Chemical Biology Metal Catalysis

Our Aims

Generation, training and transfer of knowledge

Development of creative and groundbreaking
research at the interface of Chemistry, Biology and Medicine.

Education of researchers in order they become
future leaders of academic or industrial projects.

Transferring of knowledge to Society in order
to propel economical and social progress

European Research Council Santiago de Compostela University Campus Vida CIQUS - Centro Singular de Investigación en Química Biológica y Materiales Moleculares
Latest News
Media Library

Our brand new review at Helvetica Chimica Acta is already available on-line

Happy to announce our last review concerning "Ruthenium Catalysis in Biological Habitats" is available through the journal website

We are very glad to share here that our review at Helv. Chim. Acta, entitled "Ruthenium Catalysis in Biological Habitats" and authored by A. Gutiérrez, F. López and J. L. Mascarenas, is already available through the journal website.

Abstract: Recent years have witnessed a considerable progress in research aimed at merging transition metal catalysis with chemical and cell biology. Therefore, a crescent number of metal-catalyzed transformations have been shown compatible with biological media and even with living settings. Of the different transition metals used to build these biocompatible catalysts, ruthenium has demonstrated to be particularly powerful, in part because the resulting complexes exhibit a very good balance between reactivity and biological stability. Indeed, ruthenium complexes have demonstrated utility to promote a great variety of reactions in biologically relevant contexts, from deprotection and redox processes to cycloadditions or photocatalytic transformations. Many of these reactions may enable the development of new type of biological tools and pharmacological strategies.

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Our Commun. Chem. paper in collaboration with Prof. Vázquez, among others, has been selected as 2022 Editors’ Highlights

We are extremely happy to share the acknowledgement by Commun. Chem. editors', selecting our past year paper as one of the best for 2022

Editorial Board Member Professor Andy Wilson highlights Controlling oncogenic KRAS signaling pathways with a Palladium-responsive peptide by Eugenio Vázquez, José Mascareñas and colleagues ( “This is a really nice interdisciplinary manuscript at the interface of chemical biology and supramolecular chemistry; it is beautifully presented and focuses as its centrepiece on the ability to reversibly nucleate an α-helix through coordination of histidine residues placed at the i and i + 4 positions in the peptide sequence with cis-protected palladium. The method is applied to target a key protein–protein interaction that activates the MAP kinase pathway—the interaction between RAS and its activator SOS1. RAS frequently misfunctions in human cancers and has become an important target for development of molecular therapeutics. What is particularly impressive about the paper is the broad range of experiments used; both circular dichroism and NMR are used for structure elucidation of the stimuli responsive peptide, then direct fluorescence anisotropy binding and nucleotide exchange assays used to characterize interaction with RAS and inhibition of the SOS1/RAS interaction, and then finally cell uptake is monitored alongside effects on the MAPK kinase cascade through inhibition of ERK phosphorylation. A further important concept is introduced, specifically that whilst the palladium clip induces some helicity in the peptide, this is only partial, but the effect is proposed to be sufficient to promote RAS binding (relative to the peptide in the absence of palladium) through a bind and fold mechanism similar to that through which many intrinsically disordered proteins operate. Overall, the paper comprises rigorous experimentation and introduces several new concepts. Given the widespread interest in the development of constrained peptides as protein–protein interaction inhibitors, this represents an important advance for the area of constrained peptides.”

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Our most recent collaboration is already on-line at Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.

So glad to announce our first 2023 paper and also collaborative work is already published on-line

We are very happy to share our Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. paper in collaboration with Jimenez-Osés research group has been accepted and it's already available through the journal website. This work is entitled "Iridium-Catalyzed ortho-Selective Borylation of Aromatic Amides Enabled by 5-Trifluoromethylated Bipyridine Ligands" and authored by D. Marcos-Atanes, C. Vidal, C. Navo, F. Pecatti, G. Jiménez-Osés and J. L. Mascareñas.

Abstract: Iridium-catalyzed borylations of aromatic C–H bonds are highly attractive transformations owing to the diversification possibilities offered by the resulting boronates. These transformations are best carried out using bidentate bipyridine or phenanthroline ligands, and tend to be governed by steric factors, therefore resulting in the competitive functionalization of meta and/or para positions. We have now discovered that a subtle change in the bipyridine ligand, namely, the introduction of a CF3 substituent at position 5, enables a complete alteration of regioselectivity in the borylation of aromatic amides, providing for the synthesis of a wide variety of ortho-borylated derivatives. Importantly, thorough computational studies suggest that the exquisite regio- and chemoselectivity stems from unusual outer-sphere interactions between the amide group of the substrate and the CF3–substituted aryl ring of the bipyridine ligand.

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Goodbye Sara Gutiérrez

Sara Gutiérrez Hernández has left the group and she joined the Lilly pharma company. Good luck Sara!

Sara Gutiérrez Hernández has just left the group and she has joined the pharmaceutical Eli Lilly and Company, in Madrid (Spain), for a R&D-chemistry position.

Best of luck Sara!

Synthetic models in Chemical Biology

Workshop on Nanomedicine 2012. Prof. Mascareñas, ERC - Advanced Grant METBIOCAT, explains his research lines in the chemical biology field.
DNA is the key macromolecule used by nature to store the genetic information, therefore containing all the instructions that control the day-to-day function of cells. As such, it has been a traditional target for the development of different type of drugs, particularly anticancer agents. These drugs include alkylating agents, like cis-platinum and derivatives, and non-covalent binders like the anthracyclines, which interact to DNA by intercalation between base pairs. There are other types of cytotoxic non-covalent DNA binders, like distamycin or propamidine, which interact to DNA by insertion in the minor groove.

We have been interested in this latter type of molecules, because they are sequence selective and therefore provide for molecular engineering of site-specific DNA-promoted processes. In particular, we have designed and synthesized a number of variants of propamidine that work as sequence specific DNA optical sensors, or as light-activated prodrugs.

Some of the knowledge acquired in the studies of light-promoted processes has been extended to area of DNA-protein interactions. In particular, we have developed a chemical approach to control the DNA interaction of synthetic mimics of transcription factors, and expect that the tactic can be used in the future to regulate processes of gene expression.
Part of our work in this area is also focused to the construction of optical sensors that can detect minute amounts of transcription factors considered as oncogenic biomarkers, like the bZIP protein Jun.

Meet our team

José Luis Mascareñas, PhD leads this team of researchers. Find out more about him and the rest of the team in our Group members section.

Group Members

Join Us

We are always looking forward to welcoming exceptional candidates into our research Group. Please visit our Opportunities section or send us your cv.


Living and working in
Santiago de Compostela

Are you new to the city and its University?
We have gathered some facts and figures you may find interesting.


Annual mean temperature. The humid oceanic climate guarantees mild weather throughout the year.


Students attend the University. With the city population around 100,000.


Year old University. Currently imparting more than 60 degrees.


Santiago is well connected, having its own international airport, train station, etc.


Amongst many awards, Santiago was declared World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1985.


Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia de most Nortwestern region of Spain.


Public transport is available in order to get around the city, which is also conveniently located to visit other sites in Galicia.


Spanish and Galician are the two official languages of Galicia. Your work will be carried out in English.


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