Drug Discovery, Design and Development


The objective of this curricular unit (CU) is to contribute to the formation of future researchers or pharmaceutical industry professionals, equipped to understand and act upon the several stages of the creation of an active principle, its transformation into a drug and its introduction to the market as an efficient and safe medicine.

At the end of this CU the student must grasp and be able to articulate the following topics:

  1. Processes of identification and discovery of new active principles;
  2. Methodologies for the design and optimization of the active principles relative to their therapeutic target;
  3. Methods to optimize administration, distribution and delivery of the active principle in vivo;

Stages and requirements of the process of bringing a drug to the market.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria Rita Mendes Bordalo Ventura Centeno Lima


Weekly - 2

Total - 24

Teaching language



This CU aims at the preparation of scientists motivated to work in the pharmaceutical industry, in research or in entrepreneurial projects in the area of drug discovery and development. Obviously, this capability requires fundamental knowledge in the areas of Chemistry and Biology that lie beyond those dealt with in this CU. In particular, it is fundamental to acquire prior knowledge of the fundamentals of chemical synthesis as well as those regarding the biochemistry of disease and the tools of Bioinformatics which structure the rationale for molecule search and design in the chemical space.


Graham L. Patrick, An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry

Gareth Thomas, Fundamentals of Medicinal Chemistry

The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry   

Camille G. Wermuth, (Ed) The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry

B. Silverman, The Organic Chemistry of Drug Design and Drug Action

Drug Discovery Today, Elsevier periodical with extensive discussions, updates and case studies in Drug Discovery and Development.

Teaching method

Presential teaching will be made through regular lectures and tutorials as well as through seminars delivered by invited specialists on selected topics or relevant Case Studies.

Evaluation method

The final evaluation will comprise one written test to be done during the semester (60%), and a final seminar (with public discussion) on a theme to be selected from a previously announced set (40%). 

Subject matter

Drugs and drug targets: Introduction


Drug targets

   Proteins as drug targets

   Enzymes as drug targets

   Receptors as drug targets

   Nucleic Acids as drug targets

   Other molecular drug targets: lipids, carbohydrates, etc...

Drug discovery, Design and Development

   Finding a lead compound 

   Develop a bioassay

Design of the Lead compound

     optimize interactions with the Target: (SAR; pharmacophore)

            optimizing the drug

            optimizing access to the target

            drug targeting 


Problems of Formulation and Drug Delivery

   methods to prepare water soluble compounds 

   solubilizing drugs in organic solventes, micelles or coloidal dispersions  

   solubilization with cyclodextrins


Bringing Drugs to the Market


Selected Topics (e.g. antibacterials, anti-cancer drugs) and Case Studies.


Programs where the course is taught: