Colin Calabrese of Wilmington, NC is a synthetic organic chemistry researcher and tutor. In the following article, Colin Calabrese discusses how the field of synthetic medicinal chemistry is changing medicine and leading to new drug discovery and development.
Synthetic medicinal chemistry is a specialized discipline that applies principles of chemistry, molecular biology, and engineering to create new compounds or molecules that can be used as drugs to treat diseases or disorders.
The process begins with the identification of a biological target. This may be a protein or an enzyme that plays a crucial role in a disease process. Synthetic medicinal chemists then use current knowledge about molecular interactions along with advanced computational methods to design new chemical entities that interact with these targets to create a therapeutic effect.
Colin Calabrese Examines Therapeutic Potential
The chemical entities created by synthetic medical chemists are made up of a specific molecular structure that will dictate its properties and its potential to become a drug. They are theoretical at first, so part of the chemist’s job is to use organic chemistry to design the compound using smaller building blocks called precursors.
Colin Calabrese of Wilmington, NC says that chemists attempt to optimize the chemical structure of a therapeutic compound by synthesizing precise molecular structures that will be the most effective in terms of their potency and accuracy as well as non-toxic to the human body. Testing these compounds requires both in vitro and in vivo experiments.
During the experiments, the compound is tested to see what pharmacological effect it has on the biological target. From there, chemists may attempt to further optimize it to make sure it’s maximally effective and does not target other proteins (since this can lead to side effects or cause other health issues).
Colin Calabrese of Wilmington, NC says that before a synthetic compound is turned into a therapy (such as a drug), chemists must ensure the human body can absorb, distribute, metabolize, and excrete it—collectively referred to as ADME. These factors directly influence the drug’s effectiveness, safety, and therapeutic impact. For example, a drug that the body cannot excrete could lead to toxicity.
To design compounds that the body can effectively process while maintaining therapeutic efficacy, synthetic molecular chemists need extensive knowledge of physiology, enzymology, and molecular transport mechanisms involved in the disease and its biological target.
Colin Calabrese of Wilmington, NC notes that another avenue that synthetic medicinal chemistry has opened is the development of prodrugs. These are inactive compounds that convert into their active form only once inside the body, thereby improving the drug’s ADME characteristics.
Because synthetic medicinal chemistry allows for the production of complex, bioactive molecules in a laboratory setting, it helps ensure pharmaceutical companies can better ensure a consistent supply of drugs.
Ushering In a New Era of Drug Discovery and Development
To fully grasp the power of synthetic medicinal chemistry, it’s crucial to understand the role it plays in the realm of personalized medicine. By understanding and manipulating the molecular structure of drugs, synthetic medicinal chemists can create targeted treatments tailored to individual genetic profiles, paving the way for precision medicine.
Colin Calabrese says that precision medicine aims to consider individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle in disease treatment. It has the potential to usher in a new era of individualized patient care while making treatments more effective and decreasing side effects.
The path of drug discovery and development through synthetic medicinal chemistry still faces challenges. The complexity of biological systems, disease variations, and the inherent differences in individual responses to drugs mean therapies need to undergo rigorous testing and refinement before they’re brought to market. It can take years to design, synthesize, and test new compounds.
However, Colin Calabrese notes that the relatively recent integration of machine learning into the field means predictive models are now being integrated into workflows, allowing advanced computational models to predict the properties of new compounds even before they are physically synthesized, enhancing the speed and efficiency of the drug discovery processes.
Synthetic medicinal chemistry involves creating new compounds and manipulating them to maximize their therapeutic potential and minimize their side effects. The work of synthetic medicinal chemists is crucial in developing new drugs that can treat diseases more effectively and safely. It could play an indispensable role in shaping the future of medicine by creating treatments that improve quality of life, extend life expectancy, and reshape global health outcomes.