Date: August 2015
Virginia Tech | Chemistry
Joseph S. Merola

I have had quite a varied career since receiving my Ph.D. in 1978. I worked at the Corporate Research Laboratories at Exxon Research and Engineering in New Jersey for nine years carrying out research on metal carbonyl complexes and their ability to catalyze chemical reactions. It was a great place to work, but I missed working with students and, in 1987, I was provided with the opportunity to join the chemistry faculty at Virginia Tech and I jumped at the chance. Since 1987, I have worn a lot of hats at Virginia Tech: teacher, researcher, associate dean, dean, senior administrative fellow, and department chair. After my various stints in administration, I decided to return to being a faculty member full time and trying to reestablish a research program. We know that getting funding in the current climate is extremely difficult, made even more so when there is a gap in funding and research productivity.

We became very interested in metal complexes of amino acids both for their catalytic activity and their potential bioactivity. We were surprised to find that, while amino acids as chelaters for metals had been studied, there were actually quite a few gaps in the literature where we believed we could make a contribution. So, the net result over the past few years is that we have made some interesting contributions to the literature. There are two papers especially in which we acknowledge the Hamilton syringe grant:

Hobart, D. B., M. A. G. Berg and J. S. Merola (2014). “Bis-glycinato complexes of palladium(II): Synthesis, structural determination, and hydrogen bonding interactions.

Inorg. Chim. Acta 423(Part_A): 21-30. Morris, D. M., M. McGeagh, D. De Pena and J. S. Merola (2014). “Extending the range of pentasubstituted cyclopentadienyl compounds: The synthesis of a series of tetramethyl(alkyl or aryl)cyclopentadienes (Cp*R), their iridium complexes and their catalytic activity for asymmetric transfer hydrogenation.” Polyhedron 84: 120-135.

The above papers deal with the preparations of various kinds of amino acid complexes of palladium, in the first case, and iridium in the latter paper.

With no funding beside the few thousand dollars I donate to my own cause, the Hamilton Syringe grant was a huge enable for our research program. We use syringes of all sizes and shapes for syntheses, for microbiology studies and for gc and lc injections. There is not a part of our program that has not been aided by this grant. Our complexes of certain metals with amino acids have been shown to be active against mycobacteria including tuberculosis(TB) . Our latest work for which a paper will soon be forthcoming has shown that diamines complexes of transition metals show significant activity against various forms of S. aureus including methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA).

We are hopeful that the preliminary results we have in this area aided by the Hamilton grant will lead to future funding and the development of these new anti-microbial compounds. Some anti-mycobacterial compounds:

Anti-MRSA diamines and its time/kill curve:

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