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Program Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology

BSc undergraduate program

Human life expectancy and quality of life has been dramatically increased over the last hundred years and is directly connected to the rise of modern medicine. The Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology (MCCB) program places the student at the forefront of the revolutionary efforts now underway to understand and treat disease. The program provides a fundamental understanding of the drug-body interaction, from the molecular to the macromolecular level, allowing the identification and exploitation of bioactive molecules. The topics will range from drug discovery, molecular docking, drug delivery and resistance, to the intricacies of refining our knowledge of drug target and function within molecular biology. Your studies in MCCB will also comprise early research involvement. This flagship program is based on an innovative, multidisciplinary approach encompassing life scientists, chemists, biophysicists, and biotechnologist, who are addressing the major health challenges of mankind.

His science communication made him a facebook-star. Meet our alumnus Alumni Hashem Al-Ghaili.

Program Structure and Content

Structure Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Year 1
Take 3 CHOICE Modules, at least one free selection
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a first year module that explains how the structure of biological molecules (proteins, sugars, lipids, nucleic acids) defines their biochemical properties and function. Students will learn the basics of cell structure and metabolism, and how small molecules can influence them, for example in gene expression, symbiosis, infectious diseases and their treatment, and in global element cycles. The discovery of such small molecules in the pharmaceutical industry will be explained. Two lectures are complemented by a 5 ECTS lab course offering practical training in key techniques applied in biochemistry and molecular biology. This module provides the foundation for the CORE modules "Molecular Biology" and "Chemical Biology".
Organic Chemistry
We begin by reestablishing atomic structure, and the importance of Lewis dot structures, resonance, valence-shell electron-pair repulsion, and valence-bond theory to give meaning to a covalent bond. Hybridization is then introduced to allow an accurate and predictive accounting of molecular shape. This foundation permits the introduction of: functional groups, conformation, chirality, acidity and basicity, and the basics of equilibria, thermodynamic, and kinetic phenomena. With these concepts in hand, we develop organic reactivity by examining the mechanistic pathways (arrow pushing) and chemical principles behind substitution, elimination, and addition reactions. Common reagents and functional group transformations are then learned in the context of the importance of their order and type (retrosynthetic analysis and strategy) for brevity in synthesis.
Year 2
Take 3 CORE Modules, at least 2 from study program
Chemical Biology
Chemical Biology asks how small molecules, such as pharmaceutical drugs, act on biological targets, such as proteins or genes, and how they can be used to influence processes in cells and in the entire organism, both for advancing fundamental knowledge and for treating diseases. Work in chemical biology requires a thorough understanding of how these drug targets function and what natural role they play in the cell. Chemical Biology is an essential complement of Medicinal Chemistry enabling the exploration, design, testing and safety assessment of drugs, a key expertise for a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Drug Action and Production
This module introduces students to pharmaceuticals used in current medical practice. Grouped according to therapeutic areas, drugs in current use are discussed in terms of their chemical structure, structural requirement for action, basic pharmacology, synthesis and analysis. The module summarizes current knowledge on the action and production of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry and the essential set of scientific methods and approaches used in drug production and analysis. This knowledge forms the basis for all future drug development.
Drug Development
Pharmaceutical drug development is an interdisciplinary scientific endeavor founded on the discovery of new chemical entities that act at biologically relevant disease targets. The work flow of medicinal chemistry entails target validation, high throughput assay screening of ‘chemical libraries’, drug discovery, drug optimization (in silico and laboratory) via structure activity relationships, lead candidate identification, toxicology, preclinical and finally clinical trials. A constant underlying theme is how, why, and when to take advantage of chemical principles to achieve the desired outcome of forming a therapeutic agent (active pharmaceutical ingredient).
Year 3
Take CAREER Modules, choose between World and Campus Track
1. World Track
5th Semester:
  • Program-specific Internship / study abroad
6th Semester:
  • Program-specific Project / Thesis Module
  • Program-specific Specialization Module
  • Exemplary course offering:
    Project /Thesis Seminar MCCB
    Introduction to Biophysical Chemistry
    Binding and Enzyme Assays
    Concepts and Applications of Metabolism
    Pharmaceutical Formulation and Targeting Technology
    Structure Elucidation of Biomolecules
2. Campus Track
Students who do not enter the World Track follow the Campus Track
5th and 6th Semester:
  • Program-specific Project / Thesis Module
  • Program-specific Specialization Module (please see World Track for exemplary course offering)
  • Additional CORE Module
For further information, please see the program website: