School of Life Sciences

Spencer Lab

Welcome to the Spencer group website.
Professor of Bioorganic Chemistry.


Exciting news;

iCASE Award (2019-) PhD. Started Sept 2019 (GSK/EPSRC) with G Giamas (co-PI).

Thai Royal Government PhD, started.

Leverhulme grant awarded (Spencer, Hughes, Sussex co-Is), Bath lead project. 

Professor Andrew Burrows (PI) University of Bath; The controlled release of semiochemicals from porous materials for pest control; £291,808.

 3 PhDs with Prof Dave Goulson (PI)  (DEFRA and SongBird Survival) awarded.


 We are grateful to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for funding LabFact under the lnterreg V Programme. To find out more about LabFact please go to: or e-mail


  jd1 cryst

jd1Cover Feb 10  2020

Storm Hassell-Hart, Andrew Runcie,Tobias Krojer,  Jordan Doyle, Ella Lineham,  Cory A. Ocasio,  Brenno A. D. Neto, Oleg Fedorov, Graham Marsh, Hannah Maple, Robert Felix, Rebecca Banks, Alessio Ciulli, Sarah Picaud, Panagis Filippakopoulos, Frank von Delft, Paul Brennan,  Helen J. S. Stewart, Timothy J. Chevassut, Martin Walker, Carol Austin, Simon Morley,  and John Spencer*. Synthesis and Biological Investigation of (+)-JD1, an Organometallic BET Bromodomain Inhibitor. Organometallics, 2020, 39, 408-416.

Targeting cavity-creating p53 cancer mutations: the Y220X paradigm. Matthias R. Bauer, Andreas Krämer, Giovanni Settani, Rhiannon N. Jones,  Raysa Khan Tareque, Alan R. Fersht, John Spencer& Andreas C. Joerger, ACS Chem. Biol. 2020, accepted.

Sansook, SupojjaneeHassell-Hart, StormOcasio, Cory and Spencer, John. Ferrocenes in medicinal chemistry; a personal perspective. Journal of Organometallic Chemistry 2020905, 121017.

Bauer, MatthiasJones, Alice RhiannonKhan, RaysaSpringett, BradleyDingler, FelixVerduci, LorenaPatel, KetanFersht, AlanJoerger, Andreas and Spencer, John (2019) A structure-guided molecular chaperone approach for restoring the transcriptional activity of the p53 cancer mutant Y220C. Future Medicinal Chemistry. ISSN 1756-8919 ; (2019) 11(19), 2491–2504



fmc p53

Commandeur, DanielBrown, GrantMcnulty, PeterDadswell, ChristopherSpencer, John and Chen, Qiao (2019) Yttrium doped ZnO nanorod arrays for increased charge mobility and carrier density for enhanced solar water splitting. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C. ISSN 1932-7455

Spencer, JohnGascon, Jose MiguelOliveri, ValentinaMcGown, AndrewKaya, EcemChen, yu-linAustin, CarolWalker, MartinPlatt, Frances and Vecchio, Graziella (2019) Synthesis and study of novel multifunctional cyclodextrin‐deferasirox hybrids. ChemMedChem. ISSN 1860-7179


Cover article!









Stampani, Stavroula IMcGown, AndrewVargas, AlfredoAbdul-Sada, AlaaTizzard, Graham JColes, Simon JSpencer, John and Kostakis, George E  Solvent-free synthesis and key intermediate isolation in Ni2Dy2 catalyst development in the domino ring-opening electrocyclization reaction of furfural and amines. J. Org. Chem., 2019, 84, 116858-116867.

Neto, Brenno DCarvalho, Pedro H P RCorrea, Jose RPaiva, KarenBaril, MicheleMachado, DanielScholten, Jackson Dde Souza, Paulo Eduardo NarcizoVeiga-Souza, Fabiane and Spencer, John (2019) When the strategies for cellular selectivity fail. Challenges and surprises in the design and application of fluorescent benzothiadiazole derivatives for mitochondrial staining. Org. Chem. Front., 2019, 6, 2371-2384.

