Biochemistry is the study of life at the molecular level. Based on underlying chemical principles biochemists study the details of biological systems at both macro- and micro- scales in whole organisms, in cells, in the test tube and by structural and computational based analysis. Even the simplest living systems are extremely complicated, and comprise a vast array of interconnecting processes. These processes are said to be governed by our genes, the genetic code which makes us who and what we are. Genes are not everything though; the information encoded within them is converted into proteins and it is proteins that are the primary workers in the cell, playing fundamental roles in all aspects of biochemistry. Smaller molecules also play a key role, both though the complex cycles of metabolism, generating energy and essential cellular precursors from nutrients taken from the external world and by playing a role in modulating the function of genes and of proteins.
Sometimes cellular processes go wrong, due to genetic mutations or to external environmental factors or to chance events, and then disease states such as cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s arise. Only by understanding both the details of the underlying mechanisms of cellular action and the complex interplay of 30,000 gene products, a million different proteins and thousands of metabolites can these diseases be understood and effective treatments generated. These treatments may be small molecules, designed both to be targeted to the appropriate site within the body and to inhibit a specific cellular process through rational drug design, or they may be macromolecules, such as proteins produced on an industrial scale by the biotech industry, or there is the growing area of gene therapy, replacing a loss of function by introducing a working gene.
The understanding of the mechanisms of cellular action at a molecular level is the work of the biochemist while the rational design and production of therapeutic treatments based on this knowledge is the corner stone of molecular medicine.
The Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine offers training in these key areas at all levels, from BSc, through MSc to PhD and beyond.
Last updated: 20.12.2016