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Chemical Biology

View Principal Investigators in Chemical Biology

Often considered the central science, due to its inherently foundational nature, chemistry is the study of atoms, the most basic matter found in both living organisms and non-living substances. Chemistry is therefore essential to our understanding of cells and their genetic components, signaling pathways, and mutations that can contribute to abnormal functions and disease processes. Chemistry is also integral to the design, chemical synthesis, and development of therapies for targeting damaged cells.

In the Intramural Research Program (IRP), chemistry merges with biomedical science to form a set of highly interdisciplinary sciences, with the physical and organic elements of chemistry complementing biological fields, such as molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, and clinical medicine. Chemists and biochemists work in every Institute and Center within the IRP, and their contributions have advanced biomedical science in numerous ways, including:

  • Contributing to both the science and technologies that decoded the human genome
  • Revealing the mechanism by which the brain metabolizes epinephrine and norepinephrine
  • Helping to demonstrate that HIV causes AIDS—and developing a diagnostic test for the virus
  • Defining the three-dimensional structure of a human immunoglobulin molecule

In addition, IRP chemists and biochemists conduct research at the forefront of drug discovery and development, playing key roles in the many collaborative groups pursuing our mission to facilitate new treatment approaches. The newly established National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences was created precisely to address this pressing need.

To learn more about chemistry’s central role in the IRP, visit the NIH Chemistry Interest Group Web site. To find out about the role of chemistry in drug discovery and development, visit the NIH Drug Discovery Interest Group Web site.