Chemical biology. A practical course

Chemical biology. A practical course
Herbert Waldmann and Petra Janning
Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH 2004 | Pp 230 | ?24.95 (HB) | ISBN 3527307788
Reviewed by Stephen Neidle

Chemical biology is bringing the power of chemistry to unravel complex biological problems and is a major growth area in the chemical sciences in both research and teaching. This raises the problem of what best constitutes an appropriate training in the subject, bearing in mind that biochemistry courses have traditionally not been designed for chemists.

It is obvious that a chemical biology programme should integrate chemical and biological themes and approaches, but it is less obvious exactly how best to do so.

Herbert Waldmann and his colleagues in Dortmund in Germany, who have made some notable research contributions in chemical biology, have used their experience to develop a practical course. The course, which forms the basis of this book, largely succeeds in providing a stimulating yet demanding integration.

The book overall covers a wide range of topics and techniques. Individual chapters detail such subjects as solid-phase synthesis of a peptide and its evaluation in cells, proteomic identification and analysis of yeast proteins, ras protein farnesylation, and solid-state antibiotic synthesis.

Each chapter provides a brief background, followed by a series of somewhat abbreviated experimental protocols, mostly in the style of the methods section of a research paper.

I have a few caveats. Students starting out in the subject will need much more than these terse descriptions, as well as more extensive background material.

The chapter on molecular modelling attempts to cover too many topics; this is a course in itself, even at an introductory level, and is probably best avoided in the context of an experimental course. Conversely there is very little on molecular biology techniques.

Nevertheless, Waldmann and Janning have produced an exciting and lively book that takes students to the point where they can start to become effective research workers in a number of major areas of current chemical biology.

Individual topics are also suitable for the advanced undergraduate curriculum, perhaps as starting-points for directed projects where supervisors can substitute different proteins or cell lines.