Dr Kevin Lam

Dr Kevin Lam BSc, MSc, PhD, MRSC

Reader in Medicinal Chemistry

Key details

Dr Kevin Lam
BSc, MSc, PhD, MRSC

Reader in Medicinal Chemistry


In 2010, Dr Kevin Lam received his PhD in Medicinal and Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, under the supervision of Professor Istvan Marko. His doctoral work explored the use of electrochemistry and photochemistry as green alternatives to activate organic molecules. This work resulted in the development of a new radical-based deoxygenation reaction (the Lam-Marko reaction).

After his PhD, he moved to the University of Vermont (UVM). His research focused on applying analytical/physical electrochemistry alongside spectroscopy to study the complex redox behaviour of organometallic compounds.

This work bolstered the use of weakly coordinating electrolytes/solvents as an electrochemical medium to allow for the generation and characterisation of highly reactive and unstable 17e- organometallic radical-cations. Additional work at UVM led to the pioneering of a new method to modify electrode surfaces through an ethynyl linkage. The covalent attachment of molecules to an electrode surface is fundamental to the field of molecular electronics and numerous material applications.

In 2013, he accepted a position of Assistant Professor at Nazarbayev University in Astana. During his time in Kazakhstan, Kevin developed a new research program in the field of Molecular Electrochemistry. His work led to the development of new organometallic anticancer compounds as well as to the discovery of novel, efficient and green electrocatalysts for CO2 recycling.

In 2017, Kevin accepted a Reader position in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Greenwich in the U.K. where he continues his interdisciplinary research.

Responsibilities within the university

Course Participation

  • Elements of Drug Discovery (Level 4) 
  • Further Organic Chemistry (Level 5) 
  • Intermediate Chemistry (Level 5) 
  • Advanced Organic Chemistry 1 (Level 6) 
  • Advanced Organic Chemistry 2 (Level 6) 
  • BSc Research Project (Level 6) 
  • Medicinal Chemistry and Biological Chemistry (Level 7) 
  • MChem Research Project 
  • MSc Research Project

Recognition

  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)
  • Member of the American Chemical Society
  • Member of the Electrochemical Society
  • Member of the Vermont Cancer Center
  • Member of the Societé Royale de Chimie (Belgium)

Key projects

Our laboratory is currently studying the syntheses of a variety of biologically active molecules with important pharmacological properties. We are particularly interested in developing new organometallic drugs. The concise synthesis of such molecules is a challenge that stimulates us to develop new synthetic methodologies that enable the construction of several bonds and/or rings in a single step and control the chiral centres formed in the process. Much to our delight, our first molecules are now receiving patents in the United States.

Although our research is usually presented in several subgroups, such as the development of new and efficient synthetic methodologies or organometallic chemistry, our topics are thoroughly integrated. For example, various chemical syntheses rely upon the development of new and efficient organometallic catalysts or the use of a new method of activation such as electrochemistry. This close overlap in our research topics has led us to bring our findings all together in a single place.

1. Activation of Organic Molecules Using Electrochemistry

Electrosynthesis is a powerful tool in organic chemistry that circumvents the previous issues by allowing to generate radicals under mild and green conditions. Even though a plethora of transformations have been developed and many of them were successfully used in several industrial processes, the potential of preparative organic electrochemistry remains largely underestimated. However, the growing impetus to look for greener and cheaper alternatives to classic synthetic methodologies prompted us to investigate further new electrochemical methodologies.

We recently developed novel electrochemical methodologies to access highly reactive intermediates such as benzoyloxy and oxycarbonyl radicals.

2. Medicinal Electrochemistry –  Collaboration with Professor Claire Verschraegen (James Hospital – Ohio State University)

Our group combined medicinal chemistry, organic synthesis and electrochemistry to develop a new research field: Medicinal Electrochemistry. Our unique approach is to use electrochemistry not only as a way to prepare new libraries of redox active compounds but also as a way to investigate their bioelectrochemical properties. As a result, we developed and patented a new class of organometallic anticancer compounds called Cymanquine 

3. Electrocatalysed Reduction of Carbon Dioxide – Collaboration with Professor Richard Kemp (Sandia National Laboratories / University of New Mexico – USA)

While many serious issues and problems now face the human population, perhaps the ones with the largest effects on the long-term viability and success of the planet's inhabitants are those of energy availability and global climate change. These two issues are in part connected in a chemical sense via the simple carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule.

 Despite the view that main group (s and p block) elements are often considered relatively "simple" elements, Professor Kemp has found in his previous work that unusual and surprising chemical behaviour is often demonstrated by complexes of these metals.  

Ideally, our overall concept for the preparation of a new CO2 electroreduction catalyst is to use a) an inexpensive, earth-abundant metal complex, in b) a solvent system that is "green" (ultimately water or ionic liquids), under c) mild conditions of temperature and pressure, to d) interact with and reduce CO2 to either CO or other small molecules that can be converted into transportation fuels by known catalytic processes, e.g., Fischer-Tropsch, by e) using free electrons capable of being generated by renewable means such as electrochemistry.

The overall concept consists in making an electro-catalyst bearing a Lewis acid and a Lewis base. Much to our delight, the first generation of electrocatalysts has proven to be efficient in reducing CO2 into CO, however, the exact mechanism is still under investigation.