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Drug Design and Discovery


School - School of Environment & Life Sciences

Subject area - Biomedical Science

Start Dates(s): September; January


MSc (one year full-time or up to three years part-time)


Part-time - £1,260 per 30 credit module

UK - £7,560

International - £13,860

In Brief:

  • Train for a career in the newly emerging industries of the post-genomic era
  • Work at the interface between biology and chemistry
  • Excellent career prospects
  • Part-time study option
  • International students can apply

Course Summary

Following completion of the Human Genome Project, the pharmaceutical industry is preparing for a revolution in cancer and inherited disorder therapies. This course is training a new generation of bioscientists to meet challenges at the interface between biology and chemistry, and to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge directly to improve quality of life.

The course develops a broad knowledge and conceptual base in the field of drug design and discovery, with an emphasis on new developments and advances in drug identification, understanding drug pharmacology and novel therapeutics, and appreciating how these topics interact with bioscience businesses and enterprise.

This programme is designed to enable you to gain systematic knowledge and critical awareness of current problems and new insights regarding the analysis of biomolecules. There is particular reference to drug design and discovery, along with a comprehensive and critical understanding of applied techniques and their current application in research in the field of biomolecule analysis and drug design.

This course is aimed at students who wish to acquire the specialised skills needed to design drugs for the 21st century. It is ideal for anyone with primarily either a chemistry or biochemistry based undergraduate degree wishing to broaden their knowledge base. The part-time route is well suited to those who already work in industry as it is possible to carry out research projects within the place of work. Prospective students must be committed to developing their skills and knowledge for a career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology sectors.

Please note: this course was previously called Analytical Bioscience and Drug Design.

Biomedical Research at the University of Salford

Find out more about the School of Environment and Life Sciences

Full or Part-time

The course has both full-time and part-time routes which, for the MSc, comprises three, 14-week semesters or five 14-week semesters, which you can take within one or three years respectively. 

For the full-time study option:

  • Semester 1 - September to February
  • Semester 2 - February to June
  • Semester 3 - June to September

Semester 1

This module aims to provide you with the key skills and knowledge to pursue research at postgraduate and professional level; developing your knowledge and understanding of the current ‘big issues’ in the bioscience and drug design fields; providing an introduction to ethics and bioethics, and enhancing critical thinking through seminars/debate in controversial subject areas.
The aims of this module are to gain a systematic understanding of knowledge about drug disposition in the body; to develop critical awareness of the current problem of toxicological implications of drug-drug interactions and pharmacodynamics; to enhance critical thinking and to develop originality in the application of knowledge by discussing different methods of drug absorption and how they are distributed in the body; to critically evaluate current research presented in peer review journals; to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them, proposing new hypotheses where applicable and to develop a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to your own research in the field of pharmacology.
The aim of this module is to examine the modern aspects of drug design from assessing the appropriateness of solutions to common pharmaceutical and biotechnological problems, to the discovery and development of new drugs. It will enable you to explain and discuss the principles of rational drug design. You will obtain a high level of understanding of current practices in molecular modelling and the application of these techniques in modern day situations.
The aims of this module are to develop an understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of, primarily, age-related pathologies; to develop a comprehensive conceptual understanding of novel molecular medicine derived treatment strategies; to encourage critical thinking and debate of these increasingly controversial issues and to develop theoretical and practical knowledge in the application of laboratory techniques applicable to translational molecular medicine.

Semester 2

This module aims to provide you with knowledge and understanding of the current principles of analytical bioscience and the applications of separation science.  You will also learn the necessary skills to undertake a research project.
The aim of this module is to provide a sound knowledge of the importance of natural products in medicine; to detail the mechanisms of natural product isolation and evaluation of their biological properties and to understand the different types of natural product and show how they are biosynthesised.
This module aims to provide a detailed knowledge and understanding of the principles of spectroscopy and mass spectrometry techniques and their application to molecular and biomolecular characterisation.
The aims of this module are to build a systematic understanding of the life sciences and how related technological developments are exploited; to enhance your critical thinking through seminars and debate related to ethical, legal and regulatory issues in the life sciences; to develop industry standard communication skills in research, team work and presentation and to develop applied entrepreneurial skills, including those that enable students to identify potential business opportunities arising from research in life sciences and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities.

Semester 3

The research project aims to provide a mechanism to allow the development of your experimental and investigative skills with subject specific aims in the area of analytical bioscience and drug design and objectives being dependent on the project undertaken.

Examples of Staff Research Interests:

  • Biotechnology: plant and insect biotechnologyBiofuels and enzyme discovery
  • Cancer Studies: DNA repair mechanisms, function of DNA glycosylases, protein – protein interactions
  • Cancer Studies: glycobiology, anticancer drugs
  • Parasitology and Diseases: microbiology, bacteriology, microbial pathogenicity, MRSA, antibiotics, antimicrobials
  • Synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry: free radical chemistry, asymmetric synthesis of anticancer agents
  • Development of spectrometry-based techniques to measure biomarkers of DNA, protein and lipid damage and DNA repair
  • Pharmacology: biological evaluation of novel anticancer agents
  • Drug Design, medicinal and organic chemistry: design and synthesis of anticancer drugs.
  • Natural Products: Isolation and evaluation

Entry Requirements

Applicants should possess at least a UK lower second class honours degree (2:2) or equivalent in bioscience, biochemistry, chemistry, pharmacy medicine or related subject.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English Language Requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Suitable For

This course is aimed at students who wish to acquire the specialised skills needed to design drugs for the 21st century. It is ideal for anyone with primarily either a chemistry or biochemistry based undergraduate degree wishing to broaden their knowledge base. The part-time route is well suited to those who already work in industry as it is possible to carry out research projects within the place of work. Prospective students must be committed to developing their skills and knowledge for a career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology sectors.

Fees 2018-19

Type of StudyFee
Part-time£1,260 per 30 credit module
Full-time International£13,860

Additional costs

  • Field courses - a non refundable deposit of £25 is charged for all residential field courses 
  • Field trips - students will not be charged for field (day) trips but are expected to provide their own refreshments.

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Scholarships and Bursaries

For more information please see our funding section


Teaching is through:

  • Lectures to provide thorough grounding in the techniques of biomolecule characterisation and drug design.
  • Practical sessions and workshops to demonstrate techniques and methods used in biomolecule characterisation and drug design, and provide a structured opportunity for you to practice techniques and methods in analytical biosciences and drug design.
  • Guided reading that will recommend texts, key articles and other materials in advance of, or following, lecture classes.  
  • The research project which will enable you to practice the application of appropriate, and selected, bioscientific techniques in an academic or industrial context, and demonstrate research methodologies and skills appropriate to and valuable with biomolecule characterisation and drug design. During your research project You will be supervised by expert staff who are actively engaged in international research programmes.


There are eight taught 15 credit modules each of which have only one assessment (100%). Each exam is 2 hours.The assessment breakdown by module is:

Research Methods (15 credits)

Summative – Coursework portfolio;
Formative – Draft report

Drug Pharmacology (15 credits)

Summative – Lab report and cases studies;
Formative –  PBL, case studies and lab classes

Drug Design (15 credits)

Summative – Exam;
Formative – Workshop report

Novel Therapeutics (15 credits)

Summative – Exam;
Formative – Laboratory report

Analytical Methods (15 credits)

Summative –  Laboratory portfolio  
Formative –   Lab based assessment

Natural Products (15 credits)

Summative – Exam;
Formative – Lab workshops

Identification of Drugs (15 credits)

Summative – Exam;
Formative – PBL sessions

Bioscience Enterprise (15 credits)

Summative – Presentation portfolio;
Formative – PBL sessions

Research Project/Dissertation (60 credits)  

(a) Oral presentation of research project work        25%             
(b) Dissertation                                                        75%

Postgraduate Staff Profile

Dr John Hadfield (Course Leader)

Expertise: Design and synthesis of anticancer drugs.

Seek profile

Key publications include:

Hadfield, J A and Wallace, T and Edwards, D and Ducki, S 2011, 'Tubulin-binding dibenz[c,e]oxepines as colchinol analogues for targeting tumour vasculature', Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 9, pp.219-231.

R. H. Bisby, S. W. Botchway, J. A. Hadfield, A. T. McGown, A. W. Parker and K. M Scherer. Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging of E Combretastatin Uptake and Distribution in Mammalian Cells. Eur. J. Cancer., 2012, 48, 1896- 903.  

Dr Ian Podmore (Senior Lecturer in Analytical Bioscience)

Seek profile


Although particularly relevant to those looking for a career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, this course will also equip you for a career in research, teaching and many other professions including cosmetic science, animal health, food science, medical laboratory research, patent law, scientific journalism and health and safety.

Links with Industry

Research projects may be carried out at other institutions (recently Universities in Bremen or France and the Paterson Institute, UK). We also invite visiting lecturers to share their expertise on the subject areas.

Further Study

After completion of this course you may wish to specialise in a chosen subject area in one of the School’s two main research centres: Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre (EER) or Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Biomedical Research at Salford

Francesca Lomas

MSc Analytical Bioscience and Drug design graduate (former name of this course)

The laboratory sessions on this programme were based around the material covered within the taught lectures and they were planned in an efficient and organised manner. The sessions were well structured, thoroughly enjoyable and furthered understanding of the topics to aid students to competently complete a written report.

Shortly after completing my masters I started a job within the pharmaceutical industry and know that this course was a contributing factor in my successful application for the post. I would highly recommend this course to anybody contemplating further study.


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