Burgert Blom

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Theme 1: Anti-Cancer Chemistry:


Cancer is a deadly disease which plagues humanity. One of the most successful treatment options involve chemotherapy, which is the administration of drugs to reduce tumor growth. Platinum based drugs occupy a vital part of this treatment, but these drugs are accompanied with severe side-effects. Scientists are hence searching other transition metal complexes as potential answers to this ongoing issue.

In 2016 a research area addressing these challenges was established by B. Blom at the MSP in collaboration with the EPFL in Switzerland (Prof. Paul Dyson), the University of Cape Town Medical School (Prof. Sharon Price) and Chemistry Department (Dr. Siyabonga Ngubane), the Technische Universitaet Graz (Dr. Judith Baumgartner/Prof. Christoph Marschner), and AMIBM at Maastricht University (Dr. Dario Romano). We are currently pursuing, in a rational way, novel metal-based systems for potential anti-cancer applications, and considering agents which are suitable for further detailed biological mechanistic and pre-clinical studies.

We have two main focal areas:

  1.  Combining group 8 transition metals (Fe, Ru, Os) with group 14 elements such as germanium (Ge) and tin (Sn).  While in our studies, sigma bound germyl or stannyl groups (ER3) attached to netural ruthenium complexes seem to retard cytotoxic action, we have found that the formation of ionic complexes bearing Ge and Sn as counter ions (EX3-) combined with the elements Ru in the cation results in extremely potent anti-cancer agents.
  2. Synthesis of neutral and ionic bimetallic complexes bearing two transition metals (Fe and Ru) tethered by a bridging ligand. Two metal centres seem enhance in vitro cytotoxicity on numerous cell-lines compared to positive controls like cisplatin, showing possible synergic effects

Theme 2: Catalysis:


In a close collaboration between AMIBM (Dr Dario Romano) and MSP (Burgert Blom) and we have been focusing on the development of Vanadium and group IV (Ti) based catalysts that polymerise alkenes to make high molecular weight polymers (UHMWPE, in particular). These catalyst precursors tend to be highly reactive and advanced synthetic (Schlenk and glove-box) techniques are employed. The emerging polymerisation reactions are carried out at high pressures and the polymers characterised by advanced techniques including Rheology and DSC.  We are also engaged in mechanistic studies of how these complexes are activated with co-catalysts.

We also enjoy a collaboration with Prof Axel Klein (University of Cologne) who is involved in catalytically relevant Ni(II) and Pd(II) complexes and have a vigorous student exchange with his group. We have also interacted with Christian van Slagmaat who developed iron-based catalysts in collaboration with two of our students.


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