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BGM3064 : Applied Biochemistry

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Martin Noble
  • Lecturer: Dr David Bolam, Professor Jeremy Lakey, Dr Andrew Knight, Professor Christopher Dennison, Dr Cole Sims, Professor Bert van den Berg
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


As biochemists, we are interested in how chemical processes are linked to biological phenomena. For instance the replication of an organism’s genome requires the formation of a polymer of nucleic acid building blocks, linked together by phosphodiester bonds. But biochemistry has a greater role to play in society than just being a branch of the life sciences that is studied in University class rooms and in academics’ research labs. For instance, biochemistry has real-world applications in the maintenance of good health and in combatting disease, roles in the production of biofuels, in nano-circuitry and in bio-sensing and in the genetic modification of organisms to understand cellular processes and to treat complex diseases. The overall aim of this module is to introduce to students how biochemistry can be applied to solve real world problems and to provide experience, guidance and support for those considering a career in the greater biotechnology sector.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is designed to demonstrate various ways in which biochemistry can be applied to solving some real-world problems. First we will discover how biochemistry can be applied in the production of biopharmaceuticals aka biologics. For instance, the breast cancer drug Herceptin is a good example of a biologic - Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that specifically inhibits a dysregulated plasma membrane-bound receptor tyrosine kinase, HER2. The role of antibodies in general in an applied sense will also be covered. The module will also introduce the role of biochemistry in nutraceuticals, dietary supplements that provide health benefits such as improved well-being or the prevention of chronic diseases and how glycan degrading enzymes can be used in the production of bioethanol. Further taught material will look at how metalloproteins can be adapted to be used in biofuel cells, in the oxidation of methane and as biosensors, and how membrane proteins have utility as biosensors, in nanoelectronics, and in the sequencing of DNA. We will also consider how genome editing can be used to re-write the genomic information in an individual cell and how this technology might be used to treat complex hereditary disorders. Finally, how the unmet need for new antibiotics is being addressed will form the introduction to a series of lectures on modern approaches to drug discovery, using structure-, in silico- and fragment-based approaches to the same end, i.e. the development of highly effective and selective new pharmaceuticals.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture261:0026:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Group Oral Presentatons
Guided Independent StudySkills practice31:003:00Generic Skills Sessions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:302:30N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00Visit to FujiFilm Diosynth
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1158:30158:30N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures are used to present the core syllabus in the most efficient manner. The students will be introduced to general concepts and areas of particular importance, so that they can relate the class-room teaching to self-directed study. Students are actively encouraged to ask questions and to self-direct discussion during and after lectures, oral presentations and workshops/fieldtrips. The self-directed questioning and discussion helps to test the students’ reasoning and interpretive skills so that the students can achieve the learning outcomes.

2. One workshop will be led by staff from the Careers Service, who is best-placed to help the students identify and appraise career opportunities in the biotechnology sector.

3. An interactive molecular graphics-based workshop will provide the students with an opportunity to visualise the output of a typical drug discovery / SAR programme using crystallography.

4. The fieldtrip to FujiFilm Diosynth will provide the students with a unique opportunity during their course to experience a national manufacturing facility of direct relevance to this module.

5. Skills practice sessions are generic, used to support development of core analytical and numerical skills across the curriculum.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A802 essay questions from a choice of 4
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prof skill assessmnt1M10Group oral presentation (10%) (duration 15 mins/group)
Essay1M10Written Essay (word count 1500 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Research paper1MMolecular graphics tutorial to learn about molecular modern graphics software
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The major form of assessment is the formal summer examination (80% of the total module mark), which tests students’ knowledge and understanding, and their ability to think critically and to write persuasively and coherently.

The in course assessment will comprise individual essays and group oral presentations, which will be carried out in groups of ~4 students per group. Each will contribute to the presentation and each student’s contribution to the group will be assessed. The presentations will therefore test the students’ abilities to work in teams, and both the essays and the presentations will test students’ abilities to develop ideas and concepts and to critically appraise scientific literature and the development of potential business ideas. The in course assessment will aid the development of students’ oral and written communication skills.

The formative assessment will provide the students with an opportunity to test their understanding of protein: ligand interactions and to visualise how small changes in the chemical nature of the ligand can affect the binding energy.

Reading Lists