Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Announcing New Open Textbook: Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students by Renee LeClair

by Anita Walz, posted on December 6, 2021

Book cover for Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students by Renee LeClair
Cover Art: Adapted from Biochemlife CC BY SA 4.0
Cover Design: Kindred Grey

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Virginia Tech Publishing are pleased to announce publication of a new open textbook by Renée LeClair, Ph.D., titled, Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students.

Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students ( is an undergraduate medical school-level resource for foundational knowledge across the disciplines of genetics, cell biology and biochemistry. This USMLE-aligned text is designed for a first-year undergraduate medical course that is delivered typically before students start to explore systems physiology and pathophysiology. The text is meant to provide the essential information from these content areas in a concise format that would allow learner preparation to engage in an active classroom. Clinical correlates and additional application of content is intended to be provided in the classroom experience. The text assumes that the students will have completed medical school prerequisites (including the MCAT) in which they will have been introduced to the most fundamental concepts of biology and chemistry that are essential to understand the content presented here. This resource should be assistive to the learner later in medical school and for exam preparation given the material is presented in a succinct manner, with a focus on high-yield concepts.

Most tissues: Glutamate arrow with enzyme glutamine synthetase and ATP + NH3 arrow ADP + Pi to glutamine. Liver: Glutamine from most tissues arrow with enzyme glutaminase and H2O arrow NH3 arrow urea to glutamate. Circular arrows between glutamate and -ketoglutarate with enzyme glutamate dehydrogenase and loss of NH3. Alanine arrow touching arrow between α-ketoglutarate and glutamate with enzyme alanine aminotransferase to pyruvate arrow glucose. Muscle: Glucose from liver arrow glucose arrow pyruvate arrow with enzyme alanine aminotransferase to alanine arrow to liver. Pathway labeled glucose alanine cycle. Glutamate arrow with alanine aminotransferase to α-ketoglutarate arrow with enzyme glutamate dehydrogenase to Glutamate. Amino acids arrow NH3 arrow to arrow between α-ketoglutarate and glutamate.
Sample graphic (Figure 5.14) by Kindred Grey (CC BY 4.0)

The 276-page text was created specifically for use by pre-clinical students at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and was based on faculty experience and peer review to guide development and hone important topics. Instructors reviewing, adopting, or adapting parts or the whole of the text are requested to register their interest at:

Table of Contents

  1. Biochemistry basics
  2. Basic laboratory measurements
  3. Fed and fasted state
  4. Fuel for now
  5. Fuel for later
  6. Lipoprotein metabolism and cholesterol synthesis
  7. Pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), purine and pyrimidine metabolism
  8. Amino acid metabolism and heritable disorders of degradation
  9. Disorders of monosaccharide metabolism and other metabolic conditions
  10. Genes, genomes, and DNA
  11. Transcription and translation
  12. Gene regulation and the cell cycle
  13. Human genetics
  14. Linkage studies, pedigrees, and population genetics
  15. Cellular signaling
  16. Plasma membrane
  17. Cytoplasmic membranes
  18. Cytoskeleton
  19. Extracellular matrix

Free Access to Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students

Acknowledgments and The Series This work is the first in a five-volume series of open textbooks for pre-clinical medical education by Renee LeClair and Andrew Binks. Publication is expected by mid-2022. The series is supported in part by funding and/or in-kind contributions from VIVA’s Open Course Grants, Virginia Tech’s Open Education Initiative, Virginia Tech Publishing, and LibreTexts. Forthcoming titles in this series include:
     Neuroscience for Pre-Clinical Students (LeClair)
     Cardiovascular Pathophysiology for Pre-Clinical Students (Binks)
     Pulmonary Pathophysiology for Pre-Clinical Students (Binks)     
     Pulmonary Physiology for Pre-Clinical Students (Binks)
To request email notification of new releases in this series please register at Tech open textbook titles are hosted in VTechWorks and listed as Virginia Tech Open Education Initiative projects

Share your original work 
Instructors and subject matter experts interested in and sharing their original course materials relevant to pre-clinical education are requested to join the instructor portal at

Suggested citation
LeClair, Renée J., (2021). Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry for Pre-Clinical Students, Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech Publishing. Licensed with CC BY NC-SA 4.0.

Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike logo

Unless otherwise noted, this work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY NC SA) 4.0 license which allows adaptation and redistribution with attribution for uses which are not primarily commercial. Many figures are available under CC BY 4.0. See the license terms and best practices for attribution for additional information.

About the Author
Renée J. LeClair is an Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Science Education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, where her role is to engage activities that support the departmental mission of developing an integrated medical experience using evidence-based delivery grounded in the science of learning. She received a Ph.D. at Rice University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in vascular biology. She became involved in medical education, curricular renovation, and implementation of innovative teaching methods during her first faculty appointment, at the University of New England, College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 2013, she moved to a new medical school, University of South Carolina, School of Medicine, Greenville. The opportunities afforded by joining a new program and serving as the Chair of the Curriculum committee provided a blank slate for creative curricular development and close involvement with the accreditation process. During her tenure she developed and directed a team-taught student-centered undergraduate medical course that integrated the scientific and clinical sciences to assess all six core competencies of medical education.

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