Chemical Biology is a multi-disciplinary field of science dedicated to the manipulation and interrogation of biological systems using natural or synthetic chemical entities.
It combines a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines, including aspects of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, proteomics, biophysics, cell biology, computational chemistry and chemo-/bioinformatics. Utilizing both well-validated and novel chemical probes, chemical biology seeks to advance the fundamental understanding of complex biological systems.
Chemical biology seeks to increase the insight into human biology and medicine, veterinary applications, manipulation of environmental and ecological biosystems, and plant biology elucidation.
Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery
Although sharing and utilizing many of the same technologies, Chemical Biology is NOT Drug Discovery. Drug Discovery aims specifically to the discovery and development of molecular entities (small and large molecules) for therapeutic application.
The development of medicines is a long, resource-intensive and highly regulated exercise by which a large number of factors need to be considered during projects progression, such as: target/mechanistic validation, selectivity and safety, in vivo applicability, bioavailability, DMPK/ADME, in vivo toxicity, clinical translatability, intellectual property, clinical development, CMC feasibility, regulatory requirements, market potential etc.
Although some of these aspects may also be of interest to the chemical biology field, the latter is generally less restrictive, and the goal is not to make medicines, but to further enlarge the fundamental knowledge about basic biology. Thus, small molecules within chemical biology projects are developed with the specific requirements of the project in mind, only incorporating those attributes necessary to facilitate the fundamental question being asked; thus not being initially limited by many of the limitations of the pharmaceutical industry.
This being said, many of the projects initiated within CBCS have further matured towards drug development endeavors. In this regard, CBCS works closely with the SciLifeLab Drug Discovery & Development Platform (DDDP), which is specifically designed to deal with highly validated and focused approaches towards drug development. Many of the projects being pursued in this platform have a history from CBCS collaborations.
Small Molecules in basic and applied research
Both synthetic and naturally occurring small molecules (generally defined as MW <900) play a critical role in the interaction and modulation of proteins and other bio-molecules in organisms. The use of small molecules in basic and applied research offers unique advantages that complement classical genetic methods used to study complex biological systems. A small molecule affects one function of the target protein, e.g. inhibition of enzymatic catalysis, and leaves others, e.g. interaction with other proteins in regulatory networks, unaffected. Therefore the use of a small molecule that abrogates a certain function of the target might not produce the same effect as a genetic knock-out or gene-silencing with RNA that completely removes the protein from the cell or organism.
Using small molecules offers specific advantages as they can be made selective and cell-permeable, interactions reversible and temporal and the dose is easily adjusted. They can be chemically modified to allow for further investigation, and can be readily used in native cellular environments, e.g. primary cell lines.
However, using small molecules as probes for biology requires experience and expertise in order to make rational conclusions.
CBCS has long experience with working with small molecules in this context and provides each project with unique insight through which science can be advanced in collaboration with the investigator.