mendez, TG Scrase, Y Lin, AM Bin-Maarof, AD Bond, SR Boss, PD Barker
– Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003)
Selective lability of ruthenium(II) arene amino acid complexes.
TG Scrase, MJ O'Neill, AJ Peel, PW Senior, PD Matthews, H Shi, SR Boss, PD Barker
– Inorganic Chemistry
Folates are potential ligands for ruthenium compounds in vivo.
TG Scrase, SM Page, PD Barker, SR Boss
– Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003)
Cobalt catalyzed carbon nanotube growth on graphitic paper supports
V Engels, J Geng, GM Jones, JA Elliott, AEH Wheatley, SR Boss
– Current Nanoscience
Tuning heavy metal compounds for anti-tumor activity: is diversity the key to rutheniums success?
SM Page, SR Boss, PD Barker
– Future Medicinal Chemistry
Groups 1 and 11: The Alkali and Coinage Metals
SR Boss, AEH Wheatley
– Organometallic Chemistry
Encapsulation of hydride by molecular main group metal clusters: manipulating the source and coordination sphere of the interstitial ion.
SR Boss, MP Coles, V Eyre-Brook, F García, R Haigh, PB Hitchcock, M McPartlin, JV Morey, H Naka, PR Raithby, HA Sparkes, CW Tate, AEH Wheatley
– Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003)
Groups 1 and 11: The alkali and coinage metals
SR Boss, AEH Wheatley
– Organometallic Chemistry
Syntheses, structures and magnetic properties of Mn( ii ) dimers [CpMn(μ-X)] 2 (Cp = C 5 H 5 ; X = RNH, R 1 R 2 N, C[triple bond, length as m-dash]CR)
CS Alvarez, SR Boss, JC Burley, SM Humphry, RA Layfield, RA Kowenicki, M McPartlin, JM Rawson, AEH Wheatley, PT Wood, DS Wright
– Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003)
The structural characteristics of organozinc complexes incorporating N,N'-bidentate ligands
SJ Birch, SR Boss, SC Cole, MP Coles, R Haigh, PB Hitchcock, AEH Wheatley
– Dalton Trans.
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Research Interest Groups

Telephone number

01223 336335 (shared)

Email address