Module code: CHE2037

Module Overview

This module builds on general organic chemistry principles that students acquired at levels 4 and 5 in the context of biomolecules.  Students will learn the natural and synthetic chemistry of peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and natural products from common biosynthetic pathways. This foundation will then support development of a basic understanding of drug action, on and by these molecules, and the drug discovery process.

Module provider

Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Module Leader

WHELLIGAN Daniel (Chst Chm Eng)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 84

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 30

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

  • Drug-target binding interactions

  • Drug targets: receptors, enzymes, other proteins, nucleic acids. Target identification. Target validation.

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

  • Lead finding: bioassay introduction, natural products, HTS, virtual screening, 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.

  • 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

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

  • Traditional medicine systems. Ethnopharmacology

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

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Coursework 20
Examination Examination (2H) 80

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to allow students to demonstrate:

  • That their level of understanding of module content is such that they can interpret and analyse information from peer-reviewed articles in the area, either to review a topic or answer questions about a specific piece of research.

  • That they can apply bioorganic and drug discovery principles to specific problems, providing explanations for phenomena and proposals for syntheses of given compounds

  Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • one piece of coursework consisting of either an essay or question set based on lecture material and the literature. (~15 h, assesses learning outcomes 2, 3 and 4)

  • Examination (2 h, assesses learning outcomes 1-5)

Formative assessment:

Problems relevant to recent lecture material, and similar to those in the exam, will be provided and solved in tutorials interspersed throughout the semester.  Students will work in groups to solve these with the aim being that they converge onto the correct answer through discussion.  


Feedback to the coursework will consist of comments on individual students’ work as well as general feedback covering common misconceptions and mistakes.

Module aims

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the structures and chemistry of biomolecules, including their synthesis and biosynthesis
  • Provide a critical understanding of how drugs interact with biomolecules and the ability to analyse the drug discovery, design and development process

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Be able to describe the history of drug discovery and compare it with modern methods K
002 Retrieve and understand literature and presentations describing studies which demonstrate modern methods of drug discovery, design and development KCPT
003 Have the ability to evaluate the physicochemical and calculatable properties of molecules and relate them to their predicted pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics KC
004 Be able to describe and explain the chemistry of lipids, amino acids, peptides and proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and alkaloids, and relate it to drug action, as well as propose routes for the synthesis of given final compounds KCP
005 Have knowledge of the important classes of natural products and be able to complete schemes showing their biosynthesis KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Enhance level 4 and 5 understanding of organic chemistry by showing, in lectures, its application to the main classes of biomolecules: nucleic acids, amino acids, peptides and proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.  Thus this optional module puts students on a learning journey which emphasises the organic side of chemistry and leads into medicinal chemistry in the final year.

  • Provide students with a set of key reactions which they can apply to the partial syntheses of previously unseen molecules within the biomolecule classes.  Such applications, practiced in groups in class, will be assisted by lecturer ‘walkaround’ aiming to induce a supportive and inclusive environment

  • Introduce students, in lectures, to the concept of biosynthesis with examples of natural routes to important classes of metabolites and provide opportunities (problems in-class or online) for them to practice completing proposed biosyntheses of previously unseen compounds

  • Through lectures, introduce chemistry students to drug discovery, especially the fundamental principles of medicinal chemistry.  This topic requires a sound understanding of nucleic acids and proteins from the first half of the module.  In-class opportunities, in tutorials or short lecture pauses, will be given to students to apply the principles to example problems.


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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: CHE2037

Other information

The School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

General knowledge of the drug discovery pipeline and fundamental methods will increase employability in the pharmaceutical industry be it ‘big pharma’ or custom research organisations (CROs).  Having the background understanding from module content coupled with the ability to analyse the literature in this area, as demonstrated in class and developed in the coursework,  is another transferable skill that contributes to employability, requires resourcefulness and instils stronger digital capabilities through the use of literature databases.  The cost of drug discovery and consideration of animal trials raises ethical issues and help develop students’ global and cultural capabilities because drugs are rarely developed if they will only small numbers of people suffer the disease creating a small market.

The module is a specialisation of organic chemistry: bioorganic chemistry.  It thus builds on the L4 module CHE1041 Organic Structure, Reactivity and Functional Groups and level 5 module CHE2044 Organic Carbon-Carbon Bond Formation and Heterocyclic Chemistry.  The progression from this module is to either level 6 CHE3062 Medicinal Chemistry or (after PTY) level 7 CHEM037 Advanced Medicinal Chemistry.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation BSc (Hons) 2 Optional 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 MChem 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
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

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 2024/5 academic year.