Techniques & Strategies in Molecular Medicine Workshop

Last week postdocs and PhD students from the SFI funded project PPtBio attended the Techniques & Strategies in Molecular Medicine workshop run by Clinical Research Development Ireland (CRDI). This 2 day course at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute covered technologies/techniques including epigenetics, next generation sequencing, CRISPR, fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry and their applications.

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DCU November Graduations 2018

Huge congratulations to both Anna Ziemele and Seán O’Halloran who graduated this month from their BSc. (Hons) in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science here at DCU. Both students completed their 12 week final year research projects in the Kellett Group working along side postgraduate students Nicoló and Seán. In October, Anna and Seán joined the group as 1st year PhD candidates and are working on projects funded by the SSPC and Cúram Centre for Research in Medical Devices.

Schrödinger at 75—The Future of Biology

In September 1943 Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and then Director of Theoretical Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, gave three public lectures entitled 'What is Life?' at Trinity College Dublin. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of these talks, a two day conference was held at the National Concert Hall Dublin which brought together some of the best minds in biology under one roof. Nicolò and Zara attended the event which included keynotes from Nobel Prize winners including Bernard Feringa, John O’Keefe, Michael Rosbash, Susumu Tonegawa and Ada Yonath and a number of other esteemed speakers.

Nicolò had to opportunity to meet James Watson on day 2 at the National Concert Hall!

II Medicinal Chemistry Ireland Conference

On June 29th, we hosted the II Medicinal Chemistry Ireland Conference at DCU. This successful event brought together excellent researchers from medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry backgrounds. The event was attended by researchers from both academia and industry as well as graduate, post-graduate and postdoctoral fellows. Keynote speakers on the day included Prof Tom Brown (University of Oxford), Prof Marie-Paule Teulade-Fichou (Curie Institute), Prof Christine Cardin (University of Reading), Dr Colin O’Dowd (Almac), Prof Bruno Linclau (University of Southampton), Dr Elisabetta Chiarparin (Astra-Zeneca) and Prof Donal O’Shea (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland).

Awards for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers who presented posters on the day went to Mark Berney (TCD) and Christopher Burke (DCU).

Thanks to all involved on the Organising Committee for making the day such a success!

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European School of Medicinal Chemistry ESMEC, Urbino.

This summer, ClickGene PhD student Nicolò attended the ESMEC Advanced Course of Medicinal Chemistry and Seminar in Urbino, Italy. This 5 day summer school covered topics including medicinal and organic chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology and analytical/ structural chemistry. Nicoloò presented a poster and also gave an oral presentation on the final day of the conference entitled “Artificial metallo-nucleases for gene editing”.

Virginia Commonwealth University visit

A seminar was held this summer to mark the 70th birthday of Prof. Nicholas Farrell. Colleagues and collaborators travelled from around the world to attend this meeting held at Virginia Commonwealth University to celebrate his contribution to the fields of bioinorganic and medicinal chemistry.

Creina wins 2018 YERUN Research Mobility Award

In February of this year, Creina was awarded a prestigious Research Mobility Award from the Young European Research University Network (YERUN) and travelled to the University of Southern Denmark, Odense. This award allowed Creina to travel to SDU in June and gain invaluable experience on the XtaLAB Synergy-S single crystal X-ray diffractometer working alongside with Prof. Vickie McKee (DCU) and Prof. Christine McKenzie (SDU).

Well done Creina!

Outstanding Graduate Award

Today, final year PhD student Natasha McStay was awarded the prestigious DCU Faculty of Science and Health Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award alongside Emma Harper from the School of Biotechnology. This award recognises graduate students of exceptional ability who have made a significant contribution to research within the FSH at DCU.

Congratulations Natasha!


DCU Chemistry Day 2018

Chemistry Day 2018 was a great success for the Kellett research group with 1st year PPtBio PhD student Brionna McGorman winning best short flash presentation and 3rd year ClickGene PhD student Nicolò Zuin Fantoni winning best poster presentation!

On the day, we were joined by visiting ClickGene ESR Georgia Menounou, Erasmus student Emelie Werner and our 4th year Chemical and Pharmaceutical project students Sean O’Halloran and Anna Ziemele.

2018 Spring Conferring

Today, Brionna McGorman graduated from the M.Sc. Biomedical Diagnostics programme run here at DCU. Brionna carried out a 4 month research project in the Kellett Research Group and gained a lot of experience in the molecular biology lab during her project which involved the use of primer extension for the production of short oligos containing modified bases. Brionna has also secured IRC scholarship funding and has since commenced a PhD project entitled “Developing Next Generation Antisense Therapeutics through Nucleic Acid Click Chemistry”.

3rd ClickGene Network Meeting - University of Oxford 18-21st March 2018

ClickGene ESR’s Nicolò Zuin Fantoni, Teresa Lauria, Giuseppe Avella and PPtBio postgrad Sinéad O’Carroll travelled to the 3rd annual ClickGene meeting in the beautiful surroundings of Oriel College at the University of Oxford (UOXF). This 3 day meeting hosted by UOXF and ATDBio included an EU grant application writing workshop delivered by Dr. Jeanette Müller from accelopment AG along with industry visits to both ATDBio Ltd. and Oxford Nanopore Technologies. Keynote lectures from ClickGene PI’s Andrew Kellett, Tom Brown, Thomas Carell and Chrys Chatgilialoglu and a host of researchers from UOXF were delivered on day two. On the final day of the meeting, ESR’s presented an update on recent advances within their own research projects followed by celebratory drinks!

Inorganic Dublin 2017, Trinity College Dublin

Inorganic Dublin 2017 was held in the in the Science Gallery in TCD on 13th December 2017. Zara, Creina and Nicolo attended and presented their research projects during the evening poster session with Zara taking home the prize for best poster!

Presentations from the Kellett group included:

  • Zara Molphy — [Cu2(tetra-(2-pyridyl)-naphthalene)Cl4] Displays Non Intercalative Major Groove Binding and Self-Activating Oxidative DNA Damage (Poster presentation)
  • Creina Slator — Di-Copper Metallodrugs Promote NCI-60 Chemotherapy via Singlet Oxygen and Superoxide Production with Tandem TA/TA and AT/AT Oligonucleotide Discrimination (Oral and poster presentation)
  • Nicolo Fantoni — Caged Copper (II) Oxidative Chemical Nucleases

DNA Damage and Repair: Computations Meet Experiments


Members of the group travelled to the Lorentz Center at Leiden University, Netherlands to take part in a DNA Damage and Repair workshop hosted by collaborators Antonio Monari, Jean-Luc Ravanat and Elise Dumont (October 30th - November 03rd 2017). The workshop lasted 5 days and allowed participants to discuss their research in depth, through a combination of informal talks, working sessions, and discussions.

Presentations from the Kellett research group included:

  • Andrew Kellett – Polynuclear Metallodrug — Nucleic Acid Interactions: New Therapeutic and Biochemical Applications (Oral presentation)
  • Zara Molphy / Creina Slator / Andrew Kellett — [Cu2(tetra-(2-pyridyl)-naphthalene)Cl4] Displays Non Intercalative Major Groove Binding and Self-Activating Oxidative DNA Damage (Oral and poster presentation)
  • Creina Slator / Zara Molphy / Andrew Kellett — Di-Copper Metallodrugs Promote NCI-60 Chemotherapy via Singlet Oxygen and Superoxide Production with Tandem TA/TA and AT/AT Oligonucleotide Discrimination (Oral and poster presentation)

Thanks to Antonio Monari and the organising committee for the invitation to participate!

XVII Symposium on Chemistry of Nucleic Acid Components (SCNAC)

In June 2017, members of the Kellett research group and the ClickGene ETN attended the historic XVII Symposium on Chemistry of Nucleic Acid Components (SCNAC) in the beautiful town of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Czech Republic.

Contributions to this conference covering 5 main themes: (i) organic synthesis of nucleosides, nucleotides and oligonucleotides, (ii)medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, (iii) biochemistry and chemical biology of nucleic acids and (v) nucleic acids based functional molecules and materials.

Plenary lectures were delivered by collaborators Prof. Tomas Carell and Prof. Michal Hocek (Organiser) with almost 100 posters were presented by postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Presentations from the Kellett group included:

  • Andrew Kellett – Polynuclear Metallodrug — Nucleic Acid Interactions: New Therapeutic and Biochemical Applications (Oral presentation)
  • Nicolo Fantoni, Zara Molphy / Andrew Kellett – Artificial Metallo-Nucleases for Gene Editing (Poster presentation)
  • Creina Slator / Zara Molphy / Andrew Kellett — Di-Copper Complexes Promote NCI-60 Chemotherapy by Intracellular Superoxide and Singlet Oxygen Facilitated DNA Damage (Poster presentation)

Postgrads and postdocs enjoyed a paddle down the Vltava River and exploring Český Krumlov town and Castle. Thanks to Michal Hocek and his team at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB, Prague) for a great week of nucleic acid chemistry.

