Postgraduate MSc

Drug Design and Discovery

School of Science, Engineering and Environment





One year

Two year

Next enrolment

September 2024


In a nutshell

The Human Genome Project and the rapid COVID-19 vaccine development highlight how translational approaches can lead to the development of new medications and therapies. Build the knowledge and skills to work in this exciting scientific field with our Drug Design and Discovery postgraduate degree.

Designed to nurture the next generation of bioscientists, our course enables science graduate and pharmaceutical industry professionals to build scientific methods and transferable, problem-solving skills.  You can use knowledge developed on the course to pursue roles where you can improve quality of life, treat long-standing diseases and inherited disorders and apply antimicrobials against multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria.

Led by highly-experienced, research-focused academics, and delivered in our world-class laboratory setting, our course integrates classical natural products-based drug discovery methods with the exploration of molecular target-based drug discovery and molecular modelling.  Collectively, this approach aims to nurture your in-depth knowledge of drug discovery and development.

International applicant? Please check international intakes for the latest information and application dates.

Start your MSc Drug Design and Discovery study journey

Register for our next Open Day where you can learn more about the course, tour our impressive Bodmer labs and meet the tutors.

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 scientific methods and transferable skills relevant to a wide variety of scientific and professional careers in medical and pharmaceutical industries

students accepted

This is for you if...


You are science graduate excited by the developments in biomedical science and interested in aligning your skills with the future of medicine


You are a bioscientist with a background in chemistry or biochemistry, eager to gain postgraduate level skills and ready to get hands-on with clinical lab work


You are a science professional fascinated by some of the latest bioscience research outcomes and keen to help design new generation drugs and therapies

Course details

All about the course

A view of the Bodmer Laboratories

The Drug Design and Discovery postgraduate degree course at Salford meets industry needs by providing formal qualifications for science professionals looking to develop a laboratory-based skillset. By drawing on our pioneering scientific research, and by applying our collaborative learning approach, the course provides you with a platform for science career success.

Course delivery

Our MSc Drug design and Discovery course is delivered through a range of highly-focused modules. The 180-credit MSc award comprises eight taught modules, plus a research dissertation.  

Flexibility is at the heart of our learning approach. You can choose to study this postgraduate course full-time or part-time on campus, with start dates each January and September:

  • As a full-time student, you will complete four 15-credit taught modules in each of the first two trimesters on campus.  In the final trimester, you will complete a research dissertation worth 60 credits.
  • As a part-time student, you will complete two 15-credit modules in each of the first four trimesters on campus. In two additional trimesters, you will complete a research dissertation worth 60 credits.
Learning experience

The course explores drug and novel therapy design by integrating classical natural products-based drug discovery methods with the exploration of molecular target-based drug discovery. The course is delivered using our advanced Bodmer Laboratories.

Current course topics include molecular modelling, novel therapeutics, proteomics, bio-nanotechnology and nanomedicine. The topics are complemented by modules designed to develop transferable and laboratory skills, prepare and deliver research, and conduct professional practice.

We regularly review module content with our industry partners to ensure acquired knowledge and skills reflect trends and needs within the science community. Learn more about the current course modules in the section below.

Course team

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

Course leader: Dr. Natalie Ferry

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.


Advances in Drug Analysis and Discovery

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 Salford. We encourage you to see yourself as a producer of knowledge and a collaborator 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.

  • Lectures will introduce core topics, with seminars and tutorials providing opportunities to discuss them further with your tutors and other students in smaller groups
  • Laboratory practicals delivered in our Bodmer Laboratories will enable you to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios and build proficiency using equipment

Alongside formal teaching, you will also have regular timetabled meetings with your personal tutor where you can discuss elements of your course, learning progress and potential research topics.


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

Assessment types can vary with each module, but typical methods include:

  • Problem-based learning
  • Group work
  • Practical work
  • Individual report writing
  • Scientific communication
  • Peer review
  • Reflective writing

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 leaders.

Driven by industry, and delivered by supportive programme teams, you can develop the knowledge and skills to take your career potential further.


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.

Industry collaboration and research

When you start this degree with Salford, you are also joining a community making a difference in industry, our local region and in our wider society.

Many of our academics and technicians who support your course also deliver collaborative, interdisciplinary, high-impact work in a range of bioscience issues and challenges.

Discover how you are part of something bigger.

Employment and stats

What about after uni?



This programme will prepare you for career progression in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, scientific research, or teaching and academia. With growing interest in novel treatments and therapies fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is anticipated that new research and work opportunities will arise.

The broader relevance of course content can also open up career opportunities in 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

You might also choose to take your subject interest further with postgraduate research. Our Biomedical Research Centre  is a vibrant, collaborative community home to PhD and Research Master’s opportunities exploring a range of topics, including biofuels, oncology and drug synthesis.

Explore our Doctoral School to learn more about research training, support and opportunities.

A taste of what you could become

A synthetic chemist

A laboratory researcher

A biotechnology scientist

A molecular modelling scientist

A research project leader

And more...

Career Links

  • We are well-positioned to provide you with access to career networks and research opportunities. Locally, the North West is one of the fastest-growing employment region outside of London in science and biomedical science-based vacancies.
  • We are driven by industry collaboration, and we ensure that your 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). 
  • Our bioscience team also hosts a regular postgraduate research seminar series, where we invite experts from outside the University to 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. 


All of our courses are taught and assessed in English. If English is not your first language, you must meet our minimum English language entry requirements. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this, however we do accept a range of equivalent qualifications. 

Read more about our English language requirements, including information about pathways that can help you gain entry on to our degree courses. If you do not have the English language requirements, you could take our Pre-Sessional English course


Please check international intakes for the latest information and application dates.

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.

International student entry requirements

We accept qualifications from all around the world. Find your country to see a full list of entry requirements.

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).

For more information or enquires about this scheme, please contact: 

Learn more about the Salford Alternative Entry Scheme.

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home 2024/25 £9,990.00per year
Full-time international 2024/25 £17,550.00per year
Part-time 2024/25 £1,665 per 30 credits
Full-time home 2025/26 £10,350.00per year
Full-time international 2025/26 £19,100.00per year

Additional costs

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

International student scholarships

If you are a high-achieving international student, you may be eligible for one of our scholarships. Learn more about our latest international scholarships.

Apply now

All set? Let's apply

Enrolment dates

September 2024

January 2025

September 2025