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  • Joshua Barham with his Reaxys PhD Prize

International Chemistry Prize for Strathclyde Researcher

Nov 12 2017 Comments 0

University of Strathclyde student Joshua Barham, was named a winner of the prestigious Reaxys PhD Prize, an annual international award for outstanding young chemistry researchers. He received his prize and a cheque for $2000 following his presentation at a symposium held by Reaxys in Shanghai.

A graduate of a pioneering collaborative PhD programme offered by Strathclyde and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Joshua said: “I'm thrilled to win. It's a testament to all the hard work I poured in to my PhD and to the efforts of those who supported me along the way. I'm deeply grateful to people involved in the collaborative PhD programme; it feels fantastic to be able to promote the international visibility and reputation of the PhD programme and of Strathclyde, through winning this prize.”

Joshua’s research, based on previously-published work, explored the selective abstraction of hydrogen atoms from complex molecules, for potential use in medicine – with unexpected results. “We realised these chemical reagents could be applied in a different way and deployed for the industrially applicable transformation we were seeking.

“Serendipitously, we found that, in our case, the chemistry proceeded totally differently to the way we originally intended and were amazed at the remarkable opportunities that it afforded for selectively targeting specific molecular sites. Medicinal chemists can use our method to target and functionalise specific sites of complex molecules to test how the molecular structure at those sites influences pharmacological activity.

“This is critically important in the field of synthetic opiate medicines - used to treat opiate addictions or overdose - where small changes in molecular structure can completely reverse pharmacological activity. For example, a very small change in molecular structure can transform an analgesic molecule 10 times more potent than morphine into a molecule used to treat opiate overdose.”

He is currently based in Japan moving between the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tokyo and the University of Shizuoka, working on a collaborative project developing and evaluating new 'flow chemistry' reactors that use microwave heating technology.

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