MSc Drug Design and Biomedical Science

Postgraduate, Full-Time

Unique in Europe, this course combines biomedicine and pharmaceutical science to prepare you for a rewarding career in the pharmaceutical, bioscience or healthcare sectors.

  • Napier code:

    74709MM

  • Course type:

    Full-Time

  • Duration:

    3 trimesters

  • Award:

    MSc

  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

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Course introduction

If you're interested in a career in the fascinating and challenging world of drug design, this is the course that will take you there.







Rather than presenting just one of the disciplines used in the field, this postgraduate degree, unique in Europe, blends the subjects you need - biomedicine and pharmaceutical science - into one comprehensive course that focuses on the integration of modern organomedicinal chemistry and molecular biology.

You’ll study various steps involved in developing and creating effective drugs, from concept to clinic, including the theories and practical applications of chemical drug design and immunology, pharmacology and molecular biology. Learning will be based on emergent technology from academic research and how it is applied to the drug development process, identification of drug targets, and development of effective drugs via reference to the relevant biological systems and pathways.

This course is eligible for a SFC funded place for Scottish and EU students – please see the SFC funding page for more information on how to apply.


This course provides the knowledge, understanding and practical experience you’ll need to forge a rewarding career in research and development in the pharmaceutical, bioscience or healthcare sectors. You’ll develop in-depth understanding of disease processes and molecular targets and an ability to apply this knowledge and theory to key aspects of drug design and biomedical science.

Equipped with the ability to follow developments in the field, you’ll learn to apply them to your work and make innovative contributions to the industry that will benefit others. Complex issues often arise in this field: you’ll acquire the skills necessary to make informed judgements and effectively communicate decisions.

There is an emphasis on developing your practical laboratory skills with various opportunities for hands-on experience in a range of current techniques and practices. In your final trimester you’ll undertake an independent project within a vibrant biomedical or drug design research team, allowing you to apply and further develop your technical, research and professional skills. There may be the opportunity to conduct your research project externally in a relevant organisation or industry in the UK or overseas.

You’ll also develop key skills including communication, problem solving, team work, project management, and leadership. You’ll learn through interactive lectures, workshops, tutorials, site visits and laboratory sessions, and by engaging with guided independent study. A variety of assessment tools are used to enhance and evaluate your learning.

This is a full-time course over one year and is split up into three trimesters. You can choose to start in either January or September. There may also be some opportunities to study abroad.

This programme is also available as a Masters by Research.

What you study

  • Current practice in drug development
  • Advanced immunology
  • Molecular pharmacology and toxicology
  • Research skills
  • Quality Control and Pharmaceutical Analysis or Biotechnology and Drug Discovery
  • Drug design and chemotherapy
  • Research project

Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

The rapidly developing pharmaceutical, bioscience and healthcare sectors all need qualified drug discovery or biomedical scientists. This course is your fastest and most effective route to a successful career in drug design.

You could establish a laboratory-based career with global pharmaceutical companies, developing biotechnology companies, contract drug testing, hospitals, NHS, local government or health and safety divisions.

Alternatively, further studies to PhD level are available at institutions all over the world leading to an academic career.


The entry requirement for this course is a Bachelor (Honours) Degree at a 2:2 or above, or equivalent. We look for applicants to have a background in Bio-Molecular Sciences such as biological sciences, biotechnology, biomedical sciences, chemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutical, genetics, virology etc. in order to be eligible for the programme.

We may also consider lesser qualifications if you have sufficient work experience in the pharmaceutical or healthcare industries.

English language requirements

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English, or your undergraduate degree was taught and examined in English (within two years of starting your postgraduate course). Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.


Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren't guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren't listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your country.

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:

BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)

BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We are committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.


Modules that you will study* as part of this course

Advanced Immunology ( BMS11100 )

The innate and adaptive immune responses; the cellular and molecular components of the immune system; inflammation and vaccine adjuvants; role of dendritic cells and pattern recognition receptors (PRRs); antigen processing and presentation; role of B and T cells in immune responses; immunological techniques e.g. flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); immune tolerance and autoimmune disease; transplantation; tumour immunology; hypersensitivity; Monoclonal antibodies and therapeutics.

Further information

Biotechnology and Drug Discovery ( MIC11108 )

Protein structure, function and post-translational modifications including glycobiology. Culture systems: mammalian, insect, bacterial culture systems. Recombinant proteins for therapeutic use. DNA/RNA based drugs: antisense RNA; siRNA, microRNA. Cell penetrating peptides. High throughput screening strategies for new drugs/targets: genomics, microarray; proteomics, phage display. Stem cell culture and applications Cancer immunotherapy CRISPR genome editing Drug delivery systems – Nanotechnology, viral, non-viral, mechano-chemical.

