A practical drug discovery project at the undergraduate level

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‘You make the compounds you design’: this article describes a new way for chemistry undergraduates to learn about drug discovery.

In this article, we describe a practical drug discovery project for third-year undergraduates. No previous knowledge of medicinal chemistry is assumed. Initial lecture workshops cover the basic principles; then students, in teams, seek to improve the profile of a weakly potent, insoluble phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase delta (PI3Kd) inhibitor through compound array design, molecular modelling, screening data analysis and the synthesis of target compounds in the laboratory. The project benefits from significant industrial support, including lectures, student mentoring and consumables. The aim is to make the learning experience as close as possible to real-life industrial situations. In total, 48 target compounds were prepared, the best of which (5b, 5j, 6b and 6ap) improved the potency and aqueous solubility of the lead compound by 100–1000 fold and tenfold, respectively.

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