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Key Capabilities: Biologicals

Could chemistry become the new biology?

Thanks to the new advances in genetics, synthetic and systems biology and nanotechnology here at Oxford, chemistry is entering the realms of cutting edge biological science.
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The last decade has seen startling developments in our knowledge of the genome and the function of genes and the proteins they code for. New technologies, including innovations in mass spectrometry, DNA sequencing, high-throughput screening, protein engineering, cell and tissue imaging, and chemical intervention with probes are only part of the reason for the breakthroughs…another is a revolution in understanding of what the data mean.

Life at the Chemistry-Biology interface is nothing if not exciting. Our fundamental research is leading to a better understanding of how complex biological systems, such as systems pathways, work. Oxford is making major contributions in areas ranging from genomics and synthetic biology to systems biology and nanotechnology. It’s not just biology that benefits. Work at the Chemistry-Biology Interface is also bringing about advances in areas ranging from medicine to the provision of green energy.

All together

The Chemistry-Biology Interface brings together organic, inorganic and physical chemists all contributing towards a single goal - improving methodologies and advancing the understanding of the structure of biological molecules and the way they work.

For example, we’ve developed new approaches to spectroscopy technologies, techniques, and data interpretation to get a clearer idea of the structure and function of biological molecules. We’ve also produced new chemical probes and developed new ways to study biological pathways in greater detail than ever before. It all contributes to a growing understanding of the mechanisms that control the movement of molecules into and out of cells. Additionally, it sheds light on the way various biological catalysts, or enzymes, work.

And that’s not all. By inventing new techniques and taking advantage of extraordinarily sensitive technologies, including force measurement and fluorescence detection, we can now watch single molecules in action and observe the making and breaking of chemical bonds, one at a time. As a result, we’ve been able to examine reaction pathways in unprecedented detail. The fundamental investigations of individual ion channels and pores we’ve carried out have made it possible to develop detectors with exceptional sensitivity.

It all adds up to an unparalleled opportunity to advance our understanding of chemical reactions, the functioning of biological molecules, the visualisation of events in cells and tissues and to contribute to the molecular understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
For further details, including specific queries, please contact Dr Rachel MacCoss, Research Facilitator for Chemical Biology (rachel.maccoss@chem.ox.ac.uk).