- Join a pharmacy school ranked in the world top 10 (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2019)
- Spend a year in industry working on a research project
- Be taught by academics from the School of Pharmacy and the School of Life Sciences, providing you with expertise from both disciplines
With global ageing and continuous expanding populations, there is an urgent need for new medicines and a better understanding of healthcare. The taught modules in the first year combined with the placement are excellent preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
The overall aim of the course is to develop knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, and practical and professional skills in the area of drug discovery and pharmaceutical science.
The drug discovery process from ‘concept to clinic’ provides the reference point for the education and training delivered in the more specific scientific and regulatory aspects.
This course will give you:
- a critical understanding of the disease/disorder biology and how it impacts upon human health
- knowledge in normal and abnormal pharmacology and bodily function, with an understanding of how and why drugs are either rejected or taken forward for future development
- skills in physicochemical and pharmacological principles alongside the regulatory processes necessary for new medicine discovery and entry into the clinic
- knowledge of the process of drug design and development so you apply to practical problems in pharmacology, drug discovery and pharmaceutical science
Industrial placement year
- Developed with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure relevance and to increase the future employability of graduates
- Fees are reduced to half of those of the first year
- Build your network for your future career
- Training future leaders in the pharmaceutical sector
The placement year with one of our industrial partners is arranged and guaranteed upon completion of a successful application and interview process.
Meet your Course Director
"I am a UK-registered Pharmacist with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry. Within the School of Pharmacy, I am responsible for directing and developing our postgraduate taught programmes, which include this course and MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
My research focusses on trying to understand complex proteins called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) through their interaction with small molecules. GPCRs are found embedded in the membrane of cells and convert extracellular stimuli into a range of intracellular signals. These proteins are targeted by over one-third of all drugs in the clinic and regulate a vast array of processes in the body. Currently, PhD students within my group use organic and computational chemistry and pharmacology to design, make and test molecules for b-adrenergic, histamine, opiate and chemokine receptors."
Dr Shailesh Mistry, Course Director
MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences (one-year)
We also offer a one-year masters which has the same taught modules but replaces the industrial placement year with a three-month research project at the University.
The Fundamentals of Drug Discovery
Drug discovery is highly multidisciplinary in nature and you will need to be scientifically multi-lingual to be able to fully understand its practice. This module considers the following key areas:
A History of Drug Discovery: These lectures explore the historical development of the pharmaceutical industry and the regulatory bodies using numerous examples of successfully launched drugs to illustrate the timeline.
Modern Day Drug Discovery: Lectures describe the overall journey from concept to clinic in broad terms, providing a very introductory exposure to market analysis and target selection, lead discovery and lead optimisation, clinical trials and the NDA to launch.
The Language of Medicinal Chemistry: Providing context to some of the key terms and definitions you will be exposed to during the course as well as considering the key phases of drug activity (pharmaceutical, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics) alongside established drug classification systems.
Measurement/Expression of Drug Action: Introduces the concept of a “drug target” and explores the use of in vitro, in vivo and ex vivo experiments that can be employed to quantify drug-target effects.
Protein Structure and Function: These lectures explore protein structure and function and introduce the concepts around X-ray crystallography and structure determination.
The Chemistry of Drug Action: A detailed look at the fundamentals of medicinal chemistry and drug design. These lectures explore areas such as physical properties, stereochemistry, functional group chemistry and electrostatic/steric interactions.
Organic Synthesis: This series of laboratory sessions introduces you to practical organic chemistry through the synthesis and purification of a currently marketed drug. You will apply the theoretical considerations of functional group reactivity and physicochemical properties you have encountered in lectures and have the chance to practice fundamental techniques in synthetic organic chemistry, compound purification and analysis.
Drug Targets and Pharmacodynamics
This module covers an in-depth overview of the major molecular targets of drugs in current clinical usage. You will look at how the activity of a drug can be measured and give practical experience of some of these methods. The module also introduces the concepts involved in early drug discovery.
