Dr Kal Karim

Kam Karim

Senior Lecturer in Organic and Computational Chemistry

BSc / PhD (University of Essex)

Tel : +44 (0)116 294 4668

Email : kk256@le.ac.uk

Research Group : Chemical Biology/Leicester Biotechnology

I have established my research area in the rational design and synthesis of synthetic receptors based on molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs).

I lead the Molecular Modelling activity within the group and use in silico methods to tailor the properties of polymers to specific applications in areas such as drug development, sensors, assays, separations and the purification of target compounds. The current work involves applications in drug discovery, the detection of toxins and environmental pollutants and the rational design of polymers for clinical applications.

I am Module Convenor for Industrial Chemistry and actively participate in teaching on both our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses. The areas of teaching which particularly interest me are: organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, sensors, computational chemistry, business and student career development (presentation skills, CV writing etc.)

I am interested in engagement with Business and fostering relationships with industry promoting our ground-breaking technologies to industrial partners.

Research Interests

Among my major scientific achievements are:

  • The use of computational tools as a general method for the rational design of Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs).
  • Design and development of polymers for the separation and purification for drug targets such as anaesthetics, anti-asthmatics, corticosteroids, antibiotics and stimulators.
  • The application of MIPs in the large scale purification and separation of pharmaceuticals.
  • Design of polymers for the detection of environmental pollutants (both natural and man-made) and toxins (algal and mycotoxins)
  • Application of MIPs in the development of sensors for the detection of anaesthetic drugs for patients in intensive care.

Molecular Modelling of MIPs

KK 2
Figure 1. Monomer–template complex of tylosin with itaconic acid, acrylamide and bisacrylamide in the ratio 1:6:3:3 (Piletsky et al., 2004, Anal. Chim. Acta, 504 (1) 123-130).
MIP design using molecular modelling is a rapid and effective method for the design of synthetic receptors. We have developed a protocol that can be performed within just a few hours that outputs a list of candidate monomers which are capable of strong binding interactions with the template (the target for imprinting). All operations are carried out on a PC, running the Linux operating system, executing the software packages SYBYL 7.3 (Tripos Inc). The rational design protocol involves 4 steps.

The process is as follows:

  1. Design of a database of functional monomers
  2. Design of a molecular model of the template of interest
  3. Screening monomer-template interactions using the LEAPFROGTM algorithm
  4. Refining the results through the use of Molecular Mechanics/Molecular Dynamics

Figure 1 shows the monomer-template complex of the drug tylosin surrounded by the monomers itaconic acid, acrylamide and N,N-methylene-bis-acrylamide in the ratio 1:6:3:3 designed using our method. The monomer component of the complex is depicted as a surface contour map.

KK 1
Figure 2. A virtual box containing monomer, template, solvent and cross-linker for molecular dynamics experiments.
A MIP, synthesised using this template:monomer ratio, demonstrated high affinity for tylosin, both in aqueous solutions and in organic solvents. The MIP was tested for its ability to bind the template and related metabolites such as tylactone, narbomycin and picromycin. HPLC analysis showed that the computationally designed polymer was selective for its target and was capable of separating the template from its structural analogues.

We are currently investigating the modelling of much more complex systems by the introduction of solvent and cross-linker as well as monomers and template for the design of high affinity MIPs. Figure 2 shows a typical “box” generated in a Molecular Dynamics experiment. The template is highlighted in red surrounded by monomer (blue), cross-linker (green) and solvent (brown).

Business/Academic Engagement

I am interested in academic-industrial collaborations in the form of sponsored research projects and studentships; this includes International collaborations with countries such as China and India.


Sphere Medical: “Development of MIPs for selective recognition of anaesthetic drugs in clinical analysis” won the major innovation prize in the Business-University Collaboration Awards for the East of England (2005).

GlaxoSmithKline: Several projects in “The Rational design and Application of MIPs in Drug Development” and “Computational design and synthesis of MIPs with high binding capacity tailored for large scale pharmaceutical applications”.

Relevant publications

  1. Piletska E. V., Karim K., Cutler M., Piletsky S. A. (2013). Development of the protocol for purification of artemisinin based on combination of commercial and computationally designed adsorbents. Journal of Separation Science, 36 (2), 400-406. DOI: 10.1002/jssc.201200520
  2. Lakshmi D., Akbulut M., Ivanova-Mitseva P. K., Whitcombe M. J., Piletska E. V., Karim K., Guven O., Piletsky S. A. (2013). Computational design and preparation of MIPs for atrazine recognition on a conjugated polymer-coated microtitre plate. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 52 (39), 13910–13916. DOI: 10.1021/ie302982h
  3. Subrahmanyam S., Karim K., Piletsky S. A. (2013). Computational approaches in the design of synthetic receptors, in: Piletsky S. A., Whitcombe M. (eds.) Designing receptors for the next generation of biosensors. Springer Series on Chemical Sensors and Biosensors Vol. 12, pp. 131-165. DOI: 10.1007/5346_2012_22
  4. Chianella I., Karim K., Piletska E., Preston C., Piletsky S. A. (2006). Computational design and synthesis of molecularly imprinted polymers with high binding capacity for pharmaceutical applications-model case: adsorbent for abacavir. Analytica Chimica Acta, 559 (1), 73-78. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2005.11.068
  5. Breton F., Rouillon R., Piletska E. V., Karim K., Guerreiro A, Chianella I., Piletsky S. A. (2006). Virtual imprinting as a tool to design efficient MIPs for photosynthesis-inhibiting herbicides. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 22 (9-10), 1948-1954. DOI: 10.1016/j.bios.2006.08.017
  6. Karim K., Breton B., Rouillon R., Piletska E. V., Guerreiro A., Chianella I., Piletsky S. A. (2005). How to find effective functional monomers for effective molecularly imprinted polymers? Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 57 (12), 1795-1808. DOI: 10.1016/j.addr.2005.07.013
  7. Piletsky S.A., Piletska E.V., Karim K., Foster G., Legge C.H., Turner A.P.F. (2004). Custom synthesis of molecular imprinted polymers for biotechnological application. Preparation of a polymer specific for tylosin. Analytica Chimica Acta, 504 (1), 123-130. DOI: 10.1016/S0003-2670(03)00814-6
  8. Piletsky S. A., Piletska E. V., Karim K., Davis F., Higson S. P. J., Turner A. P. F. (2004). Photochemical polymerization of thiophene derivatives in aqueous solution. Chemical Communications, (19), 2222-2223. DOI: 10.1039/B408387C
  9. Chianella I., Lotierzo M., Piletsky S. A., Tothill I. E., Chen B., Karim K., Turner A. P. F. (2002). Rational design of a polymer specific for microcystin-LR using a computational approach. Analytical Chemistry, 74 (6), 1288-1293. DOI: 10.1021/ac010840b
  10. Piletsky S. A., Karim K., Piletska E. V., Day C. J., Freebairn K. W., Legge C., Turner A. P. F. (2001). Recognition of ephedrine enantiomers by MIPs designed using a computational approach. Analyst, 126 (10), 1826-1830. DOI: 10.1039/b102426b

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Contact Details

Department of Chemistry
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Email: chemistry@le.ac.uk

Tel: [+44] (0)116 252 2100

Fax: [+44] (0)116 252 3789

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