MSc Medical Biotechnology

Postgraduate, Full-Time

Develop your understanding of key concepts and practices in the biotechnologies that drive new product innovation as well as the business principles underlying commercialisation of biomedical research.

  • Napier code:

    74715MM

  • Course type:

    Full-Time

  • Duration:

    1 year, or 18 months for January start

  • Award:

    MSc

  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

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Course introduction

This course is designed to enhance your career in the medical or pharmaceutical biotechnology sectors in a variety of research, product and technology development and leadership roles.

Medical Biotechnology will equip you with broad theoretical knowledge and critical understanding of advanced principles in biotechnology. You'll also gain the practical skills required to underpin a career within a business or research environment.

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.


medical biotechnology

This course provides detailed knowledge of key concepts in cell technology, bioprocessing and molecular analysis and how these approaches are applied in areas of specific relevance to medical and pharmaceutical applications such as drug design and discovery, immunology and microbial infection.

You’ll explore and critically evaluate the technologies driving discovery and modification of natural compounds for use in medicine; the relationship between progress in our understanding of disease and the development of diagnostics and treatments; as well as the application of theoretical concepts to the use of biological systems for production of drugs.

Business and entrepreneurship are also a core feature of this programme. You’ll address themes that influence the success of any biotechnology venture such as intellectual property, bioethics, sustainability and public perception through the development of a novel business concept.

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 such as mammalian cell culture and fermentation. In your final trimester you’ll undertake an independent project within a vibrant 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 bio-industry.

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.

Subjects include

  • Cell technology
  • Business and bioethics
  • Research skills
  • Biotechnology and drug discovery
  • Molecular pathogenesis of microbial infection
  • Research project

One optional module from

  • Advanced immunology
  • Current practice in drug development
  • Molecular pharmacology and toxicology

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.

Within the life sciences, biotechnology is the most rapidly growing sector and it is predicted that the global expansion in this field will be a key driver in the world economy.

This programme provides opportunities for laboratory-based or research management and product development work in a variety of industries ranging from multi-national companies to smaller biotechnology enterprises in the medical, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and biochemical sectors.

Opportunities may also exist in contract research companies and service providers to the biotechnology sector, in addition to research institutes and local government.

Successful completion of the MSc programme provides a sound platform for further study in a research setting; graduates will be qualified to continue to PhD studies in the bio-molecular sciences.


The entry requirements for this course is a Bachelor (Honours) Degree at a 2:2 or above. We look for applicants to have a background in bio-molecular sciences such as: biotechnology, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry and biomedical sciences.

We may consider degree equivalent or lesser qualifications if you have sufficient relevant work experience gained in biotechnology related industries and research laboratories.

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

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

Business and Bioethics ( MIC11104 )

Development of biotechnology and influencing factors; Basis concepts of IPR, patents & licensing; Technology transfer; Commercialisation strategies and financing for the biotechnology sector; National and global context – markets & trends; Business models and plans - comparison of large corporate vs SMEs, mature companies vs start-ups; Regulatory framework governing management of risk; Introductory ethics and the history of “ethical” regulation; legal implications of being “unethical”; perception of biotechnology by society, sustainability (environmental, social and economic) exploration of specific topics, e.g. personalise medicine, stem cell research, genetic manipulation of crop and fuel plants, transgenic animals, the use of animal/human subjects in research.

Further information

Cell Technology ( MIC11103 )

Cell culture, preservation and manipulation - including microbial, plant, human/animal primary and immortalised cell lines and tissue maintenance; aseptic technique and media design; culture isolation and inoculum development, cell counting; manipulation of cells including non-recombinant and recombinant approaches to strain improvement for bioprocessing, and stem cell therapy. Units of operation of a bioprocess and factors influencing optimisation - bioreactor design, inoculum development, scale-up, product separation and analysis. Regulatory and quality framework - COSSH, GMP, GLP, biosafety and containment, product approval, validation and auditing. Responsible scientific practice. Laboratory experiments/projects in cell culture, media design and preparation, optimisation of fermentation, product separation and analysis, experiment and project design, statistics, data-handling.

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

Current Research in Pharmaceutical Science ( BMS11111 )

Current challenges in drug development, phases of clinical drug testing, regulation of medicines, formulation, classification and naming of drugs. Introductory ethics and the history of “ethical” regulation. Legal Implications of being “unethical”. Perception of pharmaceutical research and the pharmaceutical industry by society. Exploration of specific topics, e.g. Drug testing, when testing goes wrong, the use of animal models in drug development and testing.

Further information

Molecular Pathogenesis of Microbial Infection ( MIC11100 )

The host response to microbial infection: innate and acquired immune response to infection; inflammation; complement cascade; role of various cytokines; immunomodulators; autoimmunity. Viral pathogenesis: viral life cycles and virulence factors; adenoviruses, retroviruses and other medically-relevant viruses such as influenza, hepatitis. Invasion & colonisation of the host: molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis; virulence factors involved in adhesion, invasion and colonisation; molecular structure and genetic regulation of fimbriae, pili, flagella, capsular polysaccharides, LPS (&LOS), exotoxins; role of biofilms. Survival in the host: nutrient acquisition; iron acquisition; the stringent response; RpoS regulon; PhoPQ regulon. Combating microbial infection: antibiotics/antivirals/antifungals and resistance; bacterial physiology and mechanisms of resistance.

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

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.