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AITHM Seminar: E./Prof Richard Keene: METALS IN MEDICINE . . . journeying beyond platinum

01 November 2019, 3:00pm - 01 November 2019, 4:00pm

Townsville 48.202 video conference to Cairns E5.101, external https://jcu.zoom.us/j/618653381

For half a century, platinum species – such as cisplatin – have dominated the field of metal-based agents as therapeutic drugs, with an estimated 70% of cancer patients receiving that compound as part of their treatment.  However, there are a number of problems in the clinical application of such platinum compounds – including limitations in the range of cancers against which they are effective, the development of resistance, and severe adverse reactions.  But as a consequence of the clinical success and limitations of platinum-based anticancer drugs, there has been considerable interest in the development of alternative strategies based upon other transition metals, and in particular ruthenium.

This seminar will showcase a diverse range of ruthenium compounds – many developed at JCU – that exhibit significant biological activity . . . ranging from specificity in their interaction with nucleic acids per se, to cytotoxicity and therapeutic potential as anti-cancer, -bacterial, -parasitic, and -fungal agents.   The series of compounds has significant capacity for deliberate modular modification which allows control of their biological interactions, and the relationship between their chemical structure and biological processing (e.g. cellular uptake and localisation) in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells will be discussed.   Importantly, recent studies have shown these compounds can exhibit anticancer, antimicrobial and antiparasitic activity in vivo, which provides “proof of concept” that this class of metal-based agent has real clinical potential.


Richard Keene graduated as a PhD in inorganic chemistry from the University of Adelaide in 1973.  Following postdoctoral appointments at the Australian National University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (USA), he returned to Australia and was appointed in 1978 to James Cook University (Townsville, Queensland), from where he retired in 2012 as a Distinguished Professor.  He has held invited Visiting Professorial positions in the UK (Oxford University, University of Sheffield), USA (Stanford University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, University of North Carolina), Japan (Osaka University, Tokyo Institute of Technology), Germany (Universität Leipzig), France (Université Louis Pasteur de Strasbourg, Université Paul Sabatier {Toulouse}), Switzerland (Université de Fribourg), New Zealand (University of Canterbury in Christchurch), and in Australia at Monash University, UNSW Canberra (Australian Defence Force Academy) and the University of Sydney.

Richard has been the recipient of a number of awards for his research (including the Rennie Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute – a national award to the top early-career researcher in any area of the chemical sciences) and he has been a Fulbright Scholar. 

Richard has over 200 publications (journals, monographs) in a number of areas of coordination chemistry, but his recent research interests have centred primarily on the stereochemistry of metallosupramolecular assemblies and its effect on their physical properties – in particular intramolecular electron transfer – and their interactions with biological molecules such a nucleic acids.  This latter interest has extended over the last two decades to the efficacy of oligonuclear complexes as anticancer, antimicrobial, antiparasitic and antifungal agents.  Richard was awarded a Personal Chair by JCU in 1997, a DSc by the University of Adelaide in 1998, and was conferred as an Emeritus Professor on his retirement from JCU.  He is currently an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and is an Adjunct Professor within the Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine (AITHM) at JCU.

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