Professor Chris Easton
Position: Deputy Dean, Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University
Affiliation: Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University
Phone: +61 (02) 6125 8201
One main theme of our research involves the investigation of reaction mechanisms related to biochemical processes, either through the study of reactions of model compounds or by studying the biochemical systems directly. In the area of amino acid and peptide chemistry, investigations of the mechanisms of free radical reactions of amino acid derivatives have led to the development of hypotheses to account for the side chain functionalisation of amino acids and peptides during secondary metabolism. Other processes which occur commonly in the biodegradation of peptides and proteins are under investigation, as is the formulation of a model for the biosynthesis of peptide hormones. The latter model is being used to design novel enzyme inhibitors, in order to control metabolic disorders associated with hormone over-production. Arising from the mechanistic studies, new procedures have been developed for the synthesis of amino acid derivatives, including antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals derived from cyclic peptides. Other research on biochemical systems includes analytical, synthetic and mechanistic studies of natural and modified lipids. In some cases these are associated with metabolic disorders, while in other cases specific immmunologiocal responses are being sought. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Peptech (Australia) and the Adelaide Medical Centre for Women and Children, and has led to the development of new compounds with activity as antimalarial and antiinflammatory agents.
Another principle area of research is carried out in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and involves the design and synthesis of molecular hosts and studies of thermodynamic discrimination, catalysis and kinetic resolution by host-guest complexes. Most of this work involves modified cyclodextrins as hosts, where the cyclodextrins are designed to have particular physical properties, including high solubility in aqueous systems, and tailored to form inclusion complexes with specific guests. Results in this area include the development of procedures for the synthesis and resolution of chiral molecules, new methods for the administration of pharmaceuticals, new catalysts based on metallocyclo-dextrins and novel molecular reactors. The latter work is aimed towards the development of artificial enzymes.
Other collaborative research programs, with Dr G. Simpson of the CSIRO Division of Chemicals and Polymers, with MacFarlane Laboratories and with the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) involve the synthesis of novel crop protection chemicals through cycloaddition reactions of nitrile oxides with alkenes, studies of the synthesis and biochemical reactions of cosmetic and hepatoprotective agents, and developing new and improved methods for chlorination reactions.
Chris Easton is a graduate of Flinders University and the University of Adelaide. He held positions at Harvard University (1980-1981), the Research School of Chemistry (1982), the University of Canterbury (1983-1986) and the University of Adelaide (1986-1994), before his appointment as a Senior Fellow in the Research School of Chemistry, in 1995. He was awarded a D.Sc. from the University of Adelaide in 1998 and is the recipient of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Birch Medal for 2000, and the Archilald OllÚ Prize for Chemical Literature for 2000.