Further information

Current Practice in Drug Development ( BMS11104 )

Origins and new sources of drugs; natural products and new pharmaceuticals; the drug discovery and development process. Molecular modelling. Stereochemistry: a source of problems in medicinal chemistry. Structure-based drug design; pharmacophore-based drug design; QSAR. Physicochemical properties and drug design: electronic factors, lipophilicity, partition coefficient, steric parameters, prediction of drug-receptor interactions, ligand binding studies. Drug formulation, prodrugs. Computational techniques: analysis of conformational space, molecular graphics and the visualisation of molecules. Molecular diversity. Combinatorial libraries and modern methods of synthesis. Current approaches to the chemotherapeutic treatment of (selected) diseases: cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer, viral- and bacterial- infection, diabetes, asthma, cognitive disorders. Legislation: regulatory requirements. Intellectual property and patent protection of new pharmaceuticals.

Further information

Drug Design and Chemotherapy ( BMS11105 )

Emphasis on: molecular targets in cancer: characterisation and structure of biological targets (genes; enzymes; receptors; nucleic acids). Design, synthesis and mechanism of action of inhibitors of telomerase, the G-quadruplex, DNA-topoisomerases, matrix metalloproteinases. Targeted therapies, drug delivery mechanisms, design of prodrugs; macromolecular prodrugs and nanoconjugates. Synthetic oligonucleotides, PNAs, DNA-and RNA-binding ligands: design and applications. Synthesis and development of non-nucleoside antiviral agents: HIV integrase inhibitors, protease inhibitors. Peptoids and peptide mimics. Mechanisms of intrinsic and acquired drug resistance and MDR. Contemporary drug design to combat resistant bacterial and protozoal infections. Laboratory work in selected drug synthesis, methods of purification and characterisation; solution and solid- phase combinatorial peptide methodology and biological (including enzyme) assays; molecular graphics.

Further information

Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology ( BMS11110 )

The module will provide you with an introduction to the major aspects of the scientific study of drugs in man, not just with respect to the design of optimum drug therapy, but also looking at the differences between pharmacology and toxicology. You will learn about how drugs work, their limitations, and the variability of response. You will study how cells transduce messages from the plasma membrane into the cell and nucleus. You will learn about how the body’s endogenous signalling system works and how this informs drug development. This includes the basic principles of receptor theory, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and their relevance to establishing the theoretical and practical basis for the rational clinical application of drugs. You will also examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms of toxicology. This includes the basic principles of toxicokinetics (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion), and the factors affecting each. You will examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms of xenobiotic toxicity, together with toxicity testing in the pharmaceutical industry. You will gain an insight into how intracellular signalling mechanisms can be manipulated, resulting in new research methodology. You will also engage with the literature surrounding molecular pharmacology and toxicology in order to understand recent developments in research in this area. You will cover the concept of ion channels and G protein-coupled receptors, intracellular kinase cascades, calcium signalling and linked control of transcription factors. Manipulation of signalling cascades in therapeutics and research. Basic principles of receptor theory, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and rational drug design. Introduction to toxicology. Toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics. Detailed descriptions of specific toxicant and pharmacological examples. In vitro and in vivo models of toxicity. Mechanisms of xenobiotic toxicity and toxicity testing.

Further information

Quality Control & Pharmaceutical Analysis ( MIC11113 )

Formulated drug products (FDPs); Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs); and excipients which make up the formulation, binders, disintegrators, solubilizers, taste masking agents. How choice of excipients determines parameters such as PK (pharmacokinetics) and route of administration of the medicine. A range of batch release tests conducted by the industry defined by the appropriate Pharmacopeia’s; raw material testing, validation batch testing, assay of active content, degradation and stability studies, dissolution profile testing, uniformity of dosage units and physical characterisation. Instrumental analytical techniques including UV/Vis spectrophotometry, FTIR, TLC, HPLC and Mass spectrometry. Theoretical and practical knowledge of different types of chromatography. Practical HPLC operation for analysis of pharmaceutical samples, maintenance and troubleshooting. Mobile phase preparation, standards and sample preparation and API extraction for analysis. Analysis and quantification of multi-component systems. Knowledge of ICH guidelines and regulatory standards (such as MHRA) and processes for originator, generic and biopharmaceutical industries. Maintenance of a GLP compliant lab book and knowledge of GMP.

Further information

Research Project ( BMS11102 )

On-line literature searches. Literature review. Project formulation. Hypothesis generation. Experimental design. Development of practical skills/research technique. Data generation/collection and analysis. Use of appropriate statistical analysis. Evaluation of findings, critical analysis and conclusions, with reference to supporting literature. Communication of original research results in a report written in the style of a scientific paper.

Further information

Research Skills ( MIC11107 )

DNA purification, restriction and quantification; Cloning – vectors, ligation, screening and analysis of clones; Gene expression and protein purification; Protein analysis – quantification, detection and mass spectrometry; Principles of nucleic acid hybridisation and DNA synthesis to applications in PCR, sequencing microarrays and gene silencing techniques (RNA interference); In silico analysis and manipulation of RNA, DNA and protein sequence information (bioinformatics); “-omics” – comparative and functional genomics, proteomics.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

For over 15 years this course has prepared graduates from more than 50 countries in all aspects of the discovery and design of new drugs for global careers in pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Dr David Mincher

Reader in Experimental Chemotherapy, School of Life, Sport and Social Science