Medicinal Chemistry

Medicinal chemistry is a stimulating field as it links many scientific disciplines and allows for collaboration with other scientists in researching and developing new drugs.
Medicinal chemists apply their chemistry training to the process of synthesizing new pharmaceuticals. They also improve the processes by which existing pharmaceuticals are made. Medicinal chemists are focused on drug discovery and development and are concerned with the isolation of medicinal agents found in plants, as well as the
creation of new synthetic drug compounds. Most chemists work with a team of scientists from different disciplines, including biologists, toxicologists, pharmacologists, theoretical chemists, microbiologists, and biopharmacists.
Together, this team uses sophisticated analytical techniques to synthesize and test new drug products and to develop the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly means of production.

Typical Job Duties

  • Basic research into how various chemicals affect biological systems.
  • Drug development, including formulating drugs used to treat patients with diseases.
  • Testing potential new bio-active compounds in patient populations.
  • Developing guidelines for how new pharmaceuticals will be such as chemists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who review new drug applications from pharmaceutical companies and the processes by which the substances are made.

Technical Skills

  • Synthetic organic chemistry skills, including purification and identification of products.
  • Analytical instrumention skills for compound identification.
  • Broad understanding of biology and biological functions and how drugs work.
  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills are required. In most cases a large, interdisciplinary team will decide which compounds should be synthesized and tested, so the medicinal chemist needs to work well with everyone on the team.
  • Communication skills—medicinal chemists often have to write reports and present the results of their research. They need to be able to communicate clearly with other chemists, with other types of scientists, and with nonscientists.

Career Path

Many medicinal chemists start out in the lab and then move on to other laboratory career such as process chemistry, formulation chemistry, quality control or quality assurance. They may also move to nonlaboratory careers such as regulatory affairs, intellectual property (patents), project management, or technology transfer.

Original content at acs.org

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