Baguña Torres, JuliaYu, ZilinBordoloi, JayantaSunassee, KavithaSmith, DavidSmith, ClaireChen, OscarPurchase, RupertTuschl, KarinSpencer, JohnPlatt, Frances and Blower, Philip J (2019) Imaging of changes in copper trafficking and redistribution in a mouse model of Niemann-Pick C disease using positron emission tomography. BioMetals.

Commandeur, DanielBrown, GrantHills, EdwardSpencer, John and Chen, Qiao (2019) Defect-rich ZnO nanorod arrays for efficient solar water splitting. ACS Applied Nano Materials, 2 (3). pp. 1570-1578. 

Luparello, ClaudioAsaro, Dalia Maria LuciaCruciata, IleniaHassell-Hart, StormSansook, SupojjaneeSpencer, Johnand Caradonna, Fabio (2019) Cytotoxic activity of the histone deacetylase 3-Selective inhibitor Pojamide on MDA-MB-231 triple-negative breast cancer cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20 (4). 804 1-14. 





Nice to see one of ours excelling in Niemann Pick C research:


We're in the news!


VIP visitor, David De Semir (PHIP collaborator) from California Pacific:




Research Fellow, Raysa:


New grant:

Our new RISE network is now starting on lysosomal storage disorders:




EPSRC grant awarded!


 EU grant with Southampton, Caen, Rouen:


 Invited talk at SCI meeting:

2018 Papers

 1. Roffe, Gavin, Boonseng, Sarote, Cox, Hazel and Spencer, John   (2018) Unsymmetrical Pincer palladacycles: synthesis and reactivity.          In:    Morales-Morales, David (ed.)      Pincer compounds: chemistry and applications.            Elsevier.     ISBN 9780128129319     (Accepted)

2. Tuo, Wei, Bollier, Mélanie, Leleu-Chavain, Natascha, Lemaire, Lucas, Barczyk, Amélie, Dezitter, Xavier, Klupsch, Frédérique, Szczepanski, Fabien, Spencer, John, Chavatte, Philippe and Millet, Régis   (2018) Development of novel oxazolo[5,4- d ]pyrimidines as competitive CB 2 neutral antagonists based on scaffold hopping.    European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.         ISSN 0223-5234    

3. Spencer, John and Walden, Ben, eds.   (2018) Special focus: metals in medicine.    Future Medicinal Chemistry.  10(6), 607–609.    ISSN 1756-8919.

 4. Lineham, Ella, Tizzard, Graham J, Coles, Simon J, Spencer, John and Morley, Simon   (2018) Synergistic effects of inhibiting the MNK-eIF4E and PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathways on cell migration in MDA-MB-231 cells.    Oncotarget.

5. Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Ferrocene-based Cannabinoid Receptor-2 Ligands Sansook, S.; Wei Tuo, W.; Bollier, M.; Barczyk, A.; Dezitter, X.; Klupsch, F.; Leleu-Chavain, N.; Farce, A.; Tizzard, G. J.; Coles, S. J.; Spencer, J.; Millet, R.*. Fut. Med. Chem. 2018, 10 (6), 631-638.

6. Ansell, M. B., Furfari, S. K.,Cloke, F. G. N.,Roe, S. M., Spencer, J.,* Navarro, O.* Comparison of the Reactivity of the Low Buried-Volume Carbene Complexes (ITMe)2Pd(PhC≡CPh) and (ITMe)2Pd(PhN=NPh). Organometallics. 2018, in press.

 Organomet 2018 

7.  Probing the Anticancer Action of Novel Ferrocene Analogues of MNK Inhibitors.  Supojjanee Sansook, Ella Lineham, Storm Hassell-Hart, Graham J. Tizzard, Simon J. Coles, John Spencer* and Simon J. Morley*. Molecules 2018, 23, 2126; doi:10.3390/molecules23092126.

8.  Type II kinase inhibitors targeting Cys-gatekeeper kinases display orthogonality with wild type and Ala/Gly-gatekeeper kinases. Cory A. Ocasio*, Alexander A. Warkentin, Patrick J. McIntyre, Krister J. Barkovich, Clare Vesely, John Spencer, Kevan M. Shokat and Richard Bayliss. ACS Chem. Biol. 2018, 13, 2956−2965.




