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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: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

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 cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

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 and biochemists. 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 diseases

  • biological action of therapeutics

  • importance of inorganic chemistry in biomedical applications

  • modern approaches in design and development of new chemotherapeutics

  • role of chemistry in health maintenance and disease prevention

  • the intertwine character of complex diseases such cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration

  • the different natures of targets of simple (e.g. infection) and complex diseases

Module learning outcomes

Subject content – to understand:

  • importance of historical achievements of chemistry to modern biomedicine

  • wide context of interaction of pharmaceuticals with human body

  • particular and common molecular events behind the main types of diseases and the need of their elucidation for effective chemical interventions

  • issues in a successful chemical approach to complex diseases: the interdependence of key molecular signalling and regulatory pathways in cancer, diabetes, neurodegeneration

  • role of metals for life processes, therapy and analytical/imaging progress of biomedicine

  • need for understanding of required properties of drug molecule

  • the advances in modern drug design process and drug delivery

Academic and graduate skills:

  • confidence in tackling biomedical-pharmaceutical problems

  • building a broad background in medicinal chemistry and biomedicine: preparation for biomedical-research projects, pharma-based industrial placements, and biomedicine-oriented PhDs

  • understanding of wide and intertwined molecular and chemical contexts in biomedicine

  • confidence in using biomedical literature and databases

  • awareness of challenges of contemporary medicine: epidemic and complex character of most common diseases

  • awareness of progress and cutting edge application of chemistry in drug design, delivery and in analytical and imaging biomedicine

  • developing the custom for systematic reading of research literature, due to following rapid developments in biomedical sciences: prerequisite for successful chemist

  • confidence in using graphics programmes, manipulation and analysis of macromolecular structures

Module content

The first part of the module (14L) sets the foundations of medicinal chemistry, and begins with a historical overview of the development and major achievements of chemotherapy, and introduces the molecular basis of several key types of disease, from infections to single-gene diseases. This part ends with a focus on cancer, looking at current and potential drugs and the chemistry behind their actions.

The second part of the CD module (22L) builds on the above material to expand it into more advanced aspects of human health and disease. It covers the chemical and molecular aspects of epidemic complex diseases resulting from dis-regulation of hormonal control (diabetes, breast cancer). It explains the inter-connecting molecular background of complex diseases: their genetic, metabolic and environmental interrelationship. Variety of aspects of use of metals in medicine will be covered. The modern and practical molecular approaches to drug discovery will be discussed. Role of chemistry in health maintenance and disease prevention (e.g. blood pressure, arteriosclerosis) will also be covered.

Module content:

An Introduction to Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (DKS, 8 lectures, 1x1.5h 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.

Introduction to the Molecular Basis of Diseases (AMB, 6 lectures)

This set of lectures will focus on an explanation of some key molecular aspects of human physiology. It will introduce general classification of diseases (bacterial/viral infections, genetic/complex diseases). This course is a concise survey of the main types of genetic diseases, fundamentals of immune responses, and infections, building the basic biomedical background towards complex disases, giving finally some background to cancer.

Cancer Chemotherapy (MAF, 5 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 (REH, 6 lectures, 1x3 h assessed workshop)

This module will provide an understanding of the contribution chemical methods and thinking make to the drug discovery process, including target identification, hit identification and lead optimisation. The target-oriented approach to therapeutic intervention will be illustrated with examples from the molecular and cell biology (influenza, HIV, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and cancer). The examples will also show how a broad range of chemical, biological, structural and computational techniques are being applied in drug discovery. A recurring theme is the need for an understanding of the required properties for a drug molecule.  This includes an appreciation of the biological processes that determine ADME and toxicity properties and the types of assays that are used to monitor these.

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, 5 lectures, 1x3h workshop)

The first part will cover: the interlink of the classical hormone:membrane receptor (insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF)) signalling, the impact of common switches in signalling pathways for treatment of diabetes, carcinogenesis of insulin, insulin alternatives to anti-diabetic drug targets (nuclear receptors (anti-obesity), metmorfin (oral anti-diabetics)), importance of insulin/IGF in cancer development. Secondly, the in-health/disease role of an alternative regulation of cell-cell communication (hormone=transcription factor), and its clinical modification will be discussed on examples of nuclear receptors (NR).  Impact of protein aggregation in disease (Alzheimer, Huntington’s) will be presented. The course will underline the need for a holistic approach to complex diseases.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Chemistry & Disease
N/A 80
Assessed Workshop
N/A 20

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The exam will have two 25-mark compulsory questions from all courses except REHu Modern Approaches to Drug Discovery which will be assessed by a continuous assessment with the end of term as its deadline.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Chemistry & Disease
N/A 80
Assessed Workshop
N/A 20

Module feedback

Closed exam results with per-question breakdown are returned to the students via supervisors within 5 weeks (as per special approval by the University Teaching Committee). Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages 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 Chemistry web pages.

Written feedback will be provided on workshop-based continuous assessment within 20 working days after 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.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students