Synthesis and Dynamics
Inorganic Chemistry includes research in Bioinorganic, Coordination and Organometallic Chemistry.
- This is a multi-disciplinary subject, drawing on traditional coordination chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and, more recently, computational chemistry.
- It seeks to explain the role of metal ions in biology. Research work focuses on haempeptides, vitamin B12, and on the action of antimalarial drugs.
- Deals with the chemistry of compounds formed by metal ions with other molecules or ions (Iigands). Work focuses on the development of such compounds for use as MRI contrast agents and as radiopharmaceuticals for treatment of cancer.
- Includes synthesis and characterisation of transition metal-containing compounds. This section hosts the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Bioinorganic Chemistry.
Organic synthesis dominates the research programmes in this area. Target-orientated syntheses and methodological studies are important research pursuits.
Projects are in heterocyclic chemistry and include the development of generalised synthetic routes to N-containing compounds of biological interest; the synthesis of heterapentalene systems and investigations on O-containing heterocycles.
Methodological research involves the exploration of new synthetic methods based on main-group elements and transition metals and studies on enaminone reactivity. Application in medicinal chemistry and drug design for malaria, cancer and HIV is a particular focus. Structural and stereo-chemical considerations feature prominently in the work, and much attention is being devoted to the topical subject of enantioselective synthesis.
South Africa needs Green Chemistry technologies to produce value-added products, in particular chemically complex pharmaceutical intermediates, and it should preferably be based on sustainable feedstocks.
Biocatalysis is an important technology in this regard, It can be used in the manufacture of both commodity and value-added products, is of particular use in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, and is a major option in the development of biorefineries that can yield renewable chemicals and liquid fuels.
South Africa has a long history of research and development in this area, which now has renewed by the Department of Science and Technology as a key component of its Bio-Economy strategy.
Biocatalysis (both enzymes and microbes) already contribute the largest segment of the South African industrial bioeconomy, and are used in or for a vast range of products (detergents, textiles, leather, most alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages by volume, medical supplies and diagnostics, baked products, and chemicals for the mining industry). The scope for further advances is enormous. In particular, the high selectivity of biocatalysts allows for cost effective production of complex chemicals, such as those found in pharmaceuticals.
The three components of the initiative
The National Biocatalysis Network
This consists of a number of research institutions that provide expertise in the broad range of technologies that cover this multidisciplinary field, as well as the commercial partners that use this technology. Participants include UKZN, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State, and UCT.
CSIR Biosciences provides the administrative component of the initiative. It is also provides research and development capacity, provides larger scale microbial fermentation, plant biomass processing, enzyme purification and chemical reactors required for process development.
The Wits Molecular Sciences Institute
The MSI houses the DST/NRF Biocatalysis Initiative, which plays a coordination role and specialises in research into the integration of biocatalysis into synthetic chemical routes.
Research Liaison Committee
- Dr Dan Visser (Project Manager) (CSIR)
- Sonia Brooks (Administration) (CSIR)
- Professor Dean Brady (Wits)
- Professor Charles de Koning (Wits)
- Dr John Becker (ACGT)
- Contributing Researchers
- Professor Roger Sheldon (Wits)
- Dr Moira Bode (Wits)
- Dr Amanda Rousseau (Wits)
- Dr Karl Rumbold (Wits)
- Dr K Rashamuse (CSIR)
- Dr L Steenkamp (CSIR)
- V Chhiba (CSIR)
- Dr K Wellington (CSIR)