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Quality of compound research recognised

Dr Malpass and his current group of researchers
COMPOUND RESEARCH: Dr John Malpass (centre), pictured with his current group of researchers

Dr John Malpass, a Senior Lecturer in the University's Department of Chemistry, has recently been awarded a DSc degree by the University of Birmingham for his work on Synthesis, Shape, and Reactivity of Azacyclic Systems. This covers a wide range of nitrogen-bridged compounds and has been a major focus of research activity throughout his career.

Early studies concentrated on the synthesis and unusual properties of these compounds for their own sake and the importance of shape at nitrogen and the consequences of slow nitrogen inversion in strained heterocycles still remain active interests. 

However, the recent discovery of new natural products which are based on the more esoteric bicyclic structures increasingly drives John's research. Some of these natural compounds are actually quite common and have now been recognised as part of our diet; others are very rare but have immensely powerful effects. The latter group can be illustrated by epibatidine which was discovered in microgram quantities on the skin of South American poison frogs less than a decade ago and found to be hundreds of times more powerful than morphine as an analgesic, although it has a very different mode of action.

John's early fundamental studies have formed the basis for his group's current efforts to make variants of these compounds which show high selectivity for nicotinic receptor subtypes in the mammalian central nervous system (with implications for mediation of neurotransmission, cognition, sensory gating, and anxiety). His aim is to produce novel compounds which retain the beneficial effects but avoid the unwanted side-effects of powerful compounds like epibatidine.

On hearing of the award, John said: "It is a source of satisfaction to see my research work to date acknowledged by this degree, but it would never have been achieved without the hard work of many talented graduate students and I thank them all for their commitment and effort. It is also a pleasure to acknowledge continuing collaborative projects with other colleagues, at home and overseas."

November 2002

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Last updated: 4 November 2002 17:00
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