Research in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry focuses on understanding fundamental biochemical mechanisms underlying health and disease, which are key to developing new and more effective diagnostics and medications.

The department’s basic research not only identifies new drug targets for small molecule drugs, it also develops the tools and methods to discover such targets and therapies and to more rapidly determine their efficacy and safety at the molecular level, thus improving the efficiency of the drug discovery process and potentially leading to improved therapeutics.

Department research is categorized into four broad areas, with routine interplay and overlap among them.

Research areas

Chemical biology and medicinal chemistry

Chemical biologists create chemical tools and methods to probe and dissect biological systems. These include vital protein interaction pathways. This work provides insights crucial to the medicinal chemists’ rational design of small molecule drugs to alter the activity of these pathways, resulting in potential therapeutic benefit.

Computational chemistry and biology

Researchers in this area use computer programs to model, predict, visualize, and analyze the structures, functions, and interactions of biologically important molecules. These include proteins and potential small molecule drugs and the cellular networks they engage.

Physical biology

Department physical biologists develop and apply techniques to identify, quantify, and visualize biologically relevant molecules.

Protein and cellular engineering

Protein engineers alter, design, and synthesize protein molecules to understand and generate new functions, to monitor biological processes, and to provide new therapies. Department cellular engineers generate tissues with specific cell types to study intercellular and tissue-to-cell signaling in health and disease.

Research services and facilities

Organized research unit (ORU)

Dean’s Office

Research programs and collaborations

*The technologies within each of these core facilities are advanced and improved by department faculty members and used by faculty members at UCSF and beyond to conduct their research.