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Staff Profile

Prof. David Parker, FRS

Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42033

(email at

Coordination chemistry; diagnostics and imaging; lanthanides; chirality


David Parker grew up in the North-East of England and graduated with a First in Chemistry from Oxford in the summer of ‘78. After a D.Phil. with John M Brown on mechanistic studies in asymmetric catalysis, in 1980 he took up a NATO fellowship to work with Jean-Marie Lehn in Strasbourg. He returned to Durham in January 1982 to a Lectureship in Chemistry and was promoted to a Chair in 1992. He received the RSC Hickinbottom Fellowship for 1988/9, the Corday-Morgan Medal and Prize in 1989, the ICI Prize in Organic Chemistry in 1991, an RSC Interdisciplinary Award in 1996, a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (1998/9), the inaugural IBC Award for Supramolecular Science and Technology in 2000, the first RSC award for Supramolecular Chemistry in 2002, a Tilden Lectureship and Silver Medal in 2003, the Ludwig Mond Medal in 2011 and the triennial Lecoq de Boisbaudran award for rare earth science in 2012. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and in 2014 was recognized as a RISE Fellow by EPSRC. He has twice served as Chairman of Durham Chemistry and held an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (2011-16).

Research Interests

The chemistry of new chiral systems is being studied using multidisciplinary techniques to address key aspects of complexation phenomena in aqueous and biological media. It examines:

  • new aspects of coordination and complexation chemistry, developing metal complexes or conjugates that may bind reversibly or react selectively with biomolecules; their behaviour in vitro and via in cellulo examinations to in vivo applications;
  • the development of very bright 1 and responsive, luminescent lanthanide complexes in which the metal-based emission is a function of the local ionic or chiral environment; this work embraces the synthesis of imaging probes for bioactive species and the development of chiral probes and labels for circularly polarised luminescence (CPL) spectroscopy and microscopy (with Dr. Robert Pal in Durham);
  • the synthesis and characterisation of functional magnetic resonance probes, developing responsive and targeted paramagnetic contrast agents that provide information on local pH and temperature in deep tissue, using ParaShift Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy (MRI/MRS: with Prof AM Blamire in Newcastle).

We enjoy fruitful collaborations with academic and industrial research groups in Italy (Turin and Alessandria), France (CISBio Bioassays), and the USA (Harvard). Within the group, pulsed NMR at six field strengths, luminescence spectroscopy and microscopy, electrospray mass spectrometry, HPLC and ratiometric methods of analysis are used to define solution complexation phenomena.

Responsive Lanthanide Complexes and Sensors

Several single component, macrocyclic complexes of the lanthanide ions have been devised in which the delayed emission from the metal ion within a defined compartment (e.g. a cell organelle) is a sensitive function of pH, dissolved oxygen and the concentration of certain anions - including phosphorus(V) oxy-anions (e.g. ATP and ADP), bicarbonate, lactate citrate and urate, as well as certain serum proteins, such as AGP and serum albumin 2-6. The factors determining the cellular localisation profile of well-defined series of metal complexes are examined, including studies of the mechanism of cell uptake and trafficking. In collaboration with colleagues in Newcastle and Harvard, fast relaxing and paramagnetically shifted probes for dual and triple 1H imaging in vivo are being developed for MRI and MRS, notably using complexes of dysprosium, erbium and thulium. 7,8 In collaboration with leading groups in Southampton and Manchester, new theories of electronic and nuclear relaxation are being devised. The consequences of the anisotropy and orientation of magnetic and electric susceptibility tensors in rare earth complexes with ligand fields of differing sizes is being explored, with profound consequences in NMR shift and relaxation behaviour and in optical emission spectroscopy. 8,9 


