Research Interests

Our work comes under the broad headings of the Chemistry, Chemical Biology and Biotechnology of Carbohydrates and Proteins. Interests encompass organic synthesis and methodology, inhibitor design, biocatalysis, enzyme mechanism, protein engineering, drug delivery, molecular modelling and molecular biology. The application of an understanding of such systems on a fundamental level leads to the design, synthesis and modification of potential therapeutic and biotechnologically applicable systems.

The biological roles of carbohydrates have often been viewed as simple ones: as sources of energy, e.g., glucose, or as polymeric building materials, e.g., chitin in crab shells, cellulose in wood. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that oligosaccharides, carbohydrates in small clusters, act as markers in important recognition processes such as microbial infection, cancer metastasis and cellular adhesion in inflammation, in addition to many intracellular communication events. Their remarkable structural diversity means that oligosaccharides can mediate highly specific and therefore complex processes.

The central roles of proteins in biology have long been appreciated, yet their precise manipulation and redesign is still a vastly uncharted area for exploration. Novel chemical approaches have the potential not only to inform our understanding of their modes of action but will also allow us to redesign structure in line with intended function.

The synthesis, manipulation and redesign of naturally occurring carbohydrate-containing and peptide-containing structures (bioconjugates) allows the probing of key biochemical mechanisms and hence, through the understanding of these processes, the development of potential therapeutic strategies. Our work involves experimental techniques ranging from novel synthetic methodology, target synthesis using both biotransformations and conventional synthetic methods to molecular modelling, enzyme kinetics and protein chemistry.

Our research interests, at the exciting and rapidly expanding interface between chemistry and biology, are grouped into the following interlinked themes:

This work is supported by the EPSRC, the BBSRC, the MRC, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Gates Foundation, UCB-Celltech, the EU FP7 programme, CEM, Glycoform, Glycovaxyn, VTU, Cancer Research UK and the Royal Society.

Last updated: 07-12-09

Prof Ben G. Davis
University of Oxford
Chemistry Research Laboratory
Mansfield Road
Oxford, OX1 3TA, UK
Phone: + 44 (0)1865 275652
Fax: + 44 (0)1865 275674