Use of 3D printing in teaching to bring together structure-activity relationships, drug design and public engagement with pharmacology

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Background and aims
Teaching and learning approaches in molecular pharmacology must keep pace with advances in understanding and modelling at a molecular level to support effective education in drug design and structure-activity development. With an ever increasing need to engage with the public to develop trust and transparency around drug discovery and development, student understanding of molecular interactions must translate to improved public engagement in drug design to expedite appreciation of the processes involved amongst the general public.

The aim of this teaching development project was to create an educational exercise for undergraduate pharmacologists that would integrate elements of drug design, 3D structural understanding and public outreach.

Summary of work and outcomes
A new 3D printing practical project for final year pharmacology undergraduates (35 students) was designed, where small groups select and print a drug target and some commonly used drugs that interact with it. Over the course of 4 different class sessions, groups complete the following activities:

• individual justification of drug target choice explaining relevance in pharmacology pitched at a lay audience
• group creation of a short video using the 3D models to demonstrate drug-target interaction and explaining 3D molecular basis of this
• group design of a new synthetic drug for the target using molecular modelling software incorporating key chemical modifications with justifiable influence on drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics

Outcomes were assessed based on student grades, where the range of grades across the class (1st-lower 2nd class) suggest the assessments were challenging and effective at distinguishing between student abilities. Furthermore, feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive, where the use of 3D software and models, assessment variety and inclusion of peer assessment (for video exercises) were identified as beneficial to student skills gain.

The design of this new teaching exercise was clearly successful in terms of creating a modern, technological way of integrating key topics in drug discovery and development, which was importantly very engaging for the students. The assessments are varied and effective, providing a holistic view of student skills relating to a range of core areas for pharmacologists e.g. drug design, molecular understanding, public engagement.

The details presented suggest this work represents a unique and modern teaching innovation that integrates key areas of pharmacology. The success is clear, and the simplicity of the overall design could be easily adapted to benefit diverse needs across the educational community within and outside of the society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
EventBritish-Pharmacology-Society Meeting (Pharmacology) - London
Duration: 18 Dec 201820 Dec 2018


ConferenceBritish-Pharmacology-Society Meeting (Pharmacology)


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