Chemical Biology: Definition, History, Examples, And Careers

Chemical Biology Definition

Chemical biology is a scientific discipline that combines the fields of chemistry and biology. It involves using chemical techniques, analysis, and often small molecules produced through synthetic chemistry to study and manipulate biological systems.

The main difference between chemical biology and biochemistry is that chemical biology involves adding novel chemical compounds to a biological system, while biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes within living organisms.

History of Chemical Biology

Chemical biology is a scientific discipline that combines chemistry and biology by using chemical techniques to study biological systems.

The origins of chemical biology can be traced back to the technological and scientific advances of the nineteenth century, resulting in the field’s ascent in the twentieth century.

Chemical biology emerged about 20 years ago when chemists became interested in applying chemistry to studying biological systems.

Chemical biologists use chemical techniques, analysis, and often small molecules produced through synthetic chemistry to study and manipulate biological systems.

The main difference between chemical biology and biochemistry is that chemical biology involves adding novel chemical compounds to a biological system, while biochemistry is the study of biochemical pathways within and between cells.

Chemical biologists work on various systems such as bioorganic chemistry, pharmacology, genetics, biochemistry, and metabolic engineering.

Chemical biology has many applications. For example, it can be used to develop new drugs or improve proteomics through the development of enrichment strategies, chemical affinity tags, and new probes.

Chemical biologists also explore metagenomic approaches toward the discovery of biologically active molecules such as antibiotics.

Differences Between Chemical Biology and Biochemistry

Chemical biology and biochemistry are two scientific disciplines that overlap in many ways but have some differences.

Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes that underlie living things, while chemical biology combines chemistry and biology by using chemical techniques to study biological systems.

Chemical biology involves adding novel chemical compounds to a biological system to modulate and probe biological processes. In contrast, biochemistry focuses on studying the chemistry of biology, particularly proteins and nucleic acids.

Chemical biology deals with how chemistry can be applied to solve biological problems, while biochemistry is the study of the chemistry of biology. The chemical biology major focuses on small molecules, while biochemistry focuses on proteins and nucleic acids.

Both disciplines require a core understanding of general chemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, cell biology, physics, and introductory biochemistry.

However, the chemical biology degree is more flexible than biochemistry as it allows students to tailor their program by taking graduate-level courses in organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, or other related fields.

Examples of Chemical Biology Research

Chemical biology is a relatively new field that emerged about 20 years ago when chemists became interested in applying chemistry to studying biological systems. Chemical biology combines chemistry and biology by using chemical techniques to study biological systems.

The power of chemical biology to advance biomedical research and reveal molecular mechanisms is perhaps best illustrated by specific examples.

One example of chemical biology research is in vivo imaging. Gang Han’s lab has developed upconverting (anti-Stokes) nanoparticles that allow optical imaging in deep tissues, free from the autofluorescence background of conventional probes and perturb biological functions in the complex environment of live cells and animals.

Another example is the Kobertz lab, which designs and uses chemical biology tools to probe the function of ion channels. Stephen Miller’s lab uses chemical biology approaches to develop new therapies for autoimmune diseases.

Chemical biology labs primarily focus on the chemical side of tool development, where the emphasis is on the design and synthesis of molecular structures with the desired properties for querying biological systems. Other labs primarily focus on one or more biological problems but make frequent use of synthetic molecules as tools for their studies.

Chemical Biology Careers

Chemical biology is a scientific discipline that combines chemistry and biology by using chemical techniques to study biological systems. It involves adding novel chemical compounds to a biological system, while biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes within and relating to living organisms.

Chemical biology is a relatively new field that emerged about 20 years ago when chemists became interested in applying chemistry to studying biological systems.

There are several careers in chemical biology. Laboratory technicians prepare, maintain, and sanitize chemical and biological laboratories.

Forensic science technicians gather and analyze evidence from crime scenes. Biomedical technicians work with medical equipment to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients.

Senior research associates apply molecular biology and mass spectrometry tools to interrogate disease. Sr. Scientists develop RNA chemical biology, mRNA process development, and/or chemical engineering processes.

Chemical biology is an interdisciplinary field that offers many career opportunities for those interested in both chemistry and biology.