Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences MSc


Fact file

MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
Applicants must have a minimum of upper second class Bachelors degree (or equivalent) related to biology or chemistry including (but not restricted to) pharmacy, pharmacology, biochemistry, genetics, life sciences, natural sciences, biomedical sciences
Other requirements
International students whose first language is not English are required to have the below English language qualifications before they can register on an academic programme. However, applicants from certain countries may have these requirements waived subject to the University of Nottingham Policy for Waiving English Language Entry Requirements.
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park Campus
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course is designed to equip students with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of drug discovery, integrating teaching in chemistry and biology to develop graduates who have exceptional scientific understanding and a host of transferable skills.

The course is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry and satisfies the academic requirements for Chartered Chemist (CChem). RSC accreditation requires rigorous evaluation and denotes a high quality degree programme that is recognised by future employers in both the academic and industrial sectors.
Read full overview

The course blends the two fundamental disciplines underpinning drug discovery and provides students with the opportunity to practise background theory within the productive, research-led environments offered by the Schools of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. These schools have world-leading expertise in the areas of drug discovery and pharmaceutical science, and students on this course will have the chance to learn directly from staff at the forefront of the field.

The course content covers all aspects of drug discovery, and includes a 12-week (60 credit) research project based in our laboratories, encouraging the practical application of the theory taught within the programme. 

The course is technology-rich, using e-learning packages to supplement face-to-face teaching and innovative assessment methods.Royal Society of Chemistry logo for accredited degrees


Course details

The overall aim of the MSc is to develop knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, key skills and practical and professional skills in the area of Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Science.  The overall 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.

Students will, therefore, be able to develop an understanding of the scientific principles underlying the main topic areas housed within the arena of drug discovery.  In addition, upon completing the degree students will be able to make effective use of electronic communication and information search & retrieval resources to facilitate development of key critical skills with which to assess and analyse a broad array of scientific literature.

When taken together, the ethos of the programme is therefore to:

  • instil, develop and encourage an independent approach to learning, through initiative and self-motivation
  • provide the education required to become a translational scientist; with pertinent knowledge of basic and clinical science that can be applied to drug discovery and development
  • instil a critical understanding of disease/disorder biology and how it impacts upon human health
  • provide the necessary knowledge of chosen areas of normal and abnormal pharmacology and bodily function to equip the student with an understanding of how and why drugs are either rejected or taken forward for future development. 
  • present physicochemical and pharmacological principles alongside the regulatory processes necessary for new medicine discovery and entry into the clinic
  • contextualise this knowledge and principles to the process of drug design and development and therefore equip the graduate to apply knowledge to practical problems in pharmacology, drug discovery & pharmaceutical science.


Fundamentals of Drug Discovery

Drug discovery is highly multidisciplinary in nature and students need to be scientifically multi-lingual to be able to fully understand its practice. As such this module considers the following key areas:

  • A History of Drug Discovery
  • Modern Day Drug Discovery
  • The Language of Medicinal Chemistry
  • Measurement/Expression of Drug Action
  • Protein Structure & Function
  • The Chemistry of Drug Action
  • Organic synthesis
Drug Targets and Pharmacodynamics

This module covers an in-depth overview of the major molecular targets of drugs in current clinical usage. It looks at how the activity of a drug can be measured and gives 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
  • 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 & Development 1 (Hit Identification to Lead Optimisation)

Drug discovery is highly multidisciplinary in nature and students 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
  • Primary Exploitation of SAR
  • Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships
  • Spatial Organisation, Receptor Mapping & 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
Drug Discovery & Development 2 (Drug metabolism and Pharmacokinetics)

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.

  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Barriers to drug diffusion and compartmental analysis
  • Dosing regimens
  • Drug metabolism and transport
  • Predictive modeling of drug disposition
  • Clinical trials and regulatory affairs
Research Project

Drug discovery is a practical topic; this module provides an experience of contemporary drug discovery. Alongside the practical elements, the research project report will enhance transferable skills such as literature surveying, database mining, critical analysis and problem-solving.

Assessment will be via a combination of written and online exams, practical lab-based skill assessments and written practical reports, coursework, presentations, research project and viva voce examination.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



The Graduate School website provides information on internal and external sources of postgraduate funding.

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international 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 your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



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 subsequently wishing to study for a PhD in a related subject area.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2016, 100% of postgraduates from the School of Pharmacy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £31,562 with the highest being £39,000.*

*Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career Prospects and Employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career.

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to your area of research, you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our Careers and Employability Service. Individual guidance appointments, career management training programme, access to resources and invitations to events including skills workshops and recruitment fairs are just some of the ways in which they can help you develop your full potential, whether you choose to continue within an academic setting or are looking at options outside of academia. Once you have graduated, you will have access to our careers service for life.

The Graduate Market 2013-2017, High Fliers Research. 

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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School of Pharmacy

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