1. Transition Metal Catalyzed Hetero Element-Element’ Additions to Alkynes. Ansell, M. B.*; Navarro, O.*; Spencer, J.* Coord. Chem. Rev. 2017, 36, 54-77.


2. A Ruthenium Anticancer Compound Interacts with Histones and Impacts Differently on Epigenetic and Death Pathways Compared to Cisplatin. Licona, C., Spaety M.-E.,, Capuozzo, A., Ali, M.,; Rita, S..; Armat, O..; Delalande, F; Van Dorsselaer, A., Sarah C., Spencer,  J., Pfeffer M., Mellitzer G., Gaiddon C. Oncotarget, 2017, 8 (2), 2568-2584.



 3. Therapeutic Potential of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase, Monoacylglycerol Lipase, and N-Acylethanolamine Acid Amidase Inhibitors. Tuo, W.; Leleu-Chavain, N.; Spencer, J.; Sansook, S.; Millet, R.;  Chavatte, P. J. Med. Chem. 2017, 60, 4−46.

4. Rationalization of the Mechanism of in situ Pd(0) Formation for Cross-Coupling Reactions from Novel Unsymmetrical Pincer Palladacycles Using DFT Calculations. Boonseng, S.; Roffe, G. W.; Targema; M.;  Cox, H.; Spencer, J. J. Organomet. Chem. 2017, 845, 71-81.

5.  Khan, R.;  Boonseng, S.;  Kemmitt, P.; Felix, R.; Coles, S. J.; Tizzard, G. J.; Williams, G;  Simmonds, O., Harvey, J.-L.; Atack, J.; Cox, H.; Spencer, J.; Combining Sanford Arylations on Benzodiazepines with the Nuisance Effect. Adv. Synth. Catal. 2017,  359, 3261-3269.


 6. Khan, R.; Marsh, G.; Felix, R.; Kemmitt, P. D.; Baud, M. G. J.; Ciulli, A.;  Spencer, J.* Gram Scale Laboratory Synthesis of TC AC 28, a High Affinity BET Bromodomain Ligand. ACS Omega, 20172 (8), pp 4328–4332.



7. Lineham, Ella, Spencer, John and Morley, Simon   (2017) Dual abrogation of Mnk and mTOR; a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of aggressive cancers.    Future Medicinal Chemistry.        (Accepted).

8. Pojamide: An HDAC3-Selective Ferrocene Analogue with Remarkably Enhanced Redox-Triggered Ferrocenium Activity in Cells. Cory A. Ocasio, Supojjanee Sansook, Rhiannon Jones, Justin M. Roberts, Thomas G. Scott, Nikolaos Tsoureas, Peter Coxhead, Matthew Guille, Graham J. Tizzard, Simon J. Coles, Helfrid Hochegger, James E. Bradner and John Spencer. Organometallics 2017, 36, 3276–3283.



9.  N1-Arylation of 1,4-Benzodiazepines with Diaryliodonium Salts. Khan, R.; Felix, R.; Kemmitt, P. D.; Coles, Simon J.; Tizzard, G. J.; Spencer, J.*  Synlett. 2017, accepted, now published, 2018, 29, 193.



10. Synthesis of Kinase Inhibitors Containing a Pentafluorosulfanyl Moiety. Sansook, S.;  Ocasio, C. A.; Tizzard, G. J.; Coles, S. J.; Fedorov, O.; Bennett, J. M; Elkins, J.; Spencer, J.* Org. Biomol. Chem. 2017, 15, 8655- 8660 .




2016 papers

17. Synthesis of Functionalized Hydrazines: Facile Homogenous (N-Heterocyclic Carbene)-Pd(0) Catalyzed Diboration and Silaboration of Azobenzenes. Ansell, M. B.;  Kostakis, G. E.;  Braunschweig, H.*; Navarro,O.*; Spencer, J. * Adv. Synth. Catal. 2016, 358, 3765 –3769.

