Prof Helen C Hailes

Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Prof Helen Hailes

Address: Department of Chemistry, UCL
Phone No: +44 (0)20 7679 4654
Fax No: +44 (0)20 7679 7463
Extension: 24654
Photo of Helen Hailes

Research areas of interest include:

  • Biocatalysis and chemoenzymatic synthesis
  • Novel lipid synthesis and nanoparticles for delivery and imaging applications
  • Tuberculosis therapies
  • Design and synthesis of novel hydrogen-bonded arrays
  • Organic synthesis in water


Helen Hailes Research Image

Research activity in our group is focused on the use of synthetic organic chemistry to probe and solve biological problems. Many projects involve the development of new synthetic strategies to construct molecules as tools to identify or perturb biological targets, which can lead to the identification of novel compounds with improved biological properties. Current projects also include the use of biocatalytic synthetic strategies, and organic reactions in water including biomimetic chemistries. In particular, we are using transketolases, transaminases, and norcoclaurine synthases in single step biotransformations or synthetic biology pathways. We are also designing and synthesising new lipids for use in nanoparticle delivery applications, and as imaging reagents.

Research Profile

Selected Publications

  1. M. E. B. Smith, E. G. Hibbert, A. B. Jones, P. A. Dalby, H. C. Hailes, “Enhancing and Reversing the Stereoselectivity of Escherichia coli Transketolase via Single-Point Mutations”, Adv. Syn. Cat., 2008, 350, 2631–2638.
  2. A. Cázares, J. L. Galman, L. G. Crago, M. E. B. Smith, J. Strafford, L. Ríos-Solís, G. J. Lye, P. A. Dalby, H. C. Hailes, "Non-a-hydroxylated aldehydes with evolved transketolase enzymes", Org. Biomol. Chem., 2010, 8, 1301–1309.
  3. J. L. Galman, D. Steadman, S. Bacon, P. Morris, M. E. B. Smith, J. M. Ward, P. A. Dalby, H C. Hailes, “α,α’-Dihydroxyketone formation using aromatic and heteroaromatic aldehydes with evolved transketolase enzymes”, Chem. Commun., 2010, 46, 7608–7610
  4. T. Pesnot, M. C. Gershater, J. M. Ward, H. C. Hailes, “Phosphate mediated biomimetic synthesis of tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids”, Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 3242–3244.

  5. T. Pesnot, M. C. Gershater, J. M. Ward, H. C. Hailes, “The Catalytic Potential of Coptis japonica NCS2 Revealed - Development and Utilisation of a Fluorescamine-Based Assay”, Adv. Synth. Catal., 2012, 354, 2997–3008.
  6. N. Mitchell, T. L. Kalber, M. S. Cooper, K. Sunassee, S. L. Chalker, K. P. Shaw, Katherine L. Ordidge, A. Badar, S. M. Janes, P. J. Blower, M. F. Lythgoe, H. C. Hailes, A. B. Tabor, “Incorporation of paramagnetic, fluorescent and PET/SPECT contrast agents into liposomes for multimodal imaging”, Biomaterials, 2013, 34, 1179–1192.

  7. T. Sehl, H. C. Hailes, J. M. Ward, R. Wardenga, E. von Lieres, H. Offermann, R. Westphal, M. Pohl, D. Rother, “Two Steps in One Pot: Enzyme Cascade for the Synthesis of Nor(pseudo)ephedrine from Inexpensive Starting Materials”, Angew Chem. Int. Ed., 2013, 52, 6772–6775.

All Publications

  • 1984-1987 : B. A. (Natural Sciences) (Hons) St. John's College, Cambridge.
  • 1987-1991 : Ph. D. in Biological Chemistry, University of Cambridge, with Professor J. Staunton FRS.
  • 1991-1992 : PDRA, Department of Chemistry, Cambridge University, with Professor J. Staunton, FRS.
  • 1992 : PDRA, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College, with Professor S. V. Ley FRS.
  • 1993-1994 : PDRA, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College, with Dr. D. A. Widdowson
  • 1994-2002 : Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, University College London
  • 2002-2005 : Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, University College London
  • 2005-2010 : Reader in Chemical Biology, University College London.
  • 2010 : Professor of Chemical Biology, University College London