University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Medicinal Chemistry

Medicinal Chemistry is a multi-disciplinary major offered by the Discipline of Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, 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 employment and research opportunities in drug discovery and development.

The discovery of new drugs is one of the most exciting and rapidly developing fields of science, and there is a growing need for safer, more effective pharmaceuticals against diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, infection, HIV/AIDS, 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) 6 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of pharmacology units according to the following:
(a) 6 credit points of 2000-level PCOL coded units or
(b) 6 credit points of 2000-level MEDS coded pharmacology units for students in the Medical Science Stream
(iv) 12 credit points of 3000-level major core units
(v) 6 credit points of 3000-level chemistry selective units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level interdisciplinary project units

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

First year

In the first year of your Medicinal Chemistry major you will undertake two 1000-level Chemistry units; Chemistry 1A (CHEM1XX1), which should be taken first, and Chemistry 1B (CHEM1XX2). Each of these is offered at four levels (Fundamental, Mainstream, Advanced, and the Special Studies Program) to suit the background and interests of students. These units underpin the Medicinal Chemistry major and will provide a solid understanding of chemical structure and reactivity.

Second year

CHEM2521/2921/2991 Molecular Stability and Reactivity includes an extension of the skills and knowledge acquired in 1000-level Chemistry and provide the broad base for further specialisation in the third year of the Medicinal Chemistry major.

PCOL2021 Key Concepts in Pharmacology provides the fundamental grounding in four basic areas in Pharmacology: (1) principles of drug action (2) pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics (3) drug discovery and design, and (4) drug development. The delivery of material involves lectures, practicals, computer-aided learning and problem-based workshops. Practical classes provide students with the opportunity to acquire technical experience and teamwork skills. Problem-based workshops are based on real-life scenarios of drug use in the community. These workshops require students to integrate information obtained in lectures in order to provide solutions to the problems. Online quizzes accompany each module to encourage continued learning throughout the semester.

Third year

MCHM3X01 From Molecules to Therapeutics and PCOL3X12 Drug Design and Development form the core units of study for the Medicinal Chemistry major. These units provide a deeper understanding of the medicinal chemistry underpinning drug discovery and design and the relevance to human disease, and provide an interdisciplinary perspective.
For the Medicinal Chemistry minor you will choose MCHM3X01 From Molecules to Therapeutics and a selection from PCOL3X12 Drug Design and Development, CHEM3X10 Biomolecules: Properties and Reactions and CHEM3X15 Synthetic Medicinal Chemistry.

You can also choose from additional Chemistry units of study as selectives, CHEM3X10 Biomolecules: Properties and Reactions or CHEM3X15 Synthetic Medicinal Chemistry, depending on where you wish to focus your learning. You may wish to focus on the structure, reactivity and properties of biomolecules and the building blocks from which these molecules are assembled, as well as the design and synthesis of small molecules that mimic the functions of biomolecules. Or you may wish to consider important factors in drug design, focusing on the current arsenal of methods used in the discovery of new drugs

In your third year you will have the opportunity to take at least one designated project unit that provides disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning in a practical and project based setting. In the Medicinal Chemistry major we offer MCHM3888 Medicinal Chemistry Interdisciplinary Project. Students may otherwise be interested in taking an industry and community project (SCPU3001 Scientific Interdisciplinary Project).

Fourth year

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

Advanced coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points.

Meritorious students may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor's degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements prior to Honours commencement.

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

Contact and further information


The School of Chemistry
Chemistry Building F11
University of Sydney NSW 2006

T +61 2 9351 4504

The Discipline of Pharmacology
Molecular Bioscience Building G08
Corner Maze Cros and Butlin Ave
University of Sydney NSW 2006

T +61 2 9351 6725

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Medicinal Chemistry will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge of the processes involved in modern drug discovery.
  2. Exhibit an integrated knowledge of how advances in science and technology are changing the ways in which drug discovery and development are being pursued.
  3. Describe the application of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics as they apply to drug target validation and assess the efficacy of drug action.
  4. Source, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate medicinal chemistry information from a range of relevant sources.
  5. Communicate core concepts and findings in medicinal chemistry through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audiences, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  6. Judge a drug candidate and identify important criteria for development, including physicochemical properties and synthetic accessibility.
  7. Describe the processes involved in translating a therapeutic to market.
  8. Independently propose and justify reasonable and efficient synthetic approaches towards small organic molecule drug candidates.
  9. Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem solving in the field of medicinal chemistry and work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and collaborative contexts.
  10. Collaboratively design a strategy to identify and validate a disease-specific target, working in a professional and ethical manner whilst adhering to industry regulatory standards.
  11. Address authentic problems in medicinal chemistry, working professionally and ethically and with consideration of cross-cultural perspectives, within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.