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Daniel Preston

2017: Dr Daniel Preston, University of Canterbury, for research entitled: “Building bigger and better cages: a novel approach to large and complex molecules”

Natural metal-containing enzymes are formed from two components – metal ions and an organic scaffold - and play vital roles in our body. An example is haemoglobin, made from iron ions inserted into a protein framework, which is able to bind oxygen in the lungs and releases the oxygen to cells throughout the body where it is needed. Synthetic variants, known as cages, are the subject of intense interest from chemists because their ability to bind and release specific molecules (such as oxygen) provides a wide range of applications from trapping environmental pollutants to drug delivery. However, the big challenge is to synthesise cages that retain specificity for the molecule they are designed to carry, while being large enough to interact simultaneously with multiple molecules.

With this fellowship, Dr Daniel Preston will work to increase the structural and functional complexity of molecular cages in order to increase their functionality. He will develop novel methodologies for the creation of an exciting new class of molecular cages, which can be tuned to bind and carry specific targets. This will result in increased control over the molecule bound to the cage, it’s delivery, and it’s catalysis, and will have potential implications in medicinal and industrial applications.