Chemical Biology

Chemical biology is a scientific discipline spanning the fields of chemistry and biology that involves the application of chemical techniques and tools, often compounds produced through synthetic chemistry, to the study and manipulation of biological systems. This is a subtle difference from biochemistry, which is classically defined as the study of the chemistry of biomolecules. For example, a biochemist would seek to understand the three-dimensional structure of a protein and how that structure relates to the chemistry of the protein. Also, Biochemistry studies the inhibition and activation of enzymes and receptors with small organic molecules, also known as inhibitors or activators. This is known from most text-books of biochemistry. Chemical biologists attempt to utilize chemical principles to modulate systems to either investigate the underlying biology or create new function. In this way, the research done by chemical biologists is often closer related to that of cell biology than biochemistry. In short, biochemists deal with the chemistry of biology, chemical biologists deal with chemistry applied to biology. This latter definition may make Chemical Biology a subsidiary discipline of pharmacology.

In the field of drug discovery, chemical biology is usually defined as the screening of chemical libraries of small molecules in biological systems such as cell lines or whole animals to identify compounds that cause a desirable change in phenotype. This strategy which employs phenotypic screening to identify starting points for drug discovery is also known as classical pharmacology, forward pharmacology, or phenotypic drug discovery (PDD).

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