Can you keep borrowing from future generations? A green biomimetic method for controlling chirality

University of Oxford

Daniella is developing a versatile chemical method for synthesising chiral molecules. Nature has evolved highly sophisticated machinery for making such molecules. It uses enzymes, which are exquisite biological machines, to form new chemical bonds in a very precisely controlled manner. Most biological molecules can exist in either a right-handed or left-handed form – a property known as chirality. Finding new ways to control chirality is of great value to the pharmaceutical industry, as chirality can have important implications for drug development; one form of a molecule may have therapeutic value, whereas its mirror image may be detrimental.

This research focuses on a process known as hydrogen borrowing to mimic the natural processes that control chirality. Hydrogen borrowing uses common alcohols to elongate carbon chains, a process that is essential to synthetic chemistry and the synthesis of architecturally complex three-dimensional chemical scaffolds. Hydrogen borrowing provides a green alternative to traditional methods, producing only water as waste.

Daniella hopes to develop hydrogen borrowing into an applicable method for synthesising molecules and build a library of biologically relevant materials, as well as adapt this process from a small laboratory scale to an industrial scale.

Daniella obtained her Masters degree in chemistry from the University of York and completed her thesis at F. Hoffmann La Roche Ltd in Switzerland. She is currently a PhD student in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and part of the EPSRC CDT in Synthesis for Biology and Medicine.

Daniella Cheang headshot
“I feel extremely honoured to be accepted onto the programme. I’m grateful for the incredible opportunity and highly motivated to continue my research. The fellowship is helping me access state-of-the-art equipment in industry, become fully integrated with the company and tap into the wealth of knowledge both at AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.”