MSc Pharmaceutical Science

Postgraduate, Full-Time

Explore drug development, manufacture and production and enhance your prospects for a career as a drug discovery or development scientist in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, nutraceutical or bioscience industries.

  • Napier code:

    74719MM

  • 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 provides expert critical and technical knowledge related to the development, analysis and production of medicines, the drug industry and regulatory affairs.

You'll study recent trends in chemical, biological and biotechnological therapeutics and evaluate the latest technologies used in the pharmaceutical industry.

You'll also gain an understanding of the processes and methods used in clinical trials and the regulation of medicines and acquire the skills and knowledge to pursue your career in pharmaceutical science.

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.


pharmaceutical science

This course provides the opportunity to acquire all the attributes necessary for a successful career in pharmaceutical science, undertaking lead research and development, or analytical management roles in the drug and healthcare industries.

You’ll acquire broad knowledge of contemporary, integrated drug discovery strategies and acquire the necessary skills to communicate effectively across the key, diverse component disciplines with other professional scientists and non-specialist audiences.

You’ll develop broad knowledge of current pharmaceutical analysis and quality control strategies and will learn about GMP and GLP compliance. You’ll also gain an in-depth critical understanding of current research in biotechnology and pharmaceutical science.

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 including specialist equipment such as HPLC, UV/Vis, and FTIR. 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 pharmaceutical 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 taken over one year and 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

  • Current practice in drug development
  • Molecular pharmacology and toxicology
  • Current topics in pharmaceutical science
  • Research skills
  • Quality Control and Pharmaceutical Analysis
  • 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.

A large proportion of our graduates enter laboratory based and research management based product development work. They are employed in industries ranging from the big pharmaceutical companies to developing biotech companies; contract drug testing companies and service providers to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries; hospital laboratories, NHS and local government.

If you currently work in a relevant sector, this course will enhance your prospects for career progression. This qualification also provides a sound platform for study to PhD level in pharmaceutical and biomolecular sciences and an academic career.


The entry requirement 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 in order to be eligible for this programme. The following acceptable degree background are: pharmacy; pharmacology, pharmaceutical or medicinal chemistry; biological or biomedical sciences; chemistry; immunology; biotechnology; genetics; virology; molecular biology; forensic science.

We may also consider degree-equivalent qualifications, as will applicants without Honours degree equivalence but who have appropriate experience gained 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

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

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.

This is a versatile and industry relevant course that deals with various aspects of the world of Pharmaceutical Science.

Maria Gauci

Teaching Associate and former Quality Control Analyst