Chemical biology is an exciting and rapidly evolving field of research that involves the application of synthetic chemical techniques and tools to the study and manipulation of biological systems. It is highly interdisciplinary in nature, incorporating elements from biochemistry, molecular biology, structural biology, pharmacology, drug discovery and genetics; but synthetic chemistry is key.
Chemical biology seeks to unravel the causes of diseases and identify crucial biological targets for disease treatment and prevention. Chemical biologists also apply chemical principles to the modification of native biological molecules to create new function. Researchers in this area are therefore heavily involved in the development of new medical diagnostic agents, drug delivery systems and screening assays.
Medicinal Chemistry is currently working on a number of chemical biology research programs. These are funded by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. Research is conducted in collaboration with colleagues from MIPS Drug Discovery Biology, the University of Nottingham and the Australian National University.
A major focus is the development of probes to explore the pharmacology of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), including fluorescent ligands that enable the localisation, trafficking and signalling mechanisms of GPCRs to be studied in live cells via advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques.
We are also developing a wide range of novel 'tagging' reagents to label biomolecules with luminescent dyes, radioactive metal complexes, spin labels, paramagnetic tags, and a variety of other detectable moieties. These are being employed in conjunction with sophisticated new bioconjugation methodologies and analytical techniques—to study the structure and function of potential new drug targets and develop new medical diagnostics and therapeutic agents.