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Biosynthetic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (BPC)


Admission requirements

Core course in MSc Life Science and Technology (LST, Molecular Sciences series).
A BSc degree in the Life Sciences or equivalent degree is needed for admission. You should be familiar with fundamental concepts in general chemistry; acid/base, kinetics, thermodynamics, oxidation/reduction, functional groups. These will be qualitatively used throughout the course. The contents of Chapter 2 of the book (Clayden) must be entirely familiar to you, study it beforehand if this is not the case.
Note: Students who obtained their BSc degree in MST and followed Biomolecular Chemistry will find this course redundant. They are advised to take another organic chemistry elective, such as Synthetic Organic Chemistry (4012SOCH5) or Molecules of Life (4423MOFL6).


This course addresses fundamental concepts in the biosynthesis of molecules and pharmaceutical applications of these concepts. The biosynthesis of amino acids, nucleic acids, lipids, steroids and carbohydrates will be addressed from a mechanistic and reactivity point of view. We will also cover how enzymes catalyse these reactions through the use of amino acids and co-factors. We will also touch upon the use of biosynthetic compounds as pharmaceuticals and their mechanism of action.

Course objectives

After the course the student is able to:

  • Know the name, structure, one letter code of all proteinogenic amino acids.

  • Understand the reactivity of each proteinogenic amino acid in the context of enzyme catalysis.

  • Understand the role of high-energy intermediates in biosynthesis.

  • Know the structures of Nature’s building blocks: amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleotides, and nucleic acids

  • Know how these biomolecules are biosynthesized

  • Understand the how biomolecules can be degraded

  • Be able to propose a biosynthetic mechanism given a known reactant and product.

  • Know how proteins are biosynthesized and their potential post-translational modifications.

  • Be familiar with different types of molecules/drugs able to hijack biosynthetic pathways.

  • Be able to propose a mechanism of action for a pharmaceutical molecule given its structure and molecular target.

  • Understand the methods used to determine biosynthetic routes and mechanisms.


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

The course consists on 13-15 Lectures on campus where the course material is described and the biosynthetic mechanism and reactivities are discussed. Students can prepare for these lectures by studying selected Chapters from ‘The Organic Chemistry of Biological Pathways’ by McMurry and Begley

Assessment method

Written exam (closed book).

Reading list

"Organic Chemistry" by Clayden, Greeves and Warren, 2nd edition (ISBN 9780199270293).


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. Marta Artola Perez de Azanza


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.