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Chemistry & Disease - CHE00030H

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  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Marek Brzozowski
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

The CD module addresses some key aspects of medicinal chemistry and biomedicine building both fundamental and applied chemical/biochemical background for modern chemists and biochemists. Using organic, inorganic, biological and structural aspects of chemistry, it covers molecular aspects of disease, role of chemistry in the understanding of disease at the molecular level, and effective development and delivery of chemotherapeutic agents for the prevention, control and eradication of many types of disease.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The CD module covers some key aspects of medicinal chemistry and biomedicine to build an advanced, applied chemical/biochemical background for modern chemists, biochemists and natural scientists. It focuses on (i) molecular aspects of disease, (ii) impact of chemistry in the understanding of disease at the molecular level, and (iii) and effective development and provision of chemotherapeutic agents for the prevention, control and eradication of disease. All aspects of chemistry, including organic, inorganic, physical, biological and structural will be included.

Module aims - to explain:

  • importance of chemical approaches to target disease
  • molecular bases of key types of complex diseases
  • biological action of therapeutics
  • importance of inorganic chemistry in biomedical applications
  • modern approaches in design and development of new chemotherapeutics
  • the intertwine character of complex diseases such cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration
  • the complex nature of drug targets of complex diseases and need for a holistic approach for their effective exploitation.

Module learning outcomes

Students should be able to :

  • illustrate the importance of historical achievements in chemistry in shaping modern biomedicine
  • describe the wide context of interaction of pharmaceuticals with human body
  • classify the particular and common molecular events behind the main types of complex diseases and understand the need for extensive research for effective chemical interventions
  • understand and explain the issues in a successful chemical approach to complex diseases including the interdependence of key molecular signalling and regulatory pathways using examples in cancer, diabetes, neurodegeneration
  • give examples and understand of the role of metals for life processes, therapy and analytical/imaging progress of biomedicine
  • characterise the required properties of a drug molecule that determine efficacy, safety and bioavailability
  • explain how chemical methods and thinking contribute to the drug discovery process and give examples
  • understand and describe advances in modern drug design process and drug delivery
  • understand complex, intertwined molecular and chemical contexts in biomedicine
  • develop skills in systematic reading of research literature applied to following rapid developments in biomedical sciences.

Module content

The first part of the module sets the foundations of medicinal chemistry, and begins with a historical overview of the development and major achievements of chemotherapy. This part is followed with focus on cancer, looking at current and potential drugs and the chemistry behind their actions.

The following parts of the CD module build on the above material to expand it into more advanced aspects of human health and disease. Variety of aspects of use of metals in medicine (e.g., as key parts of the drugs and in bio-imaging) will be covered. The modern and practical molecular approaches to drug discovery will be discussed. The module will be round up with a survey of chemical and molecular aspects of socially-epidemic complex diseases resulting from de-regulation of hormonal control (diabetes, breast cancer). It will explain the inter-connecting molecular background of complex diseases: their genetic, metabolic and environmental interrelationship.

Module content:

An Introduction to Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (DKS, 8 lectures, 1x1h workshop)

Initially this set of lectures will give an overview of the historical development of medicinal chemistry and chemotherapy. Focus will then be on the way in which a pharmaceutical interacts with the human body - the problems this can cause, and the opportunities it can provide for more efficient therapy via targeted drug delivery.

Cancer Chemotherapy (MAF, 4 lectures, 1x1.5h workshop)

An exploration of current (and potential) cancer therapeutics. This will include well-established drugs that act on DNA (DNA alkylating agents, cross linkers, intercalating agents), drugs that act on structural proteins (taxol, epothiolones). It will be followed by survey of modern approaches in development of new cancer drug targets in the context of expanding hallmarks of cancer. Molecular challenges in a successful cancer eradication will be discussed.

Modern Approaches to Drug Discovery (LIW, 5 lectures, 1x1.5h workshop)

This course will provide an understanding of the contribution chemical methods and thinking make to the drug discovery process, from target and hit identification to lead optimisation. Illustrated with relevant examples of therapeutic intervention (e.g. influenza, cancer, autoimmune and metabolic disorders) we will explore how various chemical, biological, structural and computational techniques are being applied in the drug discovery process. A recurring theme is the need for an understanding of the required properties of a drug candidate that determine its efficacy and safety.

Metals in Medicine (AKDK, 6 lectures, 1x1.5h workshop)

This part of the module provides an introduction to Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry, an emerging new area of chemistry. The field has been stimulated by the success of cisplatin, still one of the best-selling anti-cancer drugs. Topics include recent developments relating to platinum anticancer agents and other established metallodrugs, such as gold-containing anti-arthritic drugs. In addition, clinically useful ion chelators for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, iron overload and neuro-degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, will be discussed. The focus of the final part of the course will be radiodiagnostic and radiotherapeutic isotopes and the development of MRI contrast agents.

Molecular Aspects of Complex Diseases (AMB, 6 lectures, 1x1.5h workshop)

The first, introductory part will summarise examples of diseases with well-known aetiology (single gene mutations genetic diseases, infections). Subsequently, they will be juxta-positioned with a survey of some complex diseases without fully clear aetiologies but with large societal impacts. This will be based on examples of hormonal malfunction when hormone is of an organic nature (oestrogen) and when it is a protein (insulin). Molecular background of E2-related diseases and complexity of specific drug intervention will be discussed. Oestrogen-signalling malfunction will be contrasted with diabetes where lack of insulin or cellular responsiveness to this protein hormone are pathological factors. The course will end with highlighting conceptual and methodological challenges in understanding diseases caused by protein misfolding and aggregation.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed exam : Chemistry & Disease open-book in-person exam
2 hours 80
Continuous assessment : Modern Approaches to Drug Discovery
1.5 hours 20

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The exam (2-hour paper time) will have two 25-mark compulsory questions from all courses except LIW Modern Approaches to Drug Discovery which will be assessed by a continuous assessment with the end of semester as its deadline.



Module feedback

Exam results with per-question breakdown are returned to the students and supervisors within 5 weeks (as per special approval by the University Teaching Committee). Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry VLE sites when the students receive their marks, so that they can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners’ reports for each question are made available to the students via the ChemistryVLE.

Written feedback will be provided on the continuous assessment within 25 working days after the assessment delivery deadline.

Indicative reading

This is a research-led course so up-to-date scientific publications will form the majority of the reading; some key, relevant papers will be provided by module organisers but they are not pre-requisite for the examination.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.