Molecular pharmacology is a branch of the field of pharmacology which is concerned with the study of pharmacology on a molecular basis. Molecular pharmacologists study the molecular study of pharmaceuticals and natural compounds used in the treatment of disease, and they also study disease on a molecular basis with the goal of developing pharmacologically active agents which could be used to address disease. Employment in this field is generally limited to people who hold graduate degrees, often with postdoctoral work in the field.
One of the most important aspects of molecular pharmacology is understanding how drugs work on a molecular basis. For a patient who takes antibiotics for an infection, the molecular explanation for the efficacy of the drugs might not seem terribly important, as long as they work, but for molecular pharmacologists, it's critical. A molecular pharmacologist can find out how the drug attacks the bacteria causing the infection, how the bacteria develops antibiotic resistance, and how a drug company might develop a new antibiotic which targets an antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the molecular level.
Molecular pharmacologists are also interested in molecular pathology, the study of the process of disease on a molecular level. This is especially relevant with malignancies which develop spontaneously, as an understanding of how much malignancies emerge could be a key part to developing drugs which will target these malignancies. Researchers in molecular pharmacology are also interested in developing highly refined drugs which are capable of attacking a malignancy and nothing else, thereby reducing side effects for the patient.
Understanding the molecular structure of drugs is also important. From the point of view of pharmaceutical companies, knowing as much as possible about their drugs is useful because it can help them protect patents, develop similar drugs, organize drug families, and understand drug actions. For researchers, knowing the molecular structure of a drug is important for many of the same reasons. Researchers are also interested in developing methods for producing consistent and reliable pharmaceuticals, which requires a knowledge of the detailed structures of the drugs they are working on.
People can approach this field from a number of angles within the biological sciences. Some colleges and universities offer molecular pharmacology degrees to their students, and these degrees can include a high level of personalization to the student's interests and needs. Generally, coursework in molecular pharmacology includes topics like biology, anatomy, physiology, molecular chemistry, and other fields within the biological sciences.