Pharmaceutical Chemists design, develop, analyse and evaluate new and improved drugs for the healthcare industry, utilising specialised technical laboratory equipment and sophisticated software. They work in multidisciplinary teams relying heavily on expertise in pharmacology, chemistry and biological knowledge of the human system, in areas such as genetics and immunology. Pharmaceutical Chemists can be involved in all stages from the initial research and design of the drug to testing and manufacture, performing tasks such as:
- Perform chemical research and testing that contributes to the development of medicinal products, such as antibiotics and vaccines
- Develop methods to help determine standards for drug testing in humans and animals
- Participate in clinical trials of drugs being developed to measure effectiveness, establish adverse side-effects of drug interactions, and determine the optimal dosage and method of administration
- Submit products to regulatory bodies for approval
- Consult with manufacturers to organise the manufacturing of products
- Present research results and products to the scientific and wider community
Sectors and industries
Typically, Pharmaceutical/Medicinal Chemists will find employment in private pharmaceutical companies, research and development, government agencies, health, agriculture, food and drug administration, and industrial pharmaceutical manufacturing organisations.
Synthetic Pharmaceutical Chemist
Synthetic Pharmaceutical Chemists specialise in the design and creation of new drugs, attempting to produce cost-effective products that maximise benefits and minimise adverse side effects.
Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemist
Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemists concentrate on technical analysis of the chemical composition of the product to ensure that the drug is pure.
Development Chemists apply the findings of pharmaceutical scientists to develop or improve generic drugs, such as painkillers, antibiotics and antineoplastics, and conduct extensive tests and trials to align the products with Health regulations.
The ability to operate effectively as part of a multidisciplinary team is an essential skill for Pharmaceutical Chemists, who need to be aware of what other team members are working on and inform the team of progress on allocated tasks. They require advanced accuracy, attention to detail, concentration, and creativity. The ability to solve problems, patience and persistence are of paramount importance for Pharmaceutical Chemists who may spend many years testing substances and developing and trialling a drug treatment. Good communication skills are necessary to present information on research findings and new treatments to colleagues and wider audiences from diverse backgrounds.
A degree in pharmaceutical science, chemistry, medicinal chemistry, biomedical sciences, biotechnology or a related degree is required, along with postgraduate qualifications and experience in the field of pharmaceutical science.