Jamie Kerr, SCI Scholar 2009-2011

07 January 2010

7 Jan 2010

Jamie has lived in the Aberdeen area all his life and attended the University of Aberdeen for his MChem (medicinal chemistry) degree. During his time as an undergraduate, he won various prizes including the City of Aberdeen Quincentenary prize for outstanding academic achievement and the Centre Medal for most distinguished graduating first class honours chemistry student. In the final year of his degree, he was able to undertake a four-month placement at the Australian National University, Canberra developing enzyme inhibitors based on free radical reactions known to take place in the secondary metabolism of certain peptides.

Working alongside chemists and biologists aiming to produce pharmaceutically relevant compounds encouraged him to begin postgraduate studies at the interface of these two disciplines. His current research involves identifying allosteric binding sites on cannabinoid receptors and synthesizing novel heterocycles by free radical cyclisations.

Briefly, he describes his PhD research in two areas:

Tricyclic systems containing oxygen or nitrogen atoms are fairly prevalent in nature although their laboratory syntheses have proven limited and low yielding at best. He is investigating the use of tandem radical cyclisation as a method of producing these molecules. By generating suitable monocyclic starting materials, it should be possible to predict the reaction mechanism and the cyclisation products.

His second research area involves identifying the allosteric binding site of a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). A large proportion of drugs act at GPCRs but since the receptors are membrane integrated, their structural analysis by X-ray crystallography or NMR is difficult. In addition, drugs which target GPCR orthosteric sites don’t offer fine control over receptor activity and they can display receptor subtype specificity issues. To overcome this, Jamie hopes to use photoactivatable allosteric ligands to covalently bind GPCRs, allowing analysis of the ligand-receptor complexes by mass spectrometry to determine the amino acids involved in binding and the possible generation of 3D models of the binding sites.

Jamie's professional interests lie in medicinal chemistry and he hopes to use his PhD as a stepping stone to a career in this field.

In his spare time, he plays the drums and guitar and especially enjoys hard rock and heavy metal music. He also takes part in various sports, including football and cross-country running and has represented the city of Aberdeen in both sports in national events. Most recently, he has taken up golf; he hopes to improve his handicap before participating in any local competitions!

You can connect with SCI members who are in a similar field to Jamie, through the SCI Members' Directory.

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