Dr James Bull


James Bull

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Job title: EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellow
Division: Department of Chemistry
Organisation: Imperial College London
Tags: Fellowship: Career Acceleration Fellowship, Imperial College London
Related theme: Physical Sciences


James received his PhD in 2007 from University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor Ley then spent two years at Université de Montréal with Prof Charette. In 2009 he joined Imperial College London as a Ramsay Memorial Research Fellow and in 2011 was awarded an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship.

My Fellowship

My research focuses on the development of new chemical methods for the synthesis of diverse molecular frameworks, which have the potential to be lead compounds in drug discovery. There is considerable interest in the pharmaceutical industry in the use of more 3-dimensional (less planar) compounds as starting points for medicinal chemists to develop new medicines. The efficient synthesis of these complex structures from simple, readily available starting materials is of fundamental interest and a synthetic challenge.

This fellowship aims to develop synthetic and catalytic methods to access novel 4-, 5- and 6-membered heterocycles, with defined 3D arrangements, which access new chemical space. Heterocycles, ring structures that contain at least one oxygen or nitrogen atom in the ring, are essential components of drug compounds. Chiral heterocycles in particular offer ideal properties for quality lead compounds, being small with desirable physical properties as well as having defined shapes, which is crucial to structural and binding interactions with biological systems.

Our approach is to develop novel chiral heterocycles likely to be of use in medicinal chemistry and designed to allow functionalisation of the intact ring to efficiently furnish a much wider range of derivatives. Our research is driven by interest in fundamental reactivity and novel structural types, as well as their application in medicinal chemistry. Notably we have developed a new approach to the synthesis of oxetane derivatives (4-membered rings containing oxygen), and prepared collections of novel oxetane containing fragments that show ideal properties for screening in drug discovery.

Career benefits of Fellowship

This Fellowship allowed me to establish an independent research group, and so was crucial to the development of my career. It has been a platform from which to tackle both the proposed research and also provided the status to develop a much wider range of research interests and collaborations around the central topic.