Medicinal Chemistry Programme

Chemistry is truly fundamental to the development of new medicines. In a university context, chemistry can play three major rôles: (1) the fundamental understanding and design of molecular interactions, for example, between a lead compound and an enzyme (in silico/empirical techniques); (2) the advancement of methods and strategies to synthesise and structurally modify lead compounds to more active leads (de novo techniques); and (3) the smart development of drug discovery and delivery platforms (in vitro/in vivo techniques).

All this requires chemistry knowledge and know-how from defining bonding and non-bonding interactions to defining lead compounds with tuneable stereo- and physicochemical properties.

Lead compounds may be generated in various ways. The underlying principle is to relate structure to function and function to structure (structure-activity relationships, SAR). Theoretically, these relationships can be viewed as the overlapping of chemical and biological space (see diagram opposite for other multi-faceted ways to discovering leads). In addition, although technically not generating drug candidates per se, the design of chemical tools to aid in the understanding of disease states and mechanisms is also important to medicinal chemistry.

Thus, bioimaging agents and chemical biology techniques that light up molecular pathways and detail the many biochemical mechanisms and targets within cells are increasingly being employed in modern drug discovery programs.