Skip to main content

Drug Design and Discovery


School - School of Environment & Life Sciences

Subject area - Biomedical Science

Start Date(s): September; January


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

Fees 2018-19:

2019-20 fees will be displayed shortly.

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

UK - £7,560

International - £13,860

In Brief:

  • This MSc provides training for a new generation of bioscientists to enable them to meet challenges at the interface between biology and chemistry and to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge directly to improve quality of life.
  • This MSc provides tools to enhance employability. including understanding of how techniques may be used for research to create and interpret knowledge, self management, independent learning and problem solving skills.
  • Our graduates go on to successful careers in industry and progress to research degrees (PhD).
  • Part-time study option
  • International students can apply

Course Summary

It is an exciting time for chemists to be involved in all aspects of biomedical research. Chemistry is inherently well positioned to have a major impact on drug discovery, since other disciplines cannot create novel small molecules. This course offers classical natural products-based drug discovery, involving extraction, assay-based functional fractionation, isolation, characterization, and target validation however increasingly this approach is complemented by molecular target-based drug discovery and Molecular Modelling. Discovery of new generation antimicrobials against multidrug resistant strains of bacteria is advancing by extensive use of those modern tools. Furthermore Nanotechnology is fulfilling medical science’s need for more precise treatments that are less invasive, less costly, and less complicated to administer than traditional methods that translate into better patient outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and wider access to healthcare services in under-resourced parts of the world.

Finally following completion of the Human Genome Project, the pharmaceutical industry is also 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 syllabus is designed to develop the “analytical techniques and problem-solving skills” relevant to postgraduate-level employment in both the pharmaceutical sector but also to provide access to transferable skills relevant to a great variety of professional careers.

Biomedical Research at the University of Salford

Find out more about the School of Environment and Life Sciences

Course Structure

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

Course Details          

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.      
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.      
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 from:  
You will gain a systematic understanding and knowledge about drug disposition in the body and develop critical awareness of the current problem of toxicological implication of drug-drug interactions and pharmacodynamics.  We aim to enhance your 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. You will critically evaluate current research presented in peer review journals, evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them, proposing new hypothesis where applicable. Ultimately you will develop a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research in the field of pharmacology.      
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.      

Semester 2  

This module will enable you to design, plan and execute a programme of research and to apply appropriate analysis of research results, it has a strong focus on acquiring laboratory skills prior to undertaking the final research project module and as such will develop your practical skills beyond that of a standard MSc programme.It will provide opportunities for you to develop essential research skills in the discipline and allow you to undertake project work broadly aligned to the focus of your dissertation.        
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.      
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.      
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.      

Semester 3  

Following successful completion of Semesters 1 and 2, 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                              
  • Microbiology, antibiotics and antimicrobials
  • 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 2019-20

    Fees for entry in 2019 will be displayed shortly.

    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 Natalie Ferry (Programme Lead)

    Programme Lead for MSc Biomedical Science, MSc Drug Design and Discovery, and MSc Biotechnology

    I took my lectureship in Biotechnology at the University of Salford in 2010 where my research now focuses on identifying plant proteins and peptides for a variety of biotechnological applications.

    Dr Zeljka Krpetic

    Module Lead for Bio-Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine

    Dr John Hadfield

    Module Lead for Natural Products and Research Project

    Dr David Pye

    Module Lead for Drug Design and Molecular Modelling

    Dr Gianpiero DiLeva

    Module Lead in Novel Therapeutics.

    Dr Joe Latimer

    Module Lead Postgraduate Scholarship Skills

    Prof Mike Wood

    Module Lead Research Design and Delivery

    Dr Rhod Elder

    Module Lead Molecular Biology and Proteomics


    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.

    Career Prospects

    Many students have progressed to PhD (working in the areas of biofuels, cancer research and drug synthesis.  Many students have progressed to PhD here at Salford but we have recent alumni pursuing PhDs globally.

    We have recently had students find employment as Research Assosiates (Liverpool University, John Innes Centre), Technical roles (Salford University) and with Pharmaceutical Companies (e.g. Cyprotex) both in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

    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.


    Not the course you're looking for?

    If this course isn't for you then please retry our course finder below.


    Visit our A-Z list of courses.

    A-Z courses