A most accessed paper of 11/2016:


16. Ocasio, Tony, Rajasekaran, Mohan, Walker, Sarah, Le Grand, Darren, Spencer, John, Pearl, Frances, Ward, Simon, Savic, Velibor, Pearl, Laurence, Hochegger, Helfrid and Oliver, Antony (2016) A first generation inhibitor of human Greatwall kinase, enabled by structural and functional characterisation of a minimal kinase domain construct. Oncotarget 2016, 7, 71182-71197.


 gwl paper [PDF 6.98MB]

15. Boonseng, Sarote, Roffe, Gavin W, Jones, Rhiannon N, Tizzard, Graham J, Coles, Simon J, Spencer, John and Cox, Hazel (2016) The trans influence in unsymmetrical pincer palladacycles: an experimental and computational study. Inorganics, 4 (25). pp. 1-14. ISSN 2304-6740

 inorgs [PDF 726.38KB]

14. Librizzi, Mariangela, Spencer, John and Luparello, Claudio (2016) Biological effect of a hybrid anticancer agent based on kinase and histone deacetylase inhibitors on triple-negative (MDA-MB231) breast cancer cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17 (8). p. 1235. ISSN 1422-0067


 hybrid [PDF 1.48MB]

13. Close, Adam J, Kemmitt, Paul, Roe, S Mark and Spencer, John (2016) Regioselective routes to orthogonally-substituted aromatic MIDA boronates. Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 14 (28). pp. 6751-6756. ISSN 1477-0520


12. Close, Adam J, Jones, Rhiannon N, Ocasio, Cory A, Kemmitt, Paul, Roe, S Mark and Spencer, John (2016) Elaboration of tetra-orthogonally-substituted aromatic scaffolds towards novel EGFR-kinase inhibitors. Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 14. pp. 8246-8252. ISSN 1477-0520


obc [PDF 2.06MB]


11. Bauer, Matthias R, Jones, Rhiannon N, Baud, Matthias G J, Wilcken, Rainer, Boeckler, Frank M, Fersht, Alan, Joerger, Andreas C and Spencer, John (2016) Harnessing fluorine-sulfur contacts and multipolar interactions for the design of p53 mutant Y220C rescue drugs. ACS Chemical Biology, 11 (8). pp. 2265-2274. ISSN 1554-8929

 acs chem biol [PDF 2.71MB]



10. Roffe, Gavin, Tizzard, Graham J, Coles, Simon J, Cox, Hazel and Spencer, John (2016) Synthesis of unsymmetrical NCN′ and PCN pincer palladacycles and their catalytic evaluation compared with a related SCN pincer palladacycle. Organic Chemistry Frontiers, 3. pp. 957-965. ISSN 2052-4110


9. Tuschl, Karin, Meyer, Esther, Valdivia, Leonardo E, Zhao, Ningning, Dadswell, Chris, Abdul-Sada, Alaa, Hung, Christina Y, Simpson, Michael A, Chong, W K, Jacques, Thomas S, Woltjer, Randy L, Eaton, Simon, Gregory, Allison, Sanford, Lynn, Kara, Eleanna, Houlden, Henry, Cuno, Stephan M, Prokisch, Holger, Valletta, Lorella, Tiranti, Valeria, Younis, Rasha, Maher, Eamonn R, Spencer, John, Straatman-Iwanowska, Ania, Gissen, Paul, Selim, Laila A M, Pintos-Morell, Guillem, Coroleu-Lletget, Wifredo, Mohammad, Shekeeb S, Yoganathan, Sangeetha, Dale, Russell C, Thomas, Maya, Rihel, Jason, Bodamer, Olaf A, Enns, Caroline A, Hayflick, Susan J, Clayton, Peter T, Mills, Philippa B, Kurian, Manju A and Wilson, Stephen W (2016) Mutations in SLC39A14 disrupt manganese homeostasis and cause childhood-onset parkinsonism–dystonia. Nature Communications, 7. p. 11601. ISSN 2041-1723

 natc [PDF 3.79MB]

8. Spencer, John (2016) [Review] Stefan Bräse (2015) Privileged scaffolds in medicinal chemistry: design, synthesis, evaluation. ChemMedChem, 11 (10). p. 1107. ISSN 1860-7179


7. Roffe, Gavin W, Boonseng, Sarote, Baltus, Christine B, Coles, Simon J, Day, Iain, Jones, Rhiannon N, Press, Neil J, Ruiz, Mario, Tizzard, Graham J, Cox, Hazel and Spencer, John (2016) A synthetic, catalytic and theoretical investigation of an unsymmetrical SCN pincer palladacycle. Royal Society Open Science, 3 (4). p. 150656. ISSN 2054-5703


open sci [PDF 1.65MB]

6. Ansell, Melvyn B, Spencer, John and Navarro Fernandez, Oscar (2016) (N-heterocyclic carbene)2-Pd(0) catalyzed silaboration of internal and terminal alkynes: scope and mechanistic studies. ACS Catalysis, 6 (4). pp. 2192-2196. ISSN 2155-5435


acs cat [PDF 1.47MB]


5. Griffiths, Kieran, Dokorou, Vassiliki N, Spencer, John, Abdul-Sada, Alaa, Vargas, Alfredo and Kostakis, George E (2016) Isoskeletal Schiff base polynuclear coordination clusters: synthetic and theoretical aspects. CrystEngComm, 18 (5). pp. 704-713. ISSN 1466-8033


4. Khan, Raysa, Felix, Robert, Kemmitt, Paul D, Coles, Simon J, Day, Iain J, Tizzard, Graham J and Spencer, John (2016) Late stage C―H activation of a privileged scaffold; synthesis of a library of benzodiazepines. Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis, 358 (1). pp. 98-109. ISSN 1615-4150


raysa asc [PDF 10.98MB]


3. Sansook, Supojjanee, Tuo, Wei, Lemaire, Lucas, Tourteau, Aurélien, Barczyk, Amélie, Dezitter, Xavier, Klupsch, Frédérique, Leleu-Chavain, Natascha, Tizzard, Graham J, Coles, Simon J., Millet, Régis and Spencer, John (2016) Synthesis of bioorganometallic nanomolar-potent CB2 agonists containing a ferrocene unit. Organometallics, 35 (19). pp. 3361-3368. ISSN 0276-7333   
2. Ansell, Melvyn B, Menezes da Silva, Vitor H, Heerdt, Gabriel, Braga, Ataualpa A C, Spencer, John and Navarro, Oscar (2016) An experimental and theoretical study into the facile, homogenous (N-Heterocyclic Carbene)2-Pd(0) catalyzed diboration of internal and terminal alkynes. Catalysis Science and Technology, 6. pp. 7461-7467. ISSN 2044-4753


 cat sci tech [PDF 1.71MB]

1. Cox, Oakley B, Krojer, Tobias, Collins, Patrick, Monteiro, Octovia, Talon, Romain, Bradley, Anthony, Fedorov, Oleg, Amin, Jahangir, Marsden, Brian D, Spencer, John, von Delft, Frank and Brennan, Paul E (2016) A poised fragment library enables rapid synthetic expansion yielding the first reported inhibitors of PHIP(2), an atypical bromodomain. Chemical Science, 7 (3). pp. 2322-2330. ISSN 2041-6520

 phip [PDF 2.58MB]



See also:






Congratulations to Poj, who  presented a poster at the 14th Ferrocene colloquium, Konstanz.

We are grateful for a Doctoral Overseas Conference (Sussex) for funding this.


Melvyn Ansell will spend 3 months in the Braunschweig group, Wurzburg, courtesy of a Royal Society of Chemistry Researcher Mobility grant award


Gavin Roffe presented a poster entitled ‘A Synthesis, Catalytic Application, and Theoretical Investigation into N’CN, SCN and PCS Pincer Palladacycles’ at:

Again, thanks to Sussex for a travel award!






 Our 1st paper with LMB from our Worldwide Cancer Research grant now out. Transient Protein States for the Design of Small-Molecule Stabilizers of Mutant p53. Joerger, A.* C.; Bauer, M. R.; Wilcken, R.; Baud, M. G.; Harbrecht, H.; Exner, T. E.; Boeckler, F. M.; Spencer, J.; Fersht, A. R. Structure, 2015, 23, 2246–2255. (IF=5.6).





Group "us"ie; 1-10-14: LHS JS,