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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V040049/1
Title: Shapeshifting Molecules
Principal Investigator: McGonigal, Dr P R
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Edinburgh University of Southern California
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2021 Ends: 30 September 2026 Value (£): 1,194,270
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Synthetic Methodology
Co-ordination Chemistry Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Apr 2021 EPSRC Physical Sciences 21 and 22 April 2021 Announced
14 Jun 2021 EPSRC Physical Sciences Fellowship Interviews June 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Different sequences of atoms give molecules with distinct shapes. This shape is key to a molecule's properties, e.g., its biological effect when binding proteins. Conventionally, the atomic sequence of a molecule is fixed. This proposal, however, investigates molecules that break free from this dogma. 'Shapeshifting' molecules adapt their atomic sequences to match their surroundings.

During this Early Career Fellowship, the project team and I will establish methods to control shapeshifting molecules. We will pioneer their applications in catalysis, drugs, and plastics. We expect to discover rare properties, such as plastics made from molecular networks that spontaneously tangle and untangle, making them uniquely strong and flexible. We will also answer open questions about how shapeshifting molecules adapt when they interact with other molecules, quantifying changes in their structures. This knowledge will allow us to make shapeshifting molecules that mould themselves to match complex biological targets implicated in disease.

By the end of the grant, we will have shown how shapeshifting molecules differ from conventional materials. We will have also demonstrated the first of their many possible applications in biology and soft materials. These fundamental, chemical advances establish a new research area that will have broad impacts in biochemistry, materials physics and engineering.

Key Findings
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Summary
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