As such, this module considers the following key areas:
- The Diversity of Molecular Drug Targets: These lectures explore the different molecular targets of drugs in clinical usage now and in the near future
- Cell Signalling Modalities and Their Relationship with Tissue and Organismal Behaviours
- Quantitative Molecular Pharmacology
- Early Drug Discovery - Target Identification, Validation and Screening
- Pharmacotherapy of Major Human Diseases and Disorders
Drug Discovery and Development 1
Drug discovery is highly multidisciplinary in nature and you need to be scientifically multi-lingual to be able to fully understand its practice. As such this module considers the following key areas:
- Lead Compound Identification: An in depth look at strategies employed in hit to lead; includes HTS, natural products, parallel synthesis strategies, diversity and biology oriented synthesis, fragment based drug discovery, in silico screening and computational modelling, lead-likeness and drug-likeness analysis
- Primary Exploitation of SAR: An in depth look at how to undertake SAR analysis through synthetic medicinal chemistry; includes homologous series, isosteres, ring transformations, conformational restriction, homo and heterodimer ligands
- Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships
- Spatial Organisation, Receptor Mapping and Molecular Modelling
Alongside the following lecture-based case studies:
- Development of a Tyrosine Kinase Receptor inhibitor: Gefitinib
- Therapies for Hyperacidity: Development of proton pump inhibitors
- Design of the Anti-HIV Protease Inhibitor Darunavir
Industrial Research Project with training in Scientific Research
Drug discovery is a practical topic – this module provides an extensive opportunity to experience the industrial research environment, over the course of an academic year. You will further develop skills and techniques within the chosen area of your placement.
Alongside the practical elements, the research project report provides a platform to enhance a number of transferable skills (literature surveying, database mining, critical analysis and problem solving, which you will evidence by keeping an assessed competency portfolio. You will also develop your presentation skills through the construction of a research poster and in preparation for a viva voce towards the end of the module.
Drug Discovery and Development 2
The prediction of human pharmacokinetics and dose is a key requirement in drug-discovery as it influences aspects such as dose, efficacy and safety. This module considers the following key areas:
- barriers to drug diffusion and compartmental analysis
- dosing regimens
- drug metabolism and transport
- predictive modelling of drug disposition
- clinical trials and regulatory affairs
Drug Discovery with Physical and Organic Chemistry
Drug discovery is highly multidisciplinary in nature and you should be scientifically 'multi-lingual' in order to fully understand its practice. As such, this module considers the following key areas:
- introduction to Pharmacokinetics
- key ADME consideration and assay approaches
- interpretation of ADME data and designing compounds in drug discovery
- principals of synthetic planning/retrosynthetic analysis
- common reactions in drug discovery
- purification and characterisation of compounds
- clinical trials and regulatory affairs
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
Teaching methods and assessment
In addition to self-directed learning activities, our face-to-face teaching is a blend of lectures, workshops and laboratory classes.
Assessment will vary in number and style across each module being studied, typically you will have:
- computer-based and written exams
- oral and poster presentations
- essay-style or workbook coursework
For the research project there is the opportunity to write your report in the style of a scientific publication and you will also discuss you research in a short viva.
We embrace technology to support your learning. We use e-learning packages to supplement face-to-face teaching and innovative assessment methods. All students have the option to borrow an iPad for the duration of their studies, through which you can access all the relevant materials for your studies, including lecture notes, library e-books, past papers for exams and a range of internet-based resources.
Deadline to apply is Friday 3 July with interviews to follow in July.
Applicants who meet the eligibility criteria will be shortlisted for interview based on their whole application, including the personal statement. Your personal statement should include:
- Why you are applying for this course, and why to the University of Nottingham in particular
- Why you wish to pursue a career in drug discovery
- How this course will help you achieve your long-term career goals, and why the industrial placement is key to this
- What makes you suitable for this course compared to other applicants
- What type of placement you would like to be considered for (Biosciences, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK), or Synthetic Organic Chemistry)
The interview will include a technical component, which will involve questions relating to your selected placement preference(s). In the case of a synthetic organic chemistry placement, questions will focus on theoretical organic chemistry, synthesis and retrosynthesis.
To secure your place, you will need to pay a £2000 deposit. This will form part of your conditional offer as there are a limited number of placements offered in advance by providers. Once the deposit is paid and any other offer conditions are met, your place on the course is guaranteed. The deposit will be used to offset your tuition fee for the first year.
If you are unable to secure a place on the two-year course, after meeting initial eligibility criteria, you will be guaranteed an offer for the one-year course (accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry).
Graduates can expect to move into a range of scientific careers, particularly with global pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical SMEs. Strong industrial links to the course will further enhance students’ employability.
The MSc also provides a strong grounding for students wishing to subsequently study for a PhD in a related subject area.
Average starting salary and career progression
100% of postgraduates from the School of Pharmacy secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £30,000, with the highest being £35,000.*
* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates who were available for employment, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.
Careers support and advice
We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students whatever your course, mode of study or future career plans.
You can access our Careers and Employability Service during your studies and after you graduate. Expert staff will help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.
More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.
As a student on this course, we do not anticipate any extra significant costs, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses. You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies which you would need to factor into your budget.
We also offer an iPad for the year and have a supply of laptops which are offered to students on loan.
Scholarships and bursaries
Government loans for masters courses
Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.
International and EU students
Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.
We provide guidance on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study. You can also access specific funding opportunities, entry requirements and other resources for students from specific countries.