Franklin and Oxford Pharmacology join forces

The Rosalind Franklin Institute and the University of Oxford’s Department of Pharmacology have entered into a strategic partnership for Next Generation Chemistry.

Formed around the lab of Professor Ben Davis, Director of Next Generation Chemistry at The Franklin, the partnership will see bilateral movement of researchers between the Franklin and Oxford, widening access to the cutting-edge facilities at Harwell.

Professor Frances Platt, Head of Department at the University of Oxford’s Department of Pharmacology said, “I am delighted that Professor Davis will be joining our department – his research is an excellent fit with existing research taking place in Pharmacology that has a major focus on the interface between chemistry and biology in health and disease. This partnership with The Franklin offers a wealth of exciting opportunities for our research and academic staff to form new collaborations with world-leading scientists and facilities at the Franklin.”

One of the key aims for the Davis group is to perform ‘in-cell chemistry’ – editing proteins and other biomolecules within the cell for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. This work is revolutionary in its approach, and is highly complementary to other Franklin themes, including mass spectrometry imaging, structural biology, and correlated imaging.

Professor Davis said “This collaboration means a huge amount to my group, who will be able to carry out their work in two of the best places to explore the chemistry of life in the country. We are all incredibly excited to get started and have felt very welcomed. ”

Recent collaborative publications from the Davis group include work on borylation of proteins – introducing new function via the element boron to proteins, as well as the light-mediated editing of proteins to change their primary sequence without the need for classical genetic or other ‘gene-editing’ approaches.

The Davis group are currently trying to understand the role that interaction with host (human) sugars may play in the function of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In 2021, an international collaboration including the Davis group also uncovered the role of LanCL proteins, by using protein editing amongst other methods to solve a 20-year mystery of their function and pointing to a new pathway of protein repair that may be present in many higher organisms. Read more about this here.