    1. AT Frawley, HV Linford, M Starck, R Pal, D Parker, Chem Sci, 2018, 9, 1042-1049; AT Frawley, D Parker and R Pal, Chem Commun 2016, 52, 13349-13352; SJ Butler, M Delbianco, L Lamarque, BK McMahon, ER Neil, R Pal, D Parker, JW Walton, JM Zwier, Dalton Trans 2015, 44, 4791; M Delbianco, V Sadovnikova, E Bourrier, L Lamarque, JM Zwier, D Parker, Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, 2014, 53, 10718.
    2. M Starck, R Pal and D Parker, Chem-Eur J 2016, 22, 570-580; SJ Butler, D Parker Chem Soc Rev, 2013, 42, 1652; R Carr, NH Evans, D Parker Chem Soc Rev, 2012, 41 4673.
    3. ER Neil MA Fox, R Pal and D Parker Dalton Trans 2016, 45, 8355-8366; ERH Walter, JAG Williams, D Parker, Chem Commun 2017, 53, 13344-13347. 
    4. BK McMahon, R Pal, D Parker Chem Comm 2013, 49, 5363; SJ Butler, BK McMahon, R Pal D Parker JW Walton, Chem Eur J 2013, 19, 9511.
    5. S Shuvaev, EA Suturina, K Mason, D Parker, Chem Sci 2018, 9, 2996-3003; S Shuvaev, R Pal, D Parker, Chem Commun 2017, 53, 6724-6727. 
    6. L Jennings, RS Waters, R Pal, D Parker, ChemMedChem 2017, 12, 271-277.
    7. PK Senanayake, NJ Rogers, P Harvey, K-LNA Finney, AM Funk, JI Wilson, R Maxwell, D Parker and AM Blamire, Magn Reson Med 2017, 77, 1307-1317; K Mason NJ Rogers, E Suturina, JA Aguilar AS Batsanov, DS Yufit, D Parker, Inorg Chem 2017, 56, 4028-4038; AM Funk, K-L NA Finney, P Harvey, AM Kenwright, ER Neil, NJ Rogers, PK Senanayake, D Parker, Chem Sci 2015, 6, 1655.
    8. D Parker I Kuprov, EA Suturina, K Mason, CFGC Geraldes, Angew Chem Int Ed 2017, 56, 12215-12218; M Vonci, K Mason, EA Suturina, AT Frawley, SG Worswick, I Kuprov, EJL McInnes, D Parker, NF Chilton, J Am Chem Soc, 2017, 139, 14166-14172. 
    9. OA Blackburn, RM Edkins, S Faulkner, AM Kenwright, NJ Rogers, S Shuvaev and D Parker, Dalton Trans, 2016, 45, 6782-6800. 


The Parker group WWW pages

Research Groups

Department of Biosciences

  • Durham Centre for Bioimaging Technology

Department of Chemistry

  • Functional Molecules and Materials
  • Physical Organic and Assembly

Research Interests

  • Coordination Chemistry
  • Diagnostics and Imaging
  • Lanthanides
  • Chirality

