...What is the role of the medicinal chemist in the development of precision medicine and how can younger generations prepare to make contributions in this area of research and development?
...The adjective “medicinal” already alludes to the complexity of the work and, consequently, the demands on a medicinal chemist. He or she must understand biology, must be a data scientist, must be familiar with the full spectrum of assays and analyses that inform his or her design work. A medicinal chemist must remain up to date on developments, always look for new potential targets, new applications for a candidate drug and new ways of designing molecules to meet often contradictory requirements.
Looking into the future, as more discovery and optimization work is conducted at smaller biotech companies, the medicinal chemist will also be expected to control development costs, to seek new resources, and to interact collaboratively with a growing number of stakeholders that can inform his or her work. Though perhaps a daunting prospect, this increased responsibility will be accompanied by a greater and more direct impact of his or her work on the well-being of patients.
For a future career in medicinal chemistry, nothing can replace knowledge acquired through experience. Academic training is only the beginning of the medicinal chemist’s preparation. He or she must continue to learn from the work of designing and optimizing a compound, from the often overwhelming information that he or she must integrate, and from the people with whom he or she interacts. Important to remember is that this chosen profession is at times very frustrating, but also has moments where you advance in solving a problem and that satisfaction is unmatchable. Be always flexible and creative, and strive to do something different.One thing that Dr. Cui mentions here is the centrality of the medicinal chemist in a drug discovery project. Derek Lowe mentions this every once in a while when he says that "You are in real trouble if someone knows more about your project than you do." I think about that a lot.
[I do also have to note (whenever anyone talks about this, as Dr. Cui does here) that as medicinal chemistry moves to smaller companies, this comes with lower wages and benefits (combined the lottery ticket of an eventual buyout.)]