Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry

Unit code: CHEM30432
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 3
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit?: N





  • Provide an understanding of nucleic acid structure and the chemistry involved in the biosynthesis, reactivity and chemical synthesis and applications of nucleic acids.
  • Provide an overview of the aims and methodologies of medicinal chemistry and the processes of drug discovery, development and optimization, through a series of case histories of the discovery and development of novel therapeutics.
  • Provide an understanding of the organic chemistry that underlies biochemical processes, including enzyme catalysis and molecular recognition, an introduction to biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, fatty acids, steroidal systems and alkaloids and some examples of biomedical relevance.



Nucleic Acid Chemistry (Prof. E. Takano (6 lectures) and Dr A. Green, (2 lectures))

  • Importance of nucleic acids in bioorganic chemistry (ET)
  • Structure of nucleic acids (ET)
  • Biosynthesis of nucleic acids (ET)
  • Chemical synthesis of nucleic acids (AG)
  • Recombinatn DNA (ET)
  • Exam questions tutorial and Q&A

Medicinal Chemistry (Dr Cliff Jones, Redx Immunology, 8 lectures)

  • Introduction to medicinal chemistry & the key physiochemical parameters of small molecules
  • Protein ligand interactions and optimisation of potency
  • Pharmacokinetics and ADME properties
  • Introduction to toxicity
  • Strategies to identify targets, leads and candidate drugs
  • Case study
  • Exam questions tutorial and Q&A

Enzyme Mechanisms and Biosynthesis (Dr J. M. Gardiner, 8 lectures)

  • Review of Enzyme structure / reactivity from structure and functionality and enzyme mechanisms
  • Secondary metabolites
  • Fatty acid and polyketide biosynthesis
  • Biosynthesis of terpenoids and steroids
  • Alkaloid biosynthesis
  • Exam questions tutorial and Q&A

Lectures will include revision / workshop elemennts during the lecture blocks with an exam revision at the end  of each block.

Teaching and learning methods

Content is largely delivered through lectures. The material presented is fully supported by content on Blackboard. Tutorial problems are made available through Blackboard.


Learning outcomes

 Students successfully completing this unit should have developed the ability to:

  • Define LogP, LogD, understand trends in potency, metabolism, solubility etc on drug development
  • Describe protein-ligand interactions.
  • Describe enzyme inhibition types, sketch equilibria, dose-response curves and outline tactics to increase potency.
  • Understand and explain the main aspects of pharmacokinetics and their impact on drug design, toxicity and the selection of drug candidates.
  • Understand examples of anticancer therapies.
  • Understand the basic features of enzyme catalysis from a structural, functional and kinetic perspective.
  • Understand the organic chemistry of a range of biochemical processes, and be able to explain the key steps in a range of biosynthetic processes, including areas as below:
    • biosynthesis of fatty acids and polyketides
    • acetyl CoA
    • terpenes (particularly monoterpenes) from acetyl CoA through to cyclic monoterpenes
    • Higher terpenes
    • Cholesterol and steroid biosynthesis and medicinal importance
    • Alkaloids
  • Understand the structure and roles of nucleic and acids and describe the chemical synthesis of DNA and applications of DNA oligonucleotides.
  • Apply any of this knowledge to the process of drug discovery and development.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

 Students will be expected to use material covered in lectures or tutorials to indpendently search different text sources to support their understanding and thus encourage and reinforce investigative skills. This will include direction to original literature sources as well as other web resources. Each section includes a dedicated workshop/exam review session and supporting worksheets are provided to help students develop problem-solving and analytical skills across a range of different sub-topics.


Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 100%

Recommended reading


  • TDH Bugg, Introduction to Enzyme and Coenzyme Chemistry, Blackwell, 2nd Ed, 2004.
  • J Mann, Chemical Aspects of Biosynthesis, OUP, 1994.
  • GL Patrick, An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry, OUP, 2005.
  • FD King (Ed), Medicinal Chemistry: Principles and Practice, RSC, 2nd Ed, 2002.
  • G.Michael Blackburn, M.J. Gait, David Loakes, and D.M. Williams, Nucleic Acids in Chemistry and Biology, RSC, 3rd Ed, 2005


Feedback methods

Students have access to example problems/exam type questions on Blackboard and have the opportunity to review these with the Organic tutors or contact lecturing staff for informal review and feedback during the course.

Office hours will be advertised via Blackboard and will run during the relevant lecturing period.

Students are advised to email staff to arrange meetings where possible during or outside of office hours. Three staff are based in MIB and one staff member if based externally.

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 24 hours
  • Independent study hours - 74 hours

Teaching staff

John Gardiner - Unit coordinator

Anthony Green - Unit coordinator

Eriko Takano - Unit coordinator

Cliff Jones - Unit coordinator

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