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Have you ever wondered who creates many of the drugs that we see on our store shelves? Continue reading to learn about the field of medicinal chemistry. Discover what a medicinal chemist does and examples of the research projects they conduct.

What is Medicinal Chemistry?

Imagine you have a very bad sinus headache; your nose is stuffy, and all you want to do is sleep. You find a wide variety of sinus medications to choose from at the drugstore, but who is responsible for working behind the scenes to create these drugs?A medicinal chemist is a trained chemist who focuses on drug discovery and development. They make or synthesize new drugs as well as improve the method used to create existing drugs. Think of a medicinal chemist as a person who loves both biology and chemistry, and uses them to help treat diseases and health-related issues.They may also be interested in learning about the medicinal properties of natural substances, such as plants. When developing drugs, they may work to discover and isolate medicinal agents that are found in plants. For example, medicinal chemists have researched the properties in thyme leaves used to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Thyme leaves
thyme

A Day In The Life of a Medicinal Chemist: What Do They Do?

So, what is a typical day like for a medicinal chemist? Well, this really depends on the type of job being completed. Most medicinal chemists work in a laboratory, but the lab environments can vary widely and depend on the types of analytical equipment needed to separate and identify compounds.A cornerstone of medicinal chemistry is collaboration with scientists in other disciplines.

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For example, after purifying a drug, a medicinal chemist may send their drug sample(s) to a biologist to see how well it performs in the body. Remember that biologists and chemists work very closely together in the field of medicinal chemistry.

Medicinal Chemistry Research: An Overview

Research is a very specific process used to study and learn about substances. Usually conducted in the form of a project, there are several research topics conducted by medicinal chemists. Let’s take a look at two broad types of research that utilize medicinal chemistry applications.

Plant chemistry

Plants can play a very important role during the drug discovery and development phase of medicinal chemistry.

Plants have been used as medicinal agents for a wide variety of purposes, such as an herbal remedy for colds or illnesses. In medicinal chemistry, researchers work to determine how certain properties of a plant can be used as a medicinal agent to improve general health and well-being.Understanding the positive medicinal impact of plants on human health has had a tremendous influence on drug discovery. For example, opium, the natural chemical found in the poppy seed plant, has been used since ancient times. At the turn of the 19th century, medicinal chemists discovered that morphine could be isolated from this plant-based agent to more effectively treat people’s nasty aches and pains.

Drugs

Medicinal chemistry is widely used within the pharmaceutical industry.

Specifically, medicinal chemistry research contributes to the synthesis of new drugs and to improvements in current methods used to treat illnesses and diseases. Many different biological and chemical techniques apply to this process.Medicinal chemistry plays a large role during the research phase of developing a drug. Once the potential drug has passed through this phase, there are several steps that must be completed before a drug makes its way to our store shelves. These steps range from many clinical trials to evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Stages of drug synthesis a medicinal chemist may follow
drug discovery

Whether it is creating a drug that mimics a plant healing property or working in the pharmaceutical industry, medicinal chemistry plays a very important role in drug development and discovery.

Next time you reach for a bottle of sinus medication, think about the medicinal chemists who worked hard to research and develop the drug used to cure your illness.

Lesson Summary

Medicinal chemistry is a blend of both biology and chemistry disciplines; it is useful in discovering and improving medicinal treatments. Medicinal chemists are often involved in synthesizing or creating new drugs targeted for treating diseases. Examples of medicinal chemistry-based research include the identification of different plant properties used to create effective drugs as well as discovering new drugs to be tested in clinical trials, within the pharmaceutical industry. Research is a very specific approach taken to learn about new or existing substances, and medicinal chemists are constantly performing research to improve the treatment of diseases and health-related issues.

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