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Shuvaev, Sergey, Suturina, Elizaveta A., Mason, Kevin & Parker, David (2018). Chiral probes for α1-AGP reporting by species-specific induced circularly polarised luminescence. Chemical Science 9(11): 2996-3003.
  • Parker, David, Shuvaev, Sergey & Fox, Mark A. (2018). Monitoring the ADP/ATP ratio via induced circularly‐polarised europium luminescence. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 57(25): 7488-7492.
  • Senanayake, P.K., Rogers, N.J., Harvey, P., Finney, K.L.N.A., Funk, A.M., Wilson, J.I., Maxwell, R., Blamire, A.M. & Parker, D. (2017). A New Paramagnetically Shifted Imaging Probe for MRI. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 77(3): 1307-1317.
  • Parker, David, Kuprov, Ilya, Suturina, Elizaveta, Mason, Kevin & Geraldes, Carlos (2017). Beyond Bleaney's Theory: Experimental and Theoretical Analysis of Periodic Trends in Lanthanide Induced Chemical Shift. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 56(40): 12215-12218.
  • Farkas, Edit, Nagel, Johannes, Waldron, Bradley P., Parker, David, Tóth, Imre, Brücher, Ernő, Rösch, Frank & Baranyai, Zsolt (2017). Equilibrium, Kinetic and Structural Properties of Gallium(III) and Some Divalent Metal Complexes Formed with the New DATAm and DATA5m Ligands. Chemistry - A European Journal 23(43): 10358-10371.
  • Jennings, L., Waters, R.S., Pal, R. & Parker, D. (2017). Induced Europium Circularly Polarised Luminescence Monitors Reversible Drug Binding to Native α1-Acid Glycoprotein. ChemMedChem 12(3): 271-277.
  • Mason, K., Rogers, N.J., Suturina, E.A., Kuprov, I., Aguilar, J.A., Batsanov, A.S., Yufit, D.S. & Parker, D. (2017). PARASHIFT Probes: Solution NMR and X-ray Structural Studies of Macrocyclic Ytterbium and Yttrium Complexes. Inorganic Chemistry 56(7): 4028-4038.
  • Vonci, Michele, Mason, Kevin, Suturina, Elizaveta A., Frawley, Andrew T., Worswick, Steven G., Kuprov, Ilya, Parker, David, McInnes, Eric J. L. & Chilton, Nicholas F. (2017). Rationalization of Anomalous Pseudocontact Shifts and Their Solvent Dependence in a Series of C3-Symmetric Lanthanide Complexes. Journal of the American Chemical Society 139(40): 14166-14172.
  • Shuvaev, Sergey, Starck, Matthieu & Parker, David (2017). Responsive, Water-Soluble Europium(III) Luminescent Probes. Chemistry - A European Journal 23(42): 9974-9989.
  • Neil, E.R. & Parker, D. (2017). Selective signalling of sialic acid in solution by circularly polarized luminescence spectroscopy using a dynamically racemic europium(III) complex. RSC Advances 7(8): 4531-4540.
  • Shuvaev, Sergey, Pal, Robert & Parker, David (2017). Selectively switching on europium emission in drug site one of human serum albumin. Chemical communications 53(50): 6724-6727.
  • Finney, Katie-Louise N. A., Harnden, Alice C., Rogers, Nicola J., Senanayake, P. Kanthi, Blamire, Andrew M., O'Hogain, Dara & Parker, David (2017). Simultaneous Triple Imaging with Two PARASHIFT Probes: Encoding Anatomical, pH and Temperature Information using Magnetic Resonance Shift Imaging. Chemistry - A European Journal 23(33): 7976-7989.
  • Delbianco, M., Sadovnikova, V., Bourrier, E., Mathis, G., Lamarque, L., Zwier, J.M. & Parker, D. (2016). Bright, highly water soluble triazacyclononane europium complexes to detect ligand binding with time-resolved FRET microscopy. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 53(40): 10718-10722.
  • Neil, E.R., Pal, R., Fox, M.A. & Parker, D. (2016). Induced europium CPL for the selective signalling of phosphorylated amino-acids and O-phosphorylated hexapeptides. Dalton Transactions 45(20): 8355-8366.
  • Frawley, A.T., Pal, D. & Parker, D. (2016). Very bright, enantiopure europium(III) complexes allow time-gated chiral contrast imaging. Chemical Communications 52(91): 13349-13352.
  • Seemann, J., Waldron, B.P., Roesch, F. & Parker, D. (2015). Approaching ‘kit-type’ labelling with 68Ga: the DATA chelators. ChemMedChem 10(6): 1019-1026.
  • Neil, E.R., Fox, M.A., Pal, R., Pålsson, L.O., O'Sullivan, B.A. & Parker, D. (2015). Chiral probe development for circularly polarised luminescence: comparative study of structural factors determining the degree of induced CPL with four heptacoordinate europium(III) complexes. Dalton Transactions 44(33): 14937-14951.
  • Funk, A.M., Finney, K.-L.N.A., Harvey, P., Kenwright, A.M., Neil, E.R., Rogers, N.J., Senanayake, P.K. & Parker, D. (2015). Critical analysis of the limitations of Bleaney's theory of magnetic anisotropy in paramagnetic lanthanide coordination complexes. Chemical Science 6(3): 1655-1662.
  • Sim, N. & Parker, D. (2015). Critical design issues in the targeted molecular imaging of cell surface receptors. Chemical Society Reviews 44(8): 2122-2134.
