Module code: CHE2029

Module Overview

This module builds on general organic chemistry knowledge in the context of biomolecules including proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and natural products from common biosynthetic pathways. It covers the biomolecules’ natural and synthetic chemistry and uses this foundation to support a basic understanding of drug action and the drug discovery process.

Module provider


Module Leader

WHELLIGAN Daniel (Chemistry)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

JACs code: F150

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Drug discovery: historical perspective

Basic model of drug mechanism, medicinal chemistry introduction, modern drug discovery process and examples

Drug-target binding interactions: electrostatic, H-bonding, dipole-dipole, repulsive, van der Waals, hydrophobic.

Drug targets: receptors, enzymes, other proteins (structural, transporters), nucleic acids, membranes.  Target identification.  Target validation.

Amino acids, peptides, proteins: 1°, 2°, 3°, 4° structure, peptide synthesis, gel electrophoresis, Western blotting, peptide/protein analysis.

Lead finding: ligand and target based: bioassay introduction, natural products, HTS, fragment-based drug discovery, virtual screening, ‘me-too’, hit validation, parallel chemistry, combinatorial chemistry.

SAR and structure based design.  Pharmacophore, introduction to computer aided drug design.  Selectivity, toxicity.

The cell membrane: lipids, fatty acids, membrane proteins, crossing the cell membrane, drugs which target the cell membrane

Pharmacokinetics: ADME: bioavailability, introduction to absorption, log P, distribution, metabolism, excretion, Lipinski’s ‘rules’, drug administration

Getting a drug to market: Toxicology testing, clinical trials, regulatory affairs.

Carbohydrates: mono, oligo, polysaccharides, carbohydrate (sugar) chemistry/synthesis.  Drugs that target carbohydrates.

The acetate pathway: Fatty acids, prostagalandins, anthraquinones, aflatoxins, cannabinoids, tetracyclines, macrolides, polyenes and polyethers of medicinal importance

The shikimate pathway: Lignans, coumarins and flavonoids of medicinal importance. Phytoestrogens and vitamin E

The mevalonate pathway: the terpenoids, classes, nomenclature, steroid hormones and other medicinally important terpenoids

Traditional medicine systems.  Ethnopharmacology

The chemistry of the alkaloids: structures, biosynthesis, medicinally important examples, recreational drugs and drug abuse

Nucleic acids: DNA, RNA, replication, transcription, translation.  Drugs that target DNA/RNA.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAM - 1.5 HRS 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate,

through coursework, the ability to:

  • apply knowledge and skills from lectures to answer problems on related examples of biomolecule identification, biosynthesis and medicinal uses

  • the use of knowledge from lectures and, where necessary, further background reading to comprehend a drug discovery paper from the peer-reviewed literature and answer a set of questions on it


through written examination, those learning outcomes not covered by the coursework [LOs 1-5]


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • two coursework problem sets based on lecture material and a drug discovery publication.  The first provides an opportunity for mid-module feedback before the final, higher value piece.  [LOs 1-5] (10-15 h, deadlines week 7 and week 10, 10+20=30%).

  • examination [LOs 1, 2(a), 3, 4, 5] (1.5 h, closed book)


Formative assessment and feedback

Most lectures contain a small problem-solving task which is addressed in groups of 2-3.  During the task, the lecturer moves amongst the groups commenting and guiding the students’ starting points and answering strategies.  Common problems are highlighted to the whole class and the final solution is given on the board/visualiser.

Feedback to the coursework will consist of annotations to individual student’s work as well as a general feedback document covering common misconceptions and mistakes.

Module aims

  • To provide students with an understanding of the chemistry of biomolecules and natural products and their interaction with drugs.
  • To provide students with a strong grounding in the drug discovery, design and development process

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Understand modern and historical drug discovery strategies
2 Explain the bonding and reactivity of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and selected classes of natural products
3 Solve basic problems set on the classification, synthesis, biosynthesis or synthetic manipulation of biomolecules and natural products
4 Identify pharmacophores and structure-activity relationships from medicinal chemistry datasets
5 Suggest and/or apply basic drug discovery methods and principles to taught and new examples

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 116

Lecture Hours: 36

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

introduce chemists to drug discovery and provide them with a foundation in biomolecules for understanding more advanced drug discovery concepts and biochemistry in the future. 

The learning and teaching methods include:

Formal lectures (32 h) and tutorial sessions (2 h), directed reading of the literature for question sets.



Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY 1 :

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Chemistry MChem 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation MChem 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Medicinal Chemistry MChem 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Medicinal Chemistry BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2018/9 academic year.