University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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Medicinal Chemistry

Medicinal Chemistry is a multi-disciplinary major offered by the Discipline of Pharmacology in the Sydney Medical School and the School of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

The Medicinal Chemistry major will provide you with the knowledge, training and skills needed for possible employment and research opportunities in drug discovery and development.

The discovery of new drugs is one of the most exciting and rapidly developing fields in science, and there is a growing need for safer, more effective pharmaceuticals against diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS, in addition to diseases that are becoming more widespread, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Society also faces challenges ranging from antimicrobial resistance and dementia, with the latter of special significance in the context of the aging population. Medicinal chemistry looks at how to design and prepare drugs to combat and manage these diseases, and the mechanism of action (how the drugs work).

Requirements for completion

A major in Medicinal Chemistry requires 48 credit points, consisting of:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level selective chemistry units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level selective pharmacology units

A minor in Medicinal Chemistry is available and articulates to this major.

Pathway through the major

The requirements for a major/minor in Medicinal Chemistry are spread out over three years of the degree (possibly four years if students are completing a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree).

A sample pathway for the Medicinal Chemistry major (over three years of a degree) is listed below.

Sample pathway: Medicinal Chemistry major (48 credit points)



Units of study


Semester 1

Core: CHEM1XX1 Chemistry 1A

Semester 2

Core: CHEM1XX2 Chemistry 1B


Semester 1

Core: CHEM2401/2911/2915 Molecular Reactivity and Spectroscopy

Semester 2

Core: PCOL2011 Pharmacology Fundamentals


Semester 1

Core: MCHM3X01 Medicinal Chemistry 1

Semester 1 or Semester 2

Core: MCHM3X02 Medicinal Chemistry 2

Selective: 3000-level units listed for major


Please Note. This sample progression is meant as an example only. Depending on unit prerequisites, students may be able to complete these units in a different sequence from that displayed in the table above.

For details of the core and selective units of study required for the major or minor please refer to the Medicinal Chemistry section of the unit of study table, Table S, in this handbook.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, which must include a minimum of 24 credit points in a single subject area at 4000-level, including a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points. Space is provided for 12 credit points towards the second major (if not already completed). 24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Requirements for Honours in the area of Medicinal Chemistry: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Honours units of study will be available in 2020.

Contact and further information


T +61 2 9351 4504

The School of Chemistry
Chemistry Building F11
University of Sydney NSW 2006
The Discipline of Pharmacology
Molecular Bioscience Building G08
University of Sydney NSW 2006
Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Medicinal Chemistry will know:

  1. The major current themes in modern drug discovery, ranging from combinatorial synthetic methods to fragment-based screening (an example of Depth of Disciplinary Expertise).
  2. How advances in science and technology are changing the way in which drug discovery and development is being pursued, and against which diseases (an example of Interdisciplinary Effectiveness).
  3. How genomics, proteomics and metabolomics are applied to drug target validation.
  4. The nature and impact of pharmacogenomics and pharmacoepidemiology.
  5. The processes involved in translating a therapeutic to market.

Students will be able to:

  1. Draw upon their training to judge a drug candidate vs. important criteria for development, such as physicochemical properties and synthetic accessibility.
  2. Independently propose and justify reasonable and efficient synthetic approaches towards small organic molecule drug candidates (an example of Inventiveness).
  3. Collaboratively design a strategy to identify and validate a disease-specific target.
  4. Assess the efficacy of drug action against genomic and proteomic variation.
  5. Formulate an application for approval and registration of a new drug, generic or biosimiliar.