Professor Angela Casini
Chair of Medicinal and Bioinorganic Chemistry
Our research interests are in Medicinal Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry. In particular the study of the role of metal ions in biological systems and of the mechanisms of action of metal-based anticancer agents are active topics of our research program. Besides synthetic inorganic chemistry and structural characterization of new metal complexes, we strongly focus on an intensive biological evaluation of the new compounds as possible therapeutic agents, and on the investigation of their mechanisms of action via the implementation of biophysical and analytical techniques coupled to pharmacological methods. Furthermore, novel applications for metal-based compounds/scaffolds are explored in various domains of chemical biology, bio-analytical chemistry and physiology. For more information, click on the 'Research' tab above.
The main topics developed in our lab include:
- Design and synthesis of coordination and organometallic gold complexes for biological applications: as therapeutic agents and chemical probes.
- Molecular investigations of metal compounds' interactions with biologically active ligands (e.g. proteins, nucleic acids)
- Development of supramolecular assemblies as drug delivery systems.
- Synthesis of photoactivable metal compounds.
- Development of chemical strategies to couple metal compounds to biomolecules.
A link to the group website will be added soon.
PhD in Chemical Sciences at the University of Florence (2004). Postdoctoral fellow at the Dulbecco Telethon Institute, University of Pisa (2004-2005). Principal Investigator at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, "Ambizione" program) (2008-2011). Assistant professor at the University of Groningen and Rosalind Franklin Fellow (2011-2015). Since 2015: Chair of Medicinal and Bioinorganic Chemistry, Cardiff School of Chemistry.
2012 European Medal for Biological Inorganic Chemistry (EUROBIC11 award -11th European Biological Inorganic Chemistry Conference); 2014 Early career investigator at the Gordon Research Conference Metals in Medicine "New Frontiers". 2016 August-Wilhelm Scheer Visiting Professorship at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and “Honorary Fellow” of the prestigious institute for Advanced Study of TUM (IAS-TUM). Listed by Thomson Reuters as one of the "Worlds most influential scientific minds of 2014" in the field of Pharmacology.
The main research themes are:
1 - Development of metal-based compounds as proteins/enzyme inhibitors
The challenge is to discover the unique properties of metal compounds as modulators (inhibitors or activators) of proteins/enzyme activities, and to exploit them for different therapeutic and imaging purposes or as molecular biological tools is an important part of our research.
2 - Design of gold complexes as selective inhibitors of aquaporins
We have recently identified the aquaporins (AQPs), membrane water and glycerol channels with crucial roles in normal human physiology and pathophysiology, as possible target systems for gold compounds. Selective inhibition of AQPs by gold complexes may provide an innovative approach to targeted therapies in different diseases (e.g. cancer, fibrosis, angiogenesis). Moreover, the use of potent and selective inhibitors will help unravelling the various roles of AQPs in health and disease.
3 - Metal-based linkers to achieve targeted therapeutic agents
A main aim of this project is to bind drug and targeting moiety (e.g. antibody) robustly together via a metal-based linker to guarantee that the drug remains tightly bound to the conjugate in the bloodstream until selective drug releases at the target site (e.g. cancer cells/tissues). Importantly, the linker should not interfere with the chemical and biological properties of the drug and the targeting group.
4 - Metallocages as drug delivery systems
Metal-mediated self-assemblies of the general formula MxLy (M = metal ion, L = ligand) have emerged as a promising research area of supramolecular chemistry because of their applicability in various fields such as molecular recognition, catalysis and drug delivery. So far, only few studies have been reported on the biological effects of these chemical scaffolds in cells, and there is still limited proof of their ability to act as drug delivery systems. Thus, new M2L4 metallocages with photophysical properties will be synthesized to be tested as drug delivery systems and to be coupled to biomolecules as targeting moieties. The assessment of their toxicity in biological environments will proceed in parallel to their chemical design.
5 - Metal compounds to improve Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MSI)
The use of metal compounds as possible tools to enhance resolution in mass spectrometry imaging techniques is another recent area of interest in our group which includes the synthesis and bio-conjugation of different families of transition metal compounds to peptides/antibodies to implement MSI in complex biological samples (e.g. tissues).