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Dr Tony James
Dr Tony James

Internal News - 24 March 2006

Chemist's paper gets good citations from fellow researchers

A Bath chemist’s paper has been named as the most cited recent work in its field by an international research organisation.

Dr Tony James’ work on boronic acid compounds, which could offer early detection of carbohydrates which are responsible for diseases including cancer, has had a bigger increase in citations in March than any other paper in the field of pharmacology. The citations are measure by Thomson Scientific Essential Science Indicators. (ESI).

Citations are where researchers make reference to the work of another academic in their paper, and the level of citations is a good general guide to how important the paper is considered within the academic world.

Dr James’ review (Top. Curr. Chem., 2002, 218, 159) has been cited in 100 papers since it was published and according to ESI, has the fastest growth rate of citations for the period January to March 2006.

He attributes this to the realisation among chemists and pharmacologists that boronic acid compounds are superior to many existing ways of detecting carbohydrates.

At present many processes use enzymes, biological compounds that react when they encounter evidence of a carbohydrate. But enzymes can be easily made ineffective by heat, have short shelf lives and are destroyed by the process of sterilisation.

Dr James believes that boronic compounds can overcome all of these disadvantages. Their uses include being part of special contact lenses that allow diabetics to test their tears for sugar levels. Since a person’s tears mirror sugar levels in the blood, this means diabetics will not need to take samples of their own blood to test for their sugar levels.

Dr James believes the boronic compounds could also lead to ways of testing for illnesses such as bacterial infection and cancer earlier and more reliably than at present. One company is interested in using the compounds for detecting streptococcus infections.

ESI is part of Thomson Scientific, which regularly surveys papers for citations and compiles databases from this.