What is biochemistry?

Biochemistry explores chemical processes related to living organisms. It is a laboratory-based science combining biology and chemistry.

Biochemists study the structure, composition, and chemical reactions of substances in living systems and, in turn, their functions and ways to control them. Biochemistry emerged as a separate discipline when scientists combined biology with organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. They began to study areas such as:

  • How living things get energy from food
  • The chemical basis of heredity
  • What fundamental changes occur in disease 

Biochemistry includes the sciences of molecular biology, immunochemistry, and neurochemistry, as well as bioinorganic, bioorganic, and biophysical chemistry.

What do biochemists do?

Biochemists interact with scientists from a wide variety of other disciplines, usually on problems that are a very small piece of a very large and complex system. 

  • Biochemists in industry are interested in specific applications that will lead to marketable products
  • Biochemists in academia or government labs conduct more basic and less applied research

Where is biochemistry used?

Biochemistry has obvious applications in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. Other applications include:

Food Science

Biochemists determine the chemical composition of foods, research ways to develop abundant and inexpensive sources of nutritious foods, develop methods to extract nutrients from waste products, and/or invent ways to prolong the shelf life of food products. 


Biochemists study the interaction of herbicides/insecticides with plants and pests. They examine the structure–activity relationships of compounds, determine their ability to inhibit growth, and evaluate the toxicological effects on surrounding life.

Pharmacology, Physiology, Microbiology, Toxicology, and Clinical Chemistry 

Biochemists investigate the mechanisms of drug actions; engage in viral research; conduct research pertaining to organ function; or use chemical concepts, procedures, and techniques to study the diagnosis and therapy of disease and the assessment of health.

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