Medicinal Chemistry is Key to Successful Drug Discovery

The right medicinal chemistry approach can be a key differentiator to fast, efficient drug discovery. Expert, experienced drug hunters agree that medchem can reduce your time to decision point.

During the compound design and compound synthesis phases of discovery, Charles River chemists use a hypothesis-driven approach. This has resulted in successful delivery of 80 development candidates and over 350 patents to our clients.


Charles River has a large team, consisting of 170 chemists, of which more than half have earned PhD degrees. On average, each member of our team has 17 years’ industrial experience in the services, biotech, and pharmaceutical industries.

With expertise in early target identification, hit-finding strategies, hit-to-lead, lead optimization, patent strategy, and preparation for IND filing, the Charles River team understands client requirements and delivers development candidates that meet agreed target product profiles. Charles River medicinal chemists have experience with a wide range of therapeutic areas and collaborative working styles, and we are well equipped to drive your program forward.

Track Record of Candidates

Charles River chemistry, biology, large molecule and small molecule screening scientists deliver patents and compound candidates in many therapeutic areas including oncology, neurology, immune-oncology, pain, inflammation and respiratory to our drug discovery cro clients.Successful candidate development is directly related to the experience of scientists, investment in platform technologies and application of a translational approach. Check out our candidate delivery and patent track record by therapeutic area. Will our next discovery be yours?

A holistic medchem approach makes a difference

Scientifically sound medicinal chemistry conclusions and recommendations must be derived from taking a holistic view of the compound of study. A series of parameters must be well understood and considered during the design and synthesis of compounds and they include:

  • Potency
  • Stability
  • Selectivity
  • Bioavailability
  • Efficacy
  • Safety/tolerability
  • Patentability
  • Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics

Looking at all these parameters at once reduces the risk of encountering unanticipated and unfavorable compound findings downstream. Our scientists use modelling to look at compounds of interest with a holistic view, and then determine an optimized combination of the above parameters. If this isn’t done by experienced scientists, clients can encounter toxicity or similar findings that will delay or derail programs.

Hypothesis-driven optimization is integral to our medchem philosophy

Charles River’s medicinal chemistry philosophy is based upon developing hypotheses to overcome issues and then interrogating these hypotheses in a design, synthesize, test and analyze cycle to drive the optimization process.

Reduce the overall cycle time of medicinal chemistry services when a  hypothesis-driven optimization process is in place by developing a hypotheses to overcome issues and then interrogating these hypotheses in a design, synthesize, test and analyze cycle.

By asking the right questions and making the compounds that answer these questions, we understand how to respond to data, and this drives informed decisions toward compound optimization. Clients can reduce the overall medicinal chemistry cycle time when a hypothesis-driven optimization process is in place.

Decision points occur at key points of the drug discovery process, from hit identification all the way through to IND-enabling studies. We consider key factors such as client intellectual property (IP) generation, compound stability for in vivo studies, solubility and other poor property issues, weak exposure in an animal and off-target selectivity in our compound synthesis projects.

The Charles River pharmaceutical chemistry team has the expertise, experience and processes to optimize and present the most optimized solutions into single compounds to our client partners.

Benefit from accumulated drug discovery knowledge

As programs progress, the bioorganic and medicinal chemistry team is able to call on additional in-house scientific disciplines including structural biology, in vitro biology, DMPK, in vivo pharmacology, pharmaceutics/formulation, and safety assessment. Our computational chemistry group has many years of experience in deploying a full range of in silico tools to support the design process and assist in the continuous interpretation of in vitro and in vivo data.

Our scientists can also draw upon the wider Charles River organization to help progress your development candidate towards the clinic. This collaborative, integrated approach to drug discovery ensures that your program:

  • Stays focused on achieving your goals and delivers to your budget
  • Benefits from our accumulated knowledge and experience
  • Maximizes efficiency by accessing the widest range of services
  • Minimizes turnaround times without compromising quality
  • Establishes and protects intellectual property

Question for our chemists?

Medicinal Chemistry Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is medicinal chemistry?

    Medicinal chemistry is the process of designing and synthesizing biologically active molecules to best discover and optimize chemical compounds to be used in drug discovery. Medicinal chemists need to understand the compound as it relates to physiological and pathological biological systems. These new chemical structures will be the foundation for life-changing therapies for undesirable medical conditions and disease. For the latest industry news and research in this field, visit

  • How does Charles River approach medicinal chemistry?

    Charles River’s philosophy is based upon the traditional cycle of design - synthesize - test - analyze. Charles River’s medicinal chemistry team enhances this cycle by adding a hypothesis-driven optimization process. This reduces the overall development time because chemists systematically develop and interrogate the hypotheses.

  • Do you provide fee-for-service chemistry or FTE services?

    Charles River is a flexible contract research organization (CRO) and provides many different business models to fit client needs. Charles River offers stand-alone, fee-for-service chemistry pricing models in addition to fully integrated solutions. Integrated pharmaceutical chemistry solutions are in-sourced chemistry collaborations in which Charles River chemists are recognized as integral parts of our client’s chemistry departments.

    During any point in the drug discovery workflow, our medicinal chemists are ready to work with you to progress your program quickly and efficiently.

  • What medchem services does Charles River provide?

    Charles River has expertise and equipment to provide chemistry services to support these areas:

    • Target identification
    • Hit-finding strategies
    • Hit-to-lead
    • Lead optimisation
    • Patent strategy
    • Preparation for IND filing
  • Where are the Charles River medchem services performed?

    The Charles River Cambridge, UK site and the Harlow, UK site perform chemistry services. For more information, see the Discovery Services and Facilities overview sheet.

  • What therapeutic areas does Charles River medchem team have experience with?

    Charles River has experience in respiratory, inflammation, oncology, central nervous system (CNS), inflammation, and this list continues to expand.