Not Accepting Doctoral Students
Biological Application of Transition Metal Redox Chemistry
UNC-Chapel Hill (B.S., 1986); California Institute of Technology, Ph.D. (1989); Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University (1989-90); Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award (1990); NSF Presidential Young Investigator (1991); David and Lucile Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering (1991); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar (1995); Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (1996); Ruth and Philip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement (1996); CED Life Science Technology of the Year (2000); Fortune Small Business Top Innovator (2001); UNC Distinguished Young Alumnus (2002); Director of the Morehead Planetarium (2001); Chair of the Chemistry Department (2005); Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (2007); Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008)
Our research is directed at developing new biological applications of transition-metal redox chemistry. We have worked extensively recently on studying the electrochemical properties of nucleic acids catalyzed by transition metal complexes, such as Ru(bpy)32+. In this system, electrons are carried from the nucleobases (guanine and its derivatives) to electrodes by the mediator. This approach has produced technologies for detecting specific nucleic acid sequences that are being commercialized for use in pharmaceutical research by Osmetech LLC.
Our present research in this field involves understanding the electron transfer reactions of nucleic acids at highly miniaturized electrodes, developing new nucleobases that undergo facile electron transfer, performing biological assays using these approaches, and developing related reactions for detection and study of carbon nanotubes and amino acid residues in proteins.
Another area of interest in our group is the development of transition-metal mediated binding of inhibitors to serine proteases. We have recently identified imidazole compounds with extremely high affinities for pharmaceutically relevant proteases in the presence of transition metal ions.
A final project involves studying the regulation of expression of genes that transport and store iron in cells. The translation of many of these proteins is regulated by a structure in the mRNA called the iron responsive element. We have identified small molecules that bind to this mRNA and modulate iron transport and storage. These molecules will be useful for treatment of sickle cell disease and iron overload.