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Life in the Drug Labs

What Are the Best Med-Chem Books?

I get regular requests to recommend books on various aspects of medicinal chemistry and drug development. And while I have a few things on my list, I’m sure that I’m missing many more. So I wanted to throw this out to the readership: what do you think are the best places to turn? This way I can be more sure of pointing people in the right directions.
I’m interested in hearing about things in several categories – best introductions and overviews of the field (for people just starting out), as well as the best one-stop references for specific aspects of drug discovery (PK, toxicology, formulations, prodrugs, animal models, patent issues, etc.)
Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments, or e-mail them to me. I’ll assemble the highest-recommended volumes into a master list and post that. Just in time for the holidays, y’know. . .

35 comments on “What Are the Best Med-Chem Books?”

  1. molecular architect says:

    “Real World Drug Discovery – A Chemist’s Guide to Biotech and Pharmaceutical Research” by Bob Rydzewski
    An excellent guide for the newly graduated chemist written by a talented former co-worker of mine.

  2. Seehecht says:

    A general textbook for synthesis:
    “Organic Chemistry” by Jonathan Clayden
    Molecular Modeling
    “Molecular Modelling: Principles and Applications” by Andrew R. Leach
    “Molecular Modeling and Simulation” by Schlick
    Simulating the Physical World” by Berendsen
    “Understanding Molecular Simulations” by Frenkel
    Something more general in the light of protein structure:
    “Introduction to Protein Structure” by Branden and Tooze

  3. TA says:

    “The Practice of MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY” by C. G. Wermuth is a kind of bible.

  4. JK says:

    This was a fantastic textbook about properties, ADMET and exp. technologies:
    Drug-like Properties: Concepts, Structure Design and Methods: From ADME to Toxicity Optimization von Edward Kerns and Li Di

  5. Kutti says:

    I really like: “An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry” by Graham L. Patrick

  6. weirdo says:

    For reading straight through: “Chronicles of Drug Discovery” by Lednicer. Vol. 3 is findable, Vol. 1 & 2 very hard to find, unfortunately.
    For looking stuff up: “Burger’s Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery” Vol. 1.

  7. HelicalZz says:

    Several good ones mentioned. For an industry overview with enough detail to appreciate what others in the company are responsible for I’d recommend “Drugs: From Discovery to Approval” by Rick Ng (2004).
    After an introduction it has a few chapters on drug discovery, then preclinical considerations, comments on regulatory responsibilites, GLP – GMP overview, and the clinical process. It ends with a modest history of the industry and some future perspective.

  8. Madrid says:

    I agree with TA. Camille Wermuth’s “The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry” is the most useful Medicinal Chemistry book. It has all sorts of useful reference tables and great real-world examples of drug development projects. I think it is especially useful to those coming from total synthesis labs, who need to transition into medicinal chemistry.

  9. David says:

    Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons by Curtis Klaassen is what everyone where I work has on their desks. I understand the new editions are filled with more obscure toxicology info, but the first few chapters had all of the essential info. Editions 4 and 5 were what every I work with learned from.
    I also know the same author has a more watered down version : Casarett & Doull’s Essentials of Toxicology, but I can’t comment as I haven’t read it.

  10. Wavefunction says:

    1. Real World Drug Discovery by Rydzewski
    2. The organic chemistry of drug design and drug action by Silverman
    3. Introduction to med chem by Patrick
    4. Pharmacology for Chemists by Cannon
    5. Molecular Modeling by Leach
    6. Drug-like Properties: Concepts, Structure Design and Methods by Kerns and Di
    7. Biochemistry by Stryer
    8. Goodman and Gilman

  11. Jim T says:

    I second the Kerns and Di suggestion. That book is really quite top notch (and for comparison, a much improved text relative to Silverman’s).

  12. Anonymous says:

    Could I put a call out for process chemistry books, as well as medicinal?
    Thank you!

  13. Jim T says:

    I’d also be interested in a list of best Biology books for non-biologists (eg for Med Chemists).
    I’d put forth The Cell as a good starting point, but I’d love to hear further suggestions.

  14. David P says:

    I liked “Pharmacokinetics Made Easy” by Donald J. Birkett. Helped me get going with all things PK.
    I also liked the Silverman book (mentioned above), so am interested now in the Kerns and Di book.

  15. cliffintokyo says:

    Not a textbook, but for experienced researchers this is a must read:
    Ann Reports in Med Chem (ACS)
    Great references

  16. MattW says:

    I would highly recommend both the text and ACS short course by Kerns and Di.

  17. anon says:

    “What color is my Parachute?”
    But, seriously, I second the motion for Burkett–great book.

  18. drug_hunter says:

    A bit out of left field, perhaps, but:
    (1) Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. Edward Tenner
    (2) Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Major Medical Breakthroughs in the Twentieth Century. Morton Meyers
    (3) Up the Infinite Corridor: MIT and the Technical Imagination. Fred Hapgood
    (4) Decision Traps: The Ten Barriers to Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them. Edward Russo
    PS I am none of these authors!

  19. CMCguy says:

    I have a few books in various areas in my personal library but none I can recommend highly. For Medchem, Process, Formulations and general Drug Development areas I have never really encountered any books that were better than working with skilled experts willing to share knowledge. Many books will provide basic overviews for beginners but lack any true depth for application and likewise many can suffer from being written by Academics as course texts but have limited real practical value. In same way generally found reading Literature as effective educational resource, although often hard at first to separate good from bad, that was better than most books (particularly OPRD for Process).
    Although dated one general Pharma Industry book/story is The Billion Dollar Battle: Merck Versus Glaxo that covers Science vs Marketing Approaches to Drugs that are now more blurred than ever.

  20. processchemist says:

    @ #12
    Process chemistry classics:
    1) Anderson “Practical process research and development”
    2) Repic “Process research and chemical development in the pharmaceutical industry”
    3) “Design and optimization in organic synthesis” by Carlson (about DOE at work)
    An excellent quick introduction is
    Lee and Robinson “Process development”
    I strongly suggest these readings to the freshly graduated newcomers in my group.
    As far as I know Anderson’s book is the only general, systematic approach to process development in pharma.
    A note: all these books deal mostly with the chemistry of the drugs approved in the eighties.
    This is not so bad, suzuki and buchwald case studies are missing, but there’s a huge lot of solid chemistry anyway.

  21. Caleb says:

    I’m a little surprised that Richard Silverman’s book isn’t being mentioned more. So far as I know it is the standard (for better or worse) introductory medchem textbook in most grad programs today. Is this difference in preference due to the difference between academic and industrial medchem?

  22. Bombauer says:

    Re: Process Chemistry books
    Someone already mentioned Practical Process Research and Development by Neal G. Anderson,
    but not a day goes by when I don’t use:
    ‘The Pilot Plant Real Book’ by Francis X. McConville. It’s jam packed with lots of useful data. I’d even suggest that most medicinal chemists should have this around too.
    I also agree that ‘Drug-like Properties: Concepts, Structure Design and Methods’ by Kerns and Di is a great book.

  23. processchemist says:

    @ Bombauer
    “I’d even suggest that most medicinal chemists should have this around too.”
    Maybe also a medicinal chemist should have a look at the first chapter, but they don’t need for sure a centrifugation or an heat exchange primer 🙂

  24. rob says:

    If you want a book that intuitively explains the the basics of enzyme-inhibitor interactions and gives you a feel for drug discovery at the industrial level, I highly recommend
    “Evaluation of Enzyme Inhibitors in Drug Discovery: A Guide for Medicinal Chemists and Pharmacologists” by Copeland

  25. RTW says:

    Well – Rather than text books, I esentially learned much from J.Med. Chem. Started reading it as an undergraduate in chemistry in 1978. Been a subscriber ever since.
    Also there is Burger’s Medicinal Chemistry. One I haven’t seen mentioned yet. An old but a good one.

  26. CM says:

    I find myself repeatedly coming back to this book (mentioned above a couple of times) as a very useful reference….
    Drug-like Properties: Concepts, Structure Design and Methods: From ADME to Toxicity Optimization von Edward Kerns and Li Di

  27. Pats says:

    more books of inetrest to medicinal chemists!
    A Pharmacology Primer: Theory, Application and Methods by Terry Kenakin
    Molecular Biology in Medicinal Chemistry (Methods and Principles in Medicinal Chemistry) by Theodor Dingermann
    Fundamentals of Antimicrobial Pharmacokinetic​s and Pharmacodynamic​s by Alexander Vinks
    Human Drug Metabolism: An Introduction by Michael D. Coleman
    Fluorine in Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology by Iwao Ojima
    Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry of Fluorine by Jean-Pierre Bégué
    Antitargets: Prediction and Prevention of Drug Side Effects (Methods and Principles in Medicinal Chemistry) by Roy J. Vaz
    Drug Bioavailability​: Estimation of Solubility, Permeability, Absorption and Bioavailability​ (Methods and Principles in Medicinal Chemistry) by Han van de Waterbeemd
    Protein-Ligand Interactions: From Molecular Recognition to Drug Design (Methods and Principles in Medicinal Chemistry) by Hans-Joachim Böhm
    Analogue-based Drug Discovery by IUPAC
    Fragment-based Approaches in Drug Discovery (Methods and Principles in Medicinal Chemistry) by Wolfgang Jahnke
    Fragment-Based Drug Discovery: A Practical Approach by Edward Zartler
    Organic Synthesis with Enzymes in Non-Aqueous Media by Giacomo Carrea
    A Short History of the Drug Receptor Concept (Science, Technology and Medicine in Modern History) by Andreas-Holger Maehle
    Managing Scientists: Leadership Strategies in Scientific Research by Alice M. Sapienza

  28. GG says:

    As I suspected: no one can name a good book for patent issues

  29. Pats says:

    Molecules with Silly or Unusual Names by May Paul

  30. HelicalZz says:

    I know this was a shoutout for Medchem books, but let me also plug a good book for general chemistry interest i.e. a good one to get teens interested in chem.
    ‘Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History’ by Penny LaCouteur

  31. Sili says:

    I know this is probably too newbish a request, but I’d like some suggestions on how to ‘revise’ org chem for lack of a better word.
    I’ve been out of uni for more than three years now, and have been at an intellectual standstill in that time.
    I know all those reactions are in there in my brain, somewhere, but I think I’d be hard pushed to shovel around electrons if given the reactants and products. Much less come up with something if just given a name (actually, I wasn’t good at recalling named reactions even back in the day).
    Of course, I could just reread my books from one end to the other – I’m pretty much doing that with maths – but I’d welcome any and all shortcuts. For that matter some study techniques would probably be a good idea, too. I relied far too much on my being able to pick stuff up almost osmotically in lectures.
    (Not that this is likely to ever help me land a job, since I have too little lab experience, but I don’t like having ‘lost’ that many years of my life.)

  32. chris says:

    I really like
    Drug Prototypes and Their Exploitation by Walter Sneader, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, ISBN-10: 0471948470

  33. Hap says:

    Warren et al. is long (I haven’t read it all the way through, and my classes didn’t use it) but it’s really good. I don’t know if it has a workbook – most of Warren’s do – but that might be a shortcut, and then you could refer to the text if you realize that you’re missing something.
    There are lots of prep texts for the GREs and that, but I tried to get one to get biochemistry background and was sorely disappointed.

  34. anon says:

    #31 Sili,
    You will find what you need at
    Check it up.

  35. Bonnie Largent says:

    RE: #30.
    I have a teenager very interested in Chemistry, showing real aptitude. Can you recommend any more books for smart kids with interest, but not too much education yet?

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