Master in Medicinal and Biopharmaceutical Chemistry

Natural Products in Drug Discovery



Learning outcomes

The main objective of this Curricular Unit is to promote the development of the necessary skills that will allow the management of activities of innovation in drug discovery from natural sources, in an academic or industrial environment. At the end of the unit the student should be able:

  • to recognize and justify the potential of natural products as innovative drugs;
  • to select and apply properly the different strategies of discovery of new drugs from natural sources;
  • to identify the chemical class of a natural product by analyzing the structure and applying the acquired knowledge on biosynthetic pathways;
  • to relate the structure of a natural product with its potential therapeutic application and/or toxicity.


Module I – Discovery of new drugs from natural sources.
Historical perspective. Natural products chemical space and potential in drug innovation. Strategies in drug discovery from natural products. Chemical strategies in drug discovery and optimization of natural scaffolds.
Module II – Introduction to biosynthesis.
Biosynthetic engineering in discovery, development and production of drugs. Primary and secondary metabolism. Reaction mechanisms in biosynthesis.
Module III – Secondary metabolites with potential therapeutic application.
Aromatic polyketides, terpenoids and steroids, shikimate derivatives and alkaloids: biosynthetic pathways; structure-activity relationships; synthetic derivatives as farmacophore probes.