ORC-50803 Chemical Biology: Exploring Biology with Small Molecules


Credits 3.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Course coordinator(s)dr. ing. HB Albada
Lecturer(s)FL van Delft
prof. dr. GH Immink
dr. ing. HB Albada
dr. ir. JJM Vervoort
Examiner(s)dr. ing. HB Albada

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge in organic chemistry (ORC-13803 Bio-organic Chemistry for Life Sciences or ORC-12803 Organic Chemistry 1/ORC-12903 Organic Chemistry 2) and biochemistry (BIC-10306 Practical Biological Chemistry).

Continuation courses:

Thesis /Internship at ORC, BIC.


Chemical Biology (CB) is an exciting new scientific discipline at the interface of chemistry and biology. It focuses on the application of tailor-made molecules to study biological processes at the molecular level. CB is a vital tool for making new medicines and therapeutics. During this course the student will gain insight in the key concepts of CB and learn how knowledge from Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry is applied and combined to study and manipulate biological processes in humans, bacteria and plants.
The main approaches used in CB are illustrated using several post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins. For example, we will use the ubiquitin PTM to show how one can make ubiquitin synthetically, and how this can be used to study its role in biological systems. Another example is lipidation of the Ras protein: its precise role was only determined once CB allowed the synthesis of the bioactive Ras protein and some control proteins. This revealed that the Ras protein is a crucial player in the development of many cancers and based on this knowledge, new therapeutics were successfully designed. Other PTMs that we will discuss are glycosylation, phosphorylation, and oxidation. Apart from showing how bioactive proteins can be synthesized from the individual building blocks, we will also show how native proteins can be modified using chemical tools, sometimes aided by genetic encoding of a non-native amino acid. Subsequently, plant chemical genomics will be used to exemplify how to implement this knowledge and how to design an ideal CB experiment. Next to the lectures, students will read a series of recent articles from the scientific literature on the lecture topics and write brief critical reviews about them that will be used as a basis for in class discussions.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain the key chemical concepts and techniques used in CB;
- knows how a bioactive peptide can be made, and how it can be used to study various cellular phenomena;
- apply knowledge on CB and PTMs in understanding selected articles from the scientific literature;
- collect and interpret background information that is needed for the understanding of a scientific paper independently;
- critically review a scientific paper and discuss it with peers;
- write an assay about the role they see for CB for their future career path.


Active participation in class during the lectures is expected. Latest scientific papers describing various aspects of CB will be reviewed by the students, and the reviews will be discussed in class.

Peer feedback on reviews using Brightspace.


The final mark is determined by the quality of:
- written assignments (review) made during the course (35%). The last review is analysed on the following aspects: English Language, Writing Style, Focus on Science, Level of Details, Composition.
For the last review, a justified grade will be given based on the following scores achieved on these five aspects: very good – good – average – below average – poor.
- case study on Chemical Genomics (10%)
- a final written exam (55%).

The minimum mark for each part is 5.5.


A reader with background material is available. Recent articles from the scientific literature that will be discussed during the class will be distributed by e-mail. All other material will be in the PowerPoint slides.

Restricted Optional for: WUBNTBSc Minor Bionanotechnology1MO
WUCHMBSc Minor Chemical Sciences1MO