Abstract

Over the past two decades, “chemical biology” has emerged as the term of choice to describe the interface between chemistry and biology. As its name suggests, the field draws upon chemical insights and tools to understand or engineer living things. This essay focuses on the scientific, societal, and pedagogical potential of an emerging frontier for chemical biologists: namely, the study of Homo sapiens. My goal is to highlight the opportunities and challenges presented to chemistry by human biology at a time when it costs less to sequence an individual's genome than it does to buy a car. But how does chemical biology differ from other similar-sounding fields? By first reaching a clear understanding of the scope of chemical biology, we may address more pertinent questions such as: What is the promise of the emerging interface between chemistry and human biology? Why is it important to nurture the relationship between these fields? And what are the attributes of individuals and environments that are well poised to contribute significantly to this interface?

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