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Antibiotics: Synthesis, Mechanisms of Action and Resistance (ASMAR)


Admission requirements

Elective course MSc Chemistry, elective course MSc Life Science and Technology.

This course is designed for students with a BSc in MST, LST or equivalent.

Students should have basic knowledge of organic chemistry and molecular biology. For students of the MSc Chemistry having finished the course Molecular Cell Biology (MCB) is advised. For students of the MSc Life Science and Technology having finished the course Biosynthetic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (BPC) is advised.


Bacterial antimicrobial resistance is an urgent thread to the human health, which is currently directly causing more than 1.2 million deaths every year. Therefore, the development of new antibiotics active against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains is a high priority. This course aims to prepare students to contribute scientifically to this societal challenge and to efficiently engage in discussions on this topic in their peer groups and in general society. For this purpose, the students will obtain in-depth background knowledge on the research field of antibiotic development.

Key aspects of the course will be the main antibiotics classes used in the clinics, their (bio)synthesis, their targets as well as mechanisms of bacterial resistance development against them. Additionally, alternatives to small molecule antibiotics like antivirulence strategies, phage therapy, microbiome engineering and monoclonal antibodies will be discussed.

One additional focus of the course will be on obtaining knowledge, how the mechanism-of-action of antibiotics can be elucidated. While obtaining this background knowledge, the tools will be acquired to critically think about and discuss what makes a good antibiotic strategy and which experiments are needed to evaluate its development potential.

Course objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • explain, which steps are needed to design and develop a small molecule antibiotic.

  • identify different classes of antibiotics using the chemical structures of the compounds.

  • name the biological targets of the different antibiotic classes.

  • elaborate on the molecular mechanisms-of-action of different classes of antibiotics.

  • explain the (bio)synthesis of different classes of antibiotics.

  • classify different mechanisms of bacterial resistance development.

  • compare different methods that can be used to decipher the mechanism-of-action of antibiotics.

  • assess the suitability of a compound to become a clinically used antibiotic based on data found in the literature.

  • create presentations on scientific concepts based on information in the scientific literature.


Schedule information can be found on the website of the programmes.

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lectures with discussions, assignments and student presentations in classroom.

Assessment method

Written, closed book examination mainly with short questions. This will make up the final grade (100%).
One presentation will be given by each student that will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis, but will not count towards the final grade of the exam.

Reading list

Literature will be provided during the course via Brightspace.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Dr. S.M. Hacker


According to OER article 4.8, students are entitled to view their marked examination for a period of 30 days following the publication of the results of a written examination. Students should contact the lecturer to make an appointment for such an inspection session.