Drugs, Toxins & Natural Products Chemistry

CHEM 4320

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Course Description

This course will examine the chemistry and biological activity of pharmaceuticals, toxins and the biochemical pathways from which they are derived. The major classes of biologically active compounds, their effects and molecular constituents will also be examined in depth.

Learning Objectives

Demonstrate how small and large molecules interact with the major biochemical targets of enzymes, nucleic acids, lipid membranes and cellular receptors.

Identify the chemical and physical features that contribute to a molecule’s activity at a particular biological target.

Demonstrate how a particular molecular structure could be modified to increase or decrease biological activity.

Describe the drug design and development process, as it occurs at major medicinal chemisty research laboratories.

Classify a compound based on its effect and mode of action as a member of one of the major classes of pharmaceuticals, including but not limited to: antibiotics, chemotherapeutic agents, cholinergic agonists or antagonists, adrenergic agonists or antagonists, central nervous system stimulants or depressants, hallucinogens, analgesics, anti-inflammation compounds or steroids.

Describe the major biochemical pathways found in plants, microbes and even animals that yield the precursors for many of our most important pharmaceuticals.


A brief History of pharmaceuticals

Strategies for targeting proteins & enzymes

Strategies for targeting biological receptors

Strategies for targeting nucleic acids

Drug xiscovery, design & development

Antibiotics (bacterial)

Antibiotics (fungi, protozoa, worms)

Antibiotics (viruses)

Chemotherapy (cancer-fighting compounds)

Compounds affecting the cholinergic system

Compounds affecting the adrenergic system

Compounds affecting the central nervous system

Opium analgesics

Analgesics & anti-inflammatory agents


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