‘Magic Bullet’ Cancer Drugs and Antibiotics


We are building new kinds of cancer drugs and antibiotics: molecules that change their behaviour in the presence of their biological target, being chemically activated only when they bind their biomolecular target. In parallel projects we are developing (i) new compounds to be  activated by interactions with cancer cells (enabling new detection methods for cancer, and new anti-cancer agents); and (ii) new antibacterial agents activated by the enzymes that impart antibiotic resistance to bacteria (giving ‘resistance-activated’ antibiotics).


Associate Professor Peter Rutledge, Associate Professor Matthew Todd

Research Location

School of Chemistry

Program Type



This project combines organic synthesis with coordination chemistry and protein chemistry to develop new drugs that target bacterial infection and cancerous cells. Using organic chemistry (macrocycle synthesis, peptide chemistry and the copper-catalysed azide/alkyne cycloaddition reaction) we will assemble structures in which a macrocyclic core (e.g. cyclam, cyclen, TACN) is appended to the biomolecular ligand. A metal ion coordinated by the macrocycle is silenced when the biomolecular ligand also coordinates, but when this ligand meets its macromolecular target, the ligand-:-target interaction unmasks the metal and initiates new reactivity at the metal centre. Harnessing this new reactivity to achieve a selective cytotoxic response is the aim of this project. For a demonstration of the general concept behind this project see <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1002.ejic.201601474" target="_blank">DOI: 10.1002.ejic.201601474</a>.

Additional Information

Working on this project, you will use organic synthesis, spectroscopic techniques including 1H and 13C NMR, IR and mass spectroscopy and chromatography. You will have the opportunity to develop further skills in some or all of: coordination chemistry, crystallography, chemical biology and enzyme chemistry. Prior experience in one or more of these areas would be an advantage, but is not required.Laboratory costs (chemicals, consumables, spectroscopy) will be covered through existing funding in the group, however direct funding for fees or scholarships is not currently available from within the group. Australian and New Zealand citizens should apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award, International Students should apply for scholarship funding through the International Office and Science Faculty schemes.

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Keywords : antibiotics, bacterial resistance, Cancer, click reaction, macrocycles, Medicinal chemistry, synthesis

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1549

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Peter Rutledge

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Matthew Todd