  • Butler, S.J., Delbianco, M., Lamarque, L., McMahon, B.K., Neil, E.R., Pal, R., Parker, D., Walton, J.W. & Zwier, J. (2015). EuroTracker® dyes design, synthesis, structure and photophysical properties of very bright europium complexes and their use in bioassays and cellular optical imaging. Dalton Transactions 44(11): 4791-4803.
  • Lawson, D., Barge, A., Terreno, E., Parker, D., Aime, S. & Botta, M. (2015). Optimizing the high-field relaxivity by self-assembling of macrocyclic Gd(III) complexes. Dalton Transactions 44(11): 4910-4917.
  • Sim, N., Gottschalk, S., Pal, R., Delbianco, M., Degtyarik, D., Razansky, D., Westmeyer, G.G., Ntziachristos, V., Parker, D. & Mishra, A. (2015). Wavelength-dependent optoacoustic imaging probes for NMDA receptor visualisation. Chemical Communications 51(82): 15149-15152.
  • Sim, N., Pal, R., Parker, D., Engelmann, J., Mishra, A. & Gottschalk, S. (2014). Magnetic resonance and optical imaging probes for NMDA receptors on the cell surface of neurons: synthesis and evaluation in cellulo. Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry 12(46): 9389-9404.
  • McMahon, B.K. & Parker, D. (2014). Selective ion pair recognition of citrate and zinc ions in water by ratiometric luminescence signaling. RSC Advances 4(71): 37649-37654.
  • Delbianco, M., Lamarque, L. & Parker, D. (2014). Synthesis of meta and para-substituted aromatic sulfonate derivatives of polydentate phenylazaphosphinate ligands: enhancement of the water solubility of emissive europium(III) EuroTracker® dyes. Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry 12(40): 8061-8071.
  • Smith, DG, Pal, R & Parker, D (2012). Measuring Equilibrium Bicarbonate Concentrations Directly in Cellular Mitochondria and in Human Serum Using Europium/Terbium Emission Intensity Ratios. Chemistry - A European Journal 18(37): 11604-11613.
  • Mishra, A, Gottschalk, S, Engelmann, J & Parker, D (2012). Responsive Imaging Probes for Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors. Chemical Science 3(1): 131-135.
  • Smith, DG, Law, G-L, Benjamin, SM, Pal, R, Parker, D & Wong, K-L (2011). Evidence for the optical signalling of changes in bicarbonate concentration within the mitochondrial region of living cells. Chemical Communications 47(26): 7347-7349.
  • New, EJ, Congreve, A & Parker, D (2010). Definition of the uptake mechanism and sub-cellular localisation profile of emissive lanthanide complexes as cellular optical probes. Chemical Science 1(1): 111-118.
  • Montgomery, CP, New, EJ, Parker, D & Peacock, RD (2008). Enantioselective regulation of a metal complex in reversible binding to serum albumin: dynamic helicity inversion signalled by circularly polarised luminescence. Chemical Communications 2008(36): 4261-4263.
  • Atkinson, P., Murray, B.S. & Parker, D. (2006). A cationic lanthanide complex binds selectively to phosphorylated tyrosine sites, aiding NMR analysis of the phosphorylated insulin receptor peptide fragment. Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry 4(16): 3166-3171.
  • J.H. Yu, D. Parker, R. Pal, R.A. Poole & M.J. Cann (2006). A europium complex that selectively stains nucleoli of cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society 128(7): 2294-2299.
  • Poole, R.A., Kielar, F., Richardson, S.L., Stenson, P.A. & Parker, D. (2006). A ratiometric and non-enzymatic luminescence assay for uric acid: differential quenching of lanthanide excited states by anti-oxidants. Chemical Communications (39): 4084-4086.
  • Atkinson, P., Findlay, K.S., Kielar, F., Pal, D., Parker, D., Poole, R.A., Puschmann, H., Richardson, S.L., Stenson, P.A., Thompson, A.L. & Yu, J.H. (2006). Azaxanthones and azathioxanthones are effective sensitisers for europium and terbium luminescence. Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry 4(9): 1707-1722.
  • Pandya, S., Yu, J.H. & Parker, D. (2006). Engineering emissive europium and terbium complexes for molecular imaging and sensing. Dalton Transactions 2006(23): 2757-2766.
  • Fulton, D.A., Elemento, E.M., Aime, S., Chaabane, L., Botta, M. & Parker, D. (2006). Glycoconjugates of gadolinium complexes for MRI applications. Chemical Communications 2006(10): 1064-1066.
  • Stenson, P.A., Thompson, A.L. & Parker, D. (2006). Structural characterisation of a diprotonated ligand lanthanide complex - a key intermediate in lanthanide ion association and complex dissociation pathways. Dalton Transactions 2006(27): 3291-3293.
  • Senanayake, K., Thompson, A.L., Howard, J.A.K., Botta, M. & Parker, D. (2006). Synthesis and characterisation of dimeric eight-coordinate lanthanide(III) complexes of a macrocyclic tribenzylphosphinate ligand. Dalton transactions (45): 5423-5428.

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Medical and health research topics: processes in cancer chemotherapy
  • Medical and health research topics: gene therapy
  • Chemistry: supramolecular chemistry
  • Chemistry: targeting metal complexes (e.g. in cancer treatment and diagnosis [MRI] )
  • Chemistry: chemical sensors