Our research uses organic synthesis techniques to create molecules for application in medicinal chemistry, materials and plant sciences. We have a strong focus on both commercialisation and publishing results in (high impact) peer-reviewed journals.

Medicinal Chemistry

We aim to use small molecule organic chemistry to treat disorders of the central nervous system such as neuroinflammation, Alzheimer’s disease and social dysfunction.

Conditions that commonly overlap with social withdrawal include depression, autism, addiction and social anxiety, among others. These might be considered as either the cause or the symptoms of social withdrawal. Oxytocin is a 9-amino acid cyclic peptide that exerts prosocial effects in mammals through activation of the oxytocin receptor. However, it is far from ideal as a drug and not very brain permeable. We are designing and synthesizing non-peptidic compounds, such as WAY 267,464, that treat social withdrawal as a means of targeting multiple disease states.

WAY 267,464


Organic molecules are valuable in molecular electronics. Compared with their inorganic counterparts, organic materials are of interest due to their ease of structural manipulation to enhance specific properties, and their lower cost of fabrication.

A simple and effective method for synthesising non-planar push–pull chromophores is the cycloaddition–retroelectrocyclisation (CA–RE) reaction. It is used to describe a reaction between an electron-rich acetylene and electron poor alkene, resulting in a buta-1,3-diene. These high yielding transformations, can occur under mild conditions (room temperature/pressure), with complete atom economy, and meet all the requirements of a “click-chemistry”-type reaction. This has been illustrated below with the formation of non-planar push–pull chromophore 1 from a CA–RE reaction between the electron-rich acetylene 2 and electron-poor alkene 3 (TCNE).

Example of the CA–RE reaction

Push–pull chromophores that are non-planar and have low molecular weights are of particular interest to the field of optoelectronics. Non-planarity profoundly enhances the chromophores physical properties, such as high solubility in organic solvents and high thermal stability. More importantly, low-molecular-weight non-planar chromophores are less aggregating in the solid state. They are easily sublimed, allowing for the formation by vapour deposition of high-optical-quality amorphous films rather than crystalline thin films. Non-planar push–pull chromophores can be easily prepared in scalable quantities, with variable properties that are controllable, and can be chosen, for the specific task. By preparing new non-planar push–pull chromophores, this research will explore their physical and optoelectronic properties to expand the application of this important class of compounds.

Plant Sciences

We examine the interplay that exists between naturally occurring chemicals and the behaviour they produce in the natural systems we explore.