The KU Department of Medicinal Chemistry offers a program of studies with a concentration on Biochemistry/Peptide Chemistry emphasizing the interactions of small molecules and peptides with larger biomolecules such as proteins and lipopolysaccharides. Working at the interface between chemistry and biology, research groups in this area focus on the design, synthesis, and biological characterization of new and existing drugs as they interact with receptors and other cellular biochemical systems.
Areas of current emphasis include the following:
- Exploitation of fluorinated peptidomimetics to modulate physicochemical and biophysical properties of neuropeptides, including opioid peptides (Dr. Ryan Altman)
- Interactions of peptides and peptide mimetics with cellular membranes (Dr. Blake Peterson),
- Manipulation of endogenous cellular machinery to deliver drug compounds that are normally impermeable to the interior of cells (Dr. Blake Peterson) and
- Identification of important target proteins and the structures of protein-metabolite adducts formed by cytotoxic compounds (Dr. Robert Hanzlik)
Tools used in these areas of research included peptide and small molecule synthesis, receptor binding and protein enzymology, a wide array of in vitro and cellular assays and probes, as well as physical and analytical methods. All of these approaches are well supported by instrumentation in individual labs and by core labs at KU.
In addition to a core set of courses in Medicinal Chemistry, students in the Biochemistry track expand on their knowledge by adding formal training in cellular and advanced biochemistry, as well as appropriate biochemical techniques. This training involves exposure to primary scientific literature, traditional coursework, and hands-on experiences. An Advanced Biochemistry course focuses on the structure and function of proteins and RNA. A Cellular Biology course focuses on understanding the relationships between the chemical and molecular characteristics of biological components, cellular organization, and the biological function of normal and diseased eukaryotic cells. A course in Modern Biochemical and Biophysical Methods provides theoretical and hands-on exposure to diverse techniques such as X-ray crystallography, UV/vis spectroscopy, fluorescence, circular dichroism, mass spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, NMR, light scattering, and IR and Raman spectroscopy.