Synthesis and uses of spectroscopic
Originally trained as a synthetic organic chemist, Gerry has collaborated in many biological fields ranging from pharmaceutical synthesis at Glaxo Research through synthesis of bioactive molecules, structural studies (e.g. Vancomycin), lipid-protein interactions and more recently antibiotic and anti-cancer drugs.
This life of chemical service to biology is not as mundane as first appearances would indicate. In just one field alone, the synthesis of cryptand based [Na+] indicators, the design of the most selective binding site for Na+ over K+ was required. During this work a completely novel synthesis of one heterocycle was discovered along with the need to add sodium ions to a ZnCl2 (Lewis acid) catalysed condensation and, most surprising of all, the addition of water was found essential for a rapid and clean borane reduction of cyclic amides to amines.
The main theme of research over the last few years has been the spectroscopic measurement of cation concentrations, [H+], [Na+], [Mg2+], [Ca2+]. From the chemist's viewpoint it is essential to follow through from the synthesis of the tools into their use in the biological sphere. This is to ensure that rigorous chemical and physical principles are applied during the collection, and analysis, of the resulting data. This is exemplified by the series of papers initiated by the synthesis of 19F-NMR indicators and their use in the Langendorff perfused heart.
This series of eight papers is published under the title
New Concepts in the Control of Muscle Contraction
wherein a logical physical-chemical approach leads to an understanding of a considerable amount of unexplained, and thus often ignored, observations on cardiac contractility and drug action.