Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Chemical Biology- The Chemistry of Life
Code CHEM486
Coordinator Dr AJ Carnell
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2016-17 Level 7 FHEQ Second Semester 7.5

Pre-requisites before taking this module (or general academic requirements):

Completion of Year 3 of an MChem Chemistry programme or a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry.  


The aim of this module is to provide students with detailed knowledge of the chemistry of nucleic acids and peptides and the central role these molecules play in chemical biology. The module will provide insight into the recent developments in the field such as DNA synthesis, gene sequencing, application of enzymes to organic synthesis  and directed evolution.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should:

  • know about modern methods for the chemical synthesis of DNA and RNA;
  • know about the structure of nucleic acids and how sequence information is obtained;
  • know about protecting group and coupling strategies for the solution and solid-phase synthesis of peptides and how to minimize the racemization problem;
  • know how to analyse and sequence peptides.
  • Understand how enzymes can be applied in organic synthesis
  • Have an awareness of current limitations in the application of biocatalysts
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of key classes of enzyme reactions.
  • Show an understanding of cofactor requirements and recycling strategies
  • Have an appreciation of the use directed evolution methods for enzyme improvement

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Lecture -

Tutorial -

Workshop based


  • Chemical synthesis of oligonucleotides
  • Protecting group chemistry
  • Methods of phosphorylation and formation of internucleotide linkages
  • solid phase methods of synthesis. DNA structure (Watson and Crick and the double helix)
  • Determining the sequence of DNA
  • The racemization problem and protection of the amino function
  • Protection of amino acid side chains and the carboxylic acid function
  • Strategies for peptide synthesis and methods for making amide bonds
  • < span style="color:windowtext;font-size:10pt;background-color:rgb(255, 255, 255)">Characterisation and sequencing of peptides
  • Introduction to enzymes – structure and function
  • Organic reaction types which can be carried out using enzymes
  • Chiral selectivity
  • Hydrolytic reactions: lipases, esterases, proteases including catalytic triad mechanism. Nitrile hydratases, epoxide hydrolases. 
  • Reactions in organic solvents: using lipases and proteases in reverse - applications in industry
  • Reduction and oxidation reactions
  • Carbon-carbon bond forming reactions:  asymmetric aldol reaction, acyl group transfer, cyanohydrin formation.
  • Directed evolution of enzymes – mutation techniques and screening/selection strategies. Future prospects.

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.
Explanation of Reading List:

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 16


Timetable (if known)     Workshop based
Private Study 57


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Unseen Written Exam  2 hours  Semester 2  100  Yes  Standard UoL penalty applies  Assessment 1 Notes (applying to all assessments) August resit for Y3 and PGT students if applicable. Y4 Integrated Master's students resit at the next normal opportunity.  
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late