What is Biochemistry?

Biochemistry is field of experimental science aimed at studying the chemical basis and the molecular mechanisms of life. The progress of molecular biology, which is on of the disciplines of biochemistry, has been most significant over the last 20 years. The comprehension of the molecular nature of genetic information linked to recombinant DNA engineering techniques enabled biochemists to make important advances in diverse domains such as human genetics, pharmacology, agricultural and environmental science and in the understanding of evolution. In this fashion, biochemistry contributed to the emergence and success of biotechnology, which is an important new sector of modern economy. The techniques associated with the structural analysis of macromolecules (proteins and nucleic acids) enabled modern biochemistry to unravel the most intimate secrets of life.

Biochemists, the silent heroes of Medicine

Without the basic science discoveries on the molecular basis of life made by biochemists only very few of the important discoveries that have led to advancements of modern medicine would have been possible.

Some important discoveries made by biochemists

  • Discovery of the DNA structure : James Watson and Francis Crick
  • Discovery of insulin : Frederick Banting and Charles Best
  • Discovery of acetaminophen (Tylenol) : Julius Axelrod
  • Discovery of cyclosporine (drug used to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs) : Jean Borel
  • Discoveries that led to the design of 5′ phospho-diesterase inhibitors (Viagra) : Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad
  • Discovery of prions – a new biological principle of infections (the cause of mad cow disease) : Stanley B. Prusiner
  • Important discoveries in the area of genetic engineering were made by the Canadian Dr. Michael Smith. The results of his work enabled the production of therapeutic proteins and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993.

Important challenges remain towards the discovery of cures for many diseases. Overcoming these challenges is part of the task of biochemists who work in biomedical research.