Postgraduate MSc

Drug Design and Discovery

School of Science, Engineering and Environment





One year

Three year

Next enrolment

January 2021


In a nutshell

It is an exciting time for chemists to be involved in biomedical research. Following the completion of the Human Genome Project, the pharmaceutical industry is preparing for a revolution in cancer and inherited disorder therapies. 

The Drug Design and Discovery postgraduate programme at Salford is designed to nurture the next generation of bioscientists working at the interface between biology and chemistry, ready to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge to improve quality of life.

This course integrates classical natural products-based drug discovery methods, involving extraction, assay-based functional fractionation, isolation, characterisation, and target validation. However, with the discovery of antimicrobials against multidrug resistant strains of bacteria, the syllabus also explores molecular target-based drug discovery and molecular modelling. 

Available with full and part-time study routes, the course equips science graduate and industry professionals with analytical techniques and problem-solving skills so they can thrive in the pharmaceutical revolution.

You will:
  • Learn where chemistry, nanotechnology and genome technology is pushing the boundaries of biomedical research
  • Acquire strong training in drug synthesis and analytical methods, natural product chemistry and molecular modelling
  • Develop transferable skills relevant to a wide variety of professional careers, including analytical techniques and problem-solving skills

students accepted

This is for you if...


You are a committed bioscientist with a background in chemistry or biochemistry


You are excited by the developments in biomedical science


You want to design new generation drugs for the 21st century

Course details

All about the course

The Drug Design and Discovery programme is available in flexible study formats, including full and part-time pathways. It comprises eight 15 credit taught modules, followed by a 60 credit research project.

  • Full-time students will take modules in trimesters one and two, and complete the project module in trimester three.
  • Part-time students will spread their studies over trimesters one and two of two years, and complete the project module in year three.
Trimester one

Postgraduate Scholarship Skills

This module will provide you with the key skills and knowledge to pursue academic research at the postgraduate and professional level. You will gain knowledge and understanding of the current ‘big issues’ in the life sciences and will understand how ethics and bioethics can enhance critical thinking in often controversial subject areas.

Drug Design and Molecular Modelling

You will be able to define, explain and discuss the principles of rational drug design. By the end of the module you will have the skills and knowledge required to demonstrate the appropriateness of drug design solutions in analysing common problems found in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry and academia. Ultimately you will achieve a high level of understanding of current practices in molecular modelling/database analysis and the application of these techniques in modern day drug design, gaining a comprehensive understand of modern day approaches to the design and discovery of new antimicrobial, anticancer, antimalarial, and antiplatelet drugs.

Novel Therapeutics

You will develop an understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of age-related pathologies such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and dementia as well as a comprehensive conceptual and practical understanding of molecular medicine driven treatment strategies. You will have the opportunity to use the acquired theoretical and practical knowledge for designing creative and innovative solution to “real world” problems applicable to translational molecular medicine.

Choose one option from

Molecular Biology and Proteomics (15 credits)

You will develop a comprehensive conceptual understanding of molecular biology and proteomics and their uses in biotechnology along with a practical knowledge of bioinformatics. Crucially you will develop skills in the application of laboratory techniques in the field of molecular biology.


Advances in Drug Analysis and Discovery (DDD)

You will have the opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding on the advances in pharmaceutical analysis and drug development.  You will acquire information on state-of-the-art drug analysis approaches and give insight into cutting-edge research on the drug analysis developments. You will consider limitations of current methodologies for drug analysis. This module will prepare you for employment in pharmaceutical research and development, quality control and regulatory aspects of pharmaceuticals and provide you with the opportunities to critically engage with topics of discussion via problem-based learning (PBL) and group learning approach.

Trimester two

Bionanotechnology and Nanomedicine


You will have the opportunity to engage critically with literature and develop your knowledge and understanding on man-made and naturally occurring nanomaterials for uses in nanomedicine. We aim to provide you the opportunity to acquire information on state of the art nanoparticle fabrication, rationale for the design of nanoparticles applied in biology and medicine with particular emphasis on the nanodiagnostics, nanoparticle based drug delivery strategies and nanotechnology applied to treatment of cancer, including nanotoxicity, nanosafety and ethical implications with the use of engineered nanomaterials. You will enhance your critical thinking on the factors contributing to opportunities and potential limitations of current methodologies for drug delivery and diagnostic sensing using nanotechnologies in realistic biological environments, and provide you with the opportunities to critically engage with topics of discussion via problem-based learning (PBL) approach.

Natural Products

You will acquire a sound knowledge of the importance of natural products in medicine, understand the mechanisms of natural product isolation and evaluation of their biological properties and be able to undertake problem solving in drug design. Ultimately you will be able to demonstrate the principles and application of spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to molecular characterisation and drug identification.

Professional Practice

This module provides the opportunity for you to use research skills acquired in the applied context of ‘real world’ project work in a variety of professional settings (companies, charities etc) and develop the skills necessary for successful delivery of project outcomes. You will design, plan and execute a programme of research through active enquiry and to apply appropriate analysis of research results.

Research Design and Delivery

In this module you will develop essential research skills in your area through project work broadly aligned to the focus of your dissertation.

Trimester three

Research Project

Following successful completion of semesters one and two, you will undertake a laboratory-based research project for a minimum of four months. Set projects are available but you are welcome to propose your own project, providing you choose a supervisor and discuss the project with them.Examples of staff research interests and potential projects:Examples of staff research interests and potential projects:

  • Nanotechnology, medical and biosensor applications
  • 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
  • Genomics, analysis of microbial genomes (including clinically relevant studies)
  • Genome editing (CRISPR/Cas) for therapeutic treatment
  • Biofuels and enzyme discovery
  • Cancer studies: DNA repair mechanisms, protein protein interactions
  • Cancer studies: glycobiology, anticancer drugs

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What will I be doing?


The co-creation of knowledge is an overarching learning and teaching strategy at the University. You are encouraged to see yourself as producers of knowledge and collaborators in your learning experience.

Learning methods are designed to train you to assess real-life situations and provide measures that would lead to improved professional practice. You will experience a combination of lectures, seminars, and laboratory practicals. Seminars are designed to enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of topics covered in lectures in smaller groups.

Alongside formal teaching, you will also have regular timetabled meetings with your personal tutor. 


Assessment strategies are designed to develop your skills for future employability and assessment success. Feedback is regularly provided in the form of personal written communication, online notes, and group-based feedback.

Typical assessment methods:

  • Coursework portfolios 
  • Lab reports
  • Case studies
  • Examinations
  • Laboratory portfolios
  • Presentations

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Rising to the challenge of a changing world, our postgraduate courses are designed to shape the next generation of urbanists, scientists, engineers, consultants and industry leaders.

Driven by industry, and delivered by supportive programme teams, you can develop the knowledge and skills to go further.


During your studies, you will experience a modern learning environment, enriched with accessible lecture theatres and AV-equipped classrooms and laboratories, computing suites and multimedia libraries, with access to industry journals, databases, and simulation software.

As a Drug Design and Discovery student, you will learn in our cutting-edge Bodmer Laboratories which host industry-standard instrumentation including cell culture facilities, FACS, MALDI-TOF, LC and GC mass spectrometry, FTIR and FTNMR spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Programme Team

The Drug Design and Discovery postgraduate programme is delivered by an academic team with exceptional research experience and extensive professional connections.

Employment and stats

What about after uni?


This programme will prepare you for career progression into research, academia and related employment fields. With growing interest in biotechnology fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is anticipated that new research and work opportunities will arise.

The course can open up career opportunities 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.

Course alumni have secured roles working as research associates, in technical roles, or with pharmaceutical companies.

Further Study

Drug Design and Discovery postgraduates can choose research to further their knowledge in topics such as biofuels, cancer research and drug synthesis. Learn more about postgraduate research opportunities available through our Doctoral School.

The Biomedical Research Centre at Salford is home to our collaborative community of molecular biologists, biochemists, chemists, clinicians, microbiologists, parasitologists, physiologists, and cell biologists, dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge.

A taste of what you could become

A scientist

A medical researcher

A laboratory technican

An inspirational science teacher

And more...

Career Links

Salford is well-positioned to provide you with access to career networks and research opportunities. Locally, the North West is the fastest-growing employment region outside of London in science and biomedical science-based vacancies.

The University is driven by industry collaboration, and we ensure that learning is enriched by our partners and networks. Course modules include industrial site visits and opportunities to engage with research projects carried out at other institutions (recently Universities in Bremen or France and the Paterson Institute, UK). We also invite guest lecturers to share their expertise in relevant scientific fields.

Salford runs a regular Postgraduate Research Seminar Series in which experts from outside the University share their knowledge and latest research findings. 


What you need to know


This course is recommended for applicants who want to develop their skills and knowledge in preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology sectors. It is ideal progression for chemistry or biochemistry graduates seeking to broaden their knowledge base. The part-time route is well-suited to applicants who already work in industry, as there will be opportunities to complete workplace-related research projects. 


International applicants are required to demonstrate proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (with no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Standard entry requirements

Undergraduate degree

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.

Alternative entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from candidates 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).

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home 2021/22 £9,180per year
Full-time international 2021/22 £15,030per year
Part-time 2021/22 £1,530 per 30 credits
Additional costs

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

Scholarships for international students

If you are a high-achieving international student, you may be eligible for one of our scholarships.
We have a range of scholarships available for students applying for courses in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Our Global Gold Excellence Scholarship is worth £3,500 and our Global Silver Excellence Scholarship is worth £3,000 - both are available for students studying in our 2021/22 intakes.

We also offer the Salford International Excellence Scholarship which offers up to £5,000 discount on tuition fees. As this is a prestigious award we have a limited number of these scholarships available.

See the full range of our International Scholarships.

Apply now

All set? Let's apply

Enrolment dates

January 2021

September 2021