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Medicinal Chemistry Books 2017

I’m running a few days later than usual, but here’s this year’s list of medicinal chemistry books of interest. As in years past, the list builds on previous recommendations, with updates and reader suggestions incorporated along the way.

For histories and broad overviews of the field, it doesn’t appear that any new titles made an impact this year. Earlier ones include 2011’s The Evolution of Drug Discovery, which still seems to be the biggest history of the field (its author, Jack Li also has a 2014 history of the industry, Blockbuster Drugs, looking at how things have been for the last twenty years or so). There are case histories of individual drug projects can be found in Drugs: From Discovery to Approval by Rick Ng (2015 edition), and also in Walter Sneader’s Drug Discovery: A History. Longtime medicinal chemist Gene Cordes recently published Hallelujah Moments: Tales of Drug Discovery.

In general medicinal chemistry, the whopper reference set of the field published a third edition this past year: Comprehensive Medicinal Chemistry, edited by Sam Chackalamannil, Dave Rotella, and Simon Ward.  I don’t expect anyone to buy the >$4000 set off this blog link, but I’ll be very happy with the Amazon commission if you do. More reasonably for home use, a recommendation from several readers is Textbook of Drug Design and Discovery by Krogsgaard-Larsen et al. A title from 2016 is  Small Molecule Medicinal Chemistry: Strategies and Technologies. From 2013, there’s Drug Discovery: Practices, Processes, and Perspectives, by (the prolific) Jack Li and E. J. Corey, and there’s also Bob Rydzewski’s Real World Drug Discovery: A Chemist’s Guide to Biotech and Pharmaceutical Research from 2008. Several readers here have also recommended earlier versions of Silverman’s medicinal chemistry book, now in its third edition: The Organic Chemistry of Drug Design and Drug Action. Readers have also recommended Camille Wermuth’s The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry, and it’s now in its fourth edition as of 2015. For getting up to speed, several readers recommend Graham Patrick’s An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry (2013). Similarly, Medicinal Chemistry: The Modern Drug Discovery Process (Pearson Advanced Chemistry) is a recent introductory textbook that I found to be well written. Its author, Erland Stevens, runs a popular web-based med-chem training course as well.

Update: recommended in the comments is the new Translating Molecules into Medicines, on drug development in general.

More specific topics have their own monographs, such as the upcoming Fluorine in Life Sciences, : Lead Generation. A good one-stop-shop for fragment drug hunting is Fragment-Based Drug Discovery: Lessons and Outlook, and a related topic of interest is covered in the recent Biophysical Techniques for Drug Discovery. A new one is Practical Medicinal Chemistry with Macrocycles, a topic that’s gotten a lot more attention in recent years. On the thermodynamic side, there’s the recent Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Drug Binding. Other recent books that cover specific med-chem topics include Robert Copeland’s Evaluation of Enzyme Inhibitors in Drug Discovery: A Guide for Medicinal Chemists and Pharmacologists, which has gotten good reviews from readers here, Bioisosteres in Medicinal Chemistry by Brown et al. (also recommended by several readers), Scaffold Hopping in Medicinal Chemistry, Prodrugs and Targeted Delivery: Towards Better ADME PropertiesProtein-Protein Interactions in Drug Discovery, and the recent Allosterism in Drug Discovery. Chemical biology types may well be interested in the new Chemoselective and Bioorthogonal Ligation Reactions.

For the world of process chemistry, an upcoming new textbook is Chemical Projects Scale Up: How to Go From Laboratory to Commercial. Another recent recommended book is Practical Process Research and Development – A Guide for Organic Chemists by Neal Anderson (2012). Repic’s Principles of Process Research and Chemical Development in the Pharmaceutical Industry is older (1998), but comes recommended as well. In the Oxford Chemistry Primers series, there’s Process Development: Fine Chemicals from Grams to Kilograms by Stan Lee (presumably not the Marvel Comics Stan Lee, a joke the author has surely heard once or twice) and Graham Robinson, Process Development: Physiochemical Concepts by John Atherton and Keith Carpenter.  The Pilot Plant Real Book by Francis McConville is subtitled “A Unique Handbook”, and it’s been recommended by readers with experience in that unique environment.

For chemists who want to brush up on their biology, Joseph Cannon’s Pharmacology for Chemists has also been recommended, and it looks like a completely new version has been published under the same title (either that, or great confusion has been sown). Readers also recommended an earlier edition of this Terrence Kenakin book: A Pharmacology Primer: Techniques for More Effective and Strategic Drug Discovery, as well as his Pharmacology in Drug Discovery: Understanding Drug Response. A more advanced book on pharmacology, also reader-recommended, is Ehlert’s Affinity and Efficacy.

As has been the case for several years,  Drug-Like Properties: Concepts, Structure Design and Methods from ADME to Toxicity Optimization by Kerns and Di, has been recommended by numerous readers as a textbook and reference (now in a 2016 edition). The same authors have also published Blood-Brain Barrier in Drug Discovery: Optimizing Brain Exposure of CNS Drugs and Minimizing Brain Side Effects for Peripheral Drugs. I should note that there’s a new edition of Goodman and Gilman’s classic The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, but I should also note that a review says that it’s had a good deal of useful material cut as compared to previous editions. More pharmacokinetics are to be found in Lead Optimization for Medicinal Chemists: Pharmacokinetic Properties of Functional Groups and Organic Compounds. On the clinical end of things, a well-reviewed textbook is Concepts in Clinical Pharmacokinetics. For getting up to speed in this area in general, there’s Pocket Guide: Pharmacokinetics Made Easy by Donald Birkett, which will give you some background to understand what’s going on, and the Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics Quick Guide, which has also been recommended.

I haven’t seen much change in the book landscape for toxicology. The standard textbooks are Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons and Hayes’ Principles and Methods of Toxicology. Two weighty references are the Handbook of Toxicologic Pathology, and the recently updated Comprehensive Guide to Toxicology in Nonclinical Drug Development (reader-recommended). Another book on toxicology in drug development is Preclinical Safety Evaluation of Biopharmaceuticals: A Science-Based Approach to Facilitating Clinical Trials, from 2008. There’s a new book in this field written for the educated-layman audience, Modern Poisons, which could well be interesting.

After posting last year’s entry, readers also made suggestions for formulations. A new entry in this field is Oral Formulation Roadmap (From Early Discovery to Development), and Pharmaceutical Preformulation and Formulation: A Practical Guide was also recommended.

As mentioned last time around statistics are a weak point with a lot of scientists. Jerrold Zar’s Biostatistical Analysis comes recommended. For getting up to speed in this area, a well-reviewed textbook is Biostatistics: The Bare Essentials, and there’s also Essential Biostatistics: A Nonmathematical Approach. That last one I have not seen, but I do have to wonder how far a nonmathematical approach can take you. A newly updated edition of Laboratory Statistics: Methods in Chemistry and Health Sciences has also been published this year.

Chemoinformatics For Drug Discovery was recommended as an introduction for those outside the field. Many other books in this area are starting to show their age, though (there were quite a few in the 2003-2005 period), but in the spring Applied Chemoinformatics: Tools and Methods will be issued. In the broader computational chemistry field, there’s the recently updated Introduction to Computational Chemistry, and In Silico Medicinal Chemistry, from Pipeline reader Nathan Brown.

For bridging the academia-industry gap, I can definitely recommend A Practical Guide to Drug Development in Academia, which has a lot of solid advice for academic researchers looking to get into the pharma world through their own research. I can also recommend Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry. Both of these books are full of sound advice that people may find difficult to get elsewhere.

11 comments on “Medicinal Chemistry Books 2017”

  1. Calvin says:

    Another very good book on the translational side of drug design & development:
    Translating Molecules into Medicines: Cross-Functional Integration at the Drug Discovery-Development Interface (2017). Link:

  2. Curious Wavefunction says:

    For pharmacokinetics I would also recommend Shargel, Wu-Pong and Yu’s “Applied Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics”. And for formulation and physical properties of drugs there’s the excellent “Aulton’s Pharmaceutics”.

  3. NJBiologist says:

    For anyone in the market for tox books, keep in mind: the major references still pretty much split between mechanism (well-served by Casarett & Doull, much less so by Faqi, with Hayes in the middle) and regulatory (well-served by Hayes and Faqi, less so by Casarett & Doull–even though they seem to have added more for the 8th edition). Nb: I haven’t seen the 2nd edition of Faqi yet.

    Also, if you’re just looking for an overview of PK, you can get a decent start with the chapters in some of the other books–the PK chapter in the 10th edition of Goodman and Gilman is decent, and there’s a ton of information in the toxicokinetics chapters of Casarett & Doull. And Faqi is still the book I reach for to get an allometric scaling equation.

  4. Magrinho says:

    On what it takes to be a good medicinal chemist/project leader:
    Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
    Laurence Bergreen

    A great book!

    Experience and teamwork are critical and you always face a lot of uncertainty. And even if you are successful it may not end well.

    1. the reader says:

      Experience and teamwork?
      How do you translate these words to whatever language the young folks talk these days?

  5. RBW says:

    For case histories of drug development, I’d recommend the series ‘Successful Drug Discovery’ edited by Janos Fischer and Wayne Childers. Each chapter focuses on an approved drug and usually written by a medicinal chemist involved in the project.
    Also earlier books by Fischer on analogue based drug discovery.

    1. Dionysius Rex says:

      A book on unsuccessful drug discovery might be more enlightening!

      1. Nick K says:

        No doubt it will be far longer than one on successful drug discovery.

  6. Gottlieb says:

    Does anyone recommend articles or book for someone who wants refresh the latest advances in organic synthesis?

  7. Arnob Endry says:

    It was another PI who gave me a sep funnel story of my own. I needed to do a large scale prep. Our largest sep funnel was 6 L and it had a major star crack

  8. Useless overhead says:

    Great list – thanks Derek! Couple of additions in the “General Interest/Drug Discovery for Civilians” section, everything available on Amazon. 1) The Drug Hunters by Donald Kirsch is newly out and pretty fun; 2) Drugged by Richard Miller – not exclusively drug discovery, but lots of it, and for those of us in the CNS business, a great historical context; 3) Happy Accidents by Morton Meyers – again, only partly drug discovery, but a fantastic romp through the history of biology discoveries, and why “theory is useful only because it leads to action, and then the skill lies in determining what actually happened”.

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