28th April 2015, 8:55am
Malaria drug expert to turn sights on new diseases
Dr Martin Lear An organic chemist who has advanced scientific understanding of drug resistance in malaria will be turning his sights on tuberculosis and age-related illnesses after joining the University of Lincoln, UK.

Dr Martin Lear has been appointed to Lincoln’s School of Chemistry as Senior Lecturer. He arrives from Tohoku University, Japan, and the National University of Singapore, where he specialised in the study of tropical diseases, working to find new chemical starting points for drug discovery and development.

While in Singapore, Dr Lear formed a biotech company, BioLynx, to provide research tools for international research into malaria. Together with colleague Dr Kevin Tan, he created the LynxTag technology platform to tag fluorescent markers to chloroquine, a drug that has been used in the treatment of malaria since 1947. Due to the tagging, researchers are now able to visualise drug-cell interactions in a more simple and cost-effective way – enabling the identification of resistant or sensitive malaria parasites in blood samples, providing superior diagnostic analysis and a means to discover new drug leads.

Dr Lear has also worked in the field of antibiotics, primarily in the total synthesis of the ‘super antibiotic’ Platensimycin, which holds promise for the treatment of infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. Total synthesis is the chemical construction of a known organic molecule, a natural product, without using biological processes. It requires multiple steps to construct the required product, or multi-step organic synthesis.

At Lincoln, Dr Lear’s research will continue to push the frontiers of organic chemistry, aiming to synthesise natural products and modify known drugs for the treatment of microbial diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Dr Lear, who is also Adjunct Professor of the Global Leader Program at Tohoku University in Japan, will teach students fundamental knowledge and skills in the practice of organic chemistry.

He said: “Teaching is all about instilling creativity and enthusiasm for the work in the students. Learning organic chemistry requires a thirst to understand the fundamentals behind each reagent and method, as well as a creative and strong mind – all traits I wish to instil in my students. The spirit of entrepreneurialism is very strong at Lincoln, which fits nicely into how my research has been commercialised. It’s important for that ethic to be passed down to our students. I’m also delighted to see the University of Lincoln has such a fantastic College of Arts, as I believe science has to have creative and differing perspectives.

“I’m keen to work closely with colleagues across the whole College of Science, especially in Life Sciences and Pharmacy, and will be adjusting my disease focus to assist UK and European issues.”