MChem Chemistry with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Advanced Bioorganic Chemistry

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEM41411
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 22/23 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  

24 Lectures delivered in 3 x 8 lecture blocks supported by problem classes.



The unit aims to:

  • Expand and develop the student’s knowledge of the fundamentals of advanced bioorganic chemistry.
  • Provide an understanding of the organic chemistry that underlies the biosynthetic pathways to the major groups of secondary metabolites (natural products), including enzyme mechanisms and methods of biosynthetic engineering (combinatorial biosynthesis).
  • Develop ideas of biomimetic chemistry, including the exploitation of predisposed chemical reactions in the total synthesis of natural products.
  • Explore the application of enzymes and whole cells as biocatalysts for organic synthesis. Identify specific classes of biocatalysts that can be used for the preparation of chiral building blocks for pharmaceutical, agrochemicals and fine chemical production. Study methods for enzyme improvement via directed evolution and protein engineering.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to:

  • Understand the organic chemistry of biosynthetic pathways, metabolic transformations and biotransformations.
  • Apply this knowledge in the biosynthetic engineering (or combinatorial biosynthesis) of ‘unnatural’ natural products.
  • Gain knowledge of the division between secondary and primary metabolism and to apply that knowledge to understanding the importance of key secondary metabolites in the history of humankind.
  • Gain knowledge of the various reaction types that are common in primary and secondary metabolic processes and to apply that knowledge to rationalising biosynthetic pathways leading to both simple and complex natural products.
  • Gain knowledge of the biomimetic approach to synthesis and to apply that knowledge to understanding the preparative routes used by others in the synthesis of complex natural products.
  • Apply the knowledge of enzyme-catalysed reactions in the development of chemical processes employing biocatalysts.
  • Understand the principles of directed evolution of enzymes and how this technique can be used to improve the properties of biocatalysts
  • Enhance their transferable skills in the areas of problem solving and analysis.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

This course will enhance student’s transferable skills in the areas of problem solving and analysis.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Students will work through the problem sheets issued during lectures (posted on Blackboard) and submit for feedback.


Recommended reading

  • The Organic Chemistry of Biological Pathways McMurry & Begley (Roberts & company)
  • Biochemistry Third Edition, Voet & Voet (Wiley)
  • Biochemistry Third Edition, L Stryer, (Freeman)
  • Chemical Aspects of Biosynthesis: J. Mann (Oxford Chemistry Primers)
  • Biocatalysis in Organic Synthesis: The Retrosynthesis Approach: NJ Turner & L Humphreys, 2018 (Royal Society of Chemistry).


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 21
Practical classes & workshops 3
Tutorials 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 71

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jason Micklefield Unit coordinator
Lu Shin Wong Unit coordinator

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