Postgraduate study
Our pioneering two-year MSc programme is unique in the UK, and builds on the foundations of our one-year MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences, to equip students with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of drug discovery, and industry standard training.
MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences with Industrial Training (2yr)
2 years full-time
Entry requirements
Applicants must either have obtained, or be on track for, a minimum 2:1 (or international equivalent) with significant chemistry content; example first degrees include (but are not restricted to) chemistry, biochemistry, natural sciences, pharmacology, life sciences, pharmacy; applicants will also need to supply a full transcript of completed modules
Other requirements
Applicants meeting the minimum entry requirements and submitting a credible personal statement will be considered for interview; offers of a place can only be made after a successful interview and where a placement is available (and will need to be accepted within a limited timeframe); all applicants meeting the entry requirements but who are unsuccessful in their application or interview will automatically be offered a place on the one-year MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences
7.5 (no less than 7.0 in each element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
UK/EU fees
£9,180. Fees for the second year of the course are charged at 50% of the first year rate. - Terms apply
International fees
£20,160. Fees for the second year of the course are charged at 50% of the first year rate. - Terms apply
University Park Campus



Our two-year MSc course blends the two fundamental disciplines underpinning drug discovery.

  • Practise background theory within the productive, research-led environments offered by the School of Pharmacy.
  • Benefit from world-leading expertise in the areas of drug discovery and pharmaceutical science .
  • Learn directly from staff at the forefront of the field.

drug discovery 2

The course is technology-rich, using online learning packages to supplement face-to-face teaching and innovative assessment methods.

The second year of the course has been developed in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure currency and relevance, and to increase the future employability of graduates. Our aim is to train 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. You will pay reduced tuition fees for the second year of the course, as you focus on your industrial training.

Placements are still available in chemistry, biosciences and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. 

drug discovery app

Application process

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. Interview dates are to be confirmed, however are likely to take place in early July. Offer-holders will be expected to accept their offer within a specified deadline.

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). This course incorporates the same high quality taught module component but replaces the industrial placement year with a three-month research project at the University. 


Full 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. Upon completing the degree students will be able to make effective use of electronic communication and information search and retrieval 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 and training 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 and pharmaceutical science
  • Provide students with the practical skills and experience via a year-long training placement to excel in future leadership roles


 You will study the following compulsory modules:

Fundamentals of Drug Discovery (30 credits)

You will cover the following topics:

  • A history of drug discovery
  • Modern day drug discovery
  • The language of medicinal chemistry
  • Measurement/expression of drug action
  • Protein structure and function
  • The chemistry of drug action
  • Organic synthesis
  • Drug Targets and Pharmacodynamics (30 credits)
You will cover the major molecular targets of drugs in current clinical usage, how the activity of a drug can be measured, and gain practical experience of some of these methods. The module also introduces the concepts involved in early drug discovery. You will consider 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 and Development 1 (Hit Identification to Lead Optimisation) (30 credits)

You will cover the following topics:

  • Lead compound identification
  • Primary exploitation of SAR
  • Quantitative structure activity relationships
  • Spatial organisation, receptor mapping and molecular modelling

You will also cover 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 placement incorporating research project (totalling 120 credits)
The placement year with one of our industrial partners is arranged and guaranteed upon completion of a successful application and interview process. You will also undertake a research project report which will enhance transferable skills that are valued by employers. 

You will also study one of the following modules:

Drug Discovery and Development 2 (Drug metabolism and Pharmacokinetics) (30 credits)
You will explore the later pre-clinical stages of the drug discovery process covering the key areas of absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination and toxicity. In addition to the lecture course, you will engage in workshops designed to illustrate the principles of predictive modelling of drug disposition.