DCU Chemistry Research Day Success!

The DCU School of Chemical Sciences Chemistry Day was held on Friday May 12th. Postgraduate students, Natasha McStay and Nicolo Fantoni presented work from their respective PhD research projects, with Natasha winning the Colin Barnes Prize for Outstanding Postgraduate Research!

Our final year research student, Sinead O'Carroll was one of five undergraduate students to be selected from the outgoing Chemical & Pharmaceutical Sciences and Analytical Science courses to present work conducted in the Kellett research group over her 12-week project working alongside Nicolo!

A great day (and night) was had by all group members and a special thanks goes out to the organising committee!

Opioid Architectures as New DNA Binding Molecules

We have recently published an article entitled “C3-Symmetric Opioid Scaffolds are pH-Responsive DNA Condensation Agents” in the Oxford journal, Nucleic Acid Research. In this article, we report the synthesis of novel tripodal C3-symmetric opioid scaffolds as high-affinity condensation agents of duplex DNA. Through our collaboration with Prof. Nicholas Gathergood (Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia), we achieved the synthesis of these novel opioid structures and evaluated the synthesis through green chemistry metrics, highlighting key synthetic aspects for future work. The opioid scaffolds were identified through agarose electrophoresis, viscosity, and turbidity as effective condensation agents of both supercoiled and canonical B-DNA structures. In collaboration with Prof. Attilio Cafolla (School of Physical Sciences, DCU) we have achieved high-resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) images of the morphological changes of DNA through the condensation affects of these opioid molecules. In the presence of low (mM) drug loading, supercoiled pUC19 DNA exhibited small cluster formation were tight packed is observed at the cluster centre, as the concentration is gradually increased large tightly packed globules of DNA is formed, supporting earlier gel electrophoresis analysis. The tripodal opioid condensation was identified as pH dependent and through thermal melting and circular dichroism; evidence of cationic-phosphate backbone coordination was identified. Further studies by on-chip microfluidic analysis provided concentration-dependent inhibition to site selective excision by type II restriction enzymes. In summary, this work has revealed the discovery of a new high-affinity DNA binding scaffold capable of mediating condensation ostensibly through electrostatic and H-bonding interactions with the phosphate backbone.

This publication has recently made news headlines on the Dublin City University website.

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     AFM images of MC3-treated supercoiled and HindIII linearised pUC19 DNA;  A-D : supercoiled pUC19 with 8, 9, 10, and 20 μM  MC3 ;  E-H : linear pUC19 with 5, 10, 20, and 50  m M  MC3 .

AFM images of MC3-treated supercoiled and HindIII linearised pUC19 DNA; A-D: supercoiled pUC19 with 8, 9, 10, and 20 μM MC3; E-H: linear pUC19 with 5, 10, 20, and 50 mM MC3.

35th ChemEd-Ireland Conference

Integrating Research and Practice in Chemistry Teaching and Learning

The Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching & Learning (CASTeL) today (22nd October) hosted the 35th ChemEd-Ireland conference at Dublin City University with the Kellett group and H2020 ITN project ClickGene involved throughout. The theme of the ChemEd-Ireland conference was “Integrating Research and Practice in Chemistry Teaching and Learning” that allowed chemistry school teachers gain new knowledge in area of chemistry research and in practical research skills. A number of seminars were given at the meeting, including one by Dr. Andrew Kellett on “Inorganic Chemistry in Medicine”. Afterward, teachers had the chance to access our laboratories both in the NICB and NRF buildings, shadowing our postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers in some bioinorganic and synthetic chemistry related experiments. Here they had the opportunity to synthesize Sigman’s salt [Cu(Phenanthroline)2]+ (CuPhen) and learn how this agent acts to damage DNA by free radical oxidation. Furthermore, teachers had an opportunity to learn about ‘Click Chemistry’ promoted by the copper(I)-catalyzed alkyne-azide cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction and these reactions represent some of the fundamental science behind the ClickGene project. The teachers experienced some further analytical techniques by using UV-Vis to detect and quantify the presence of various duplex DNA polymers. Finally, a workshop for the detection of DNA oxidative damage by gel-electrophoresis was run within the NICB molecular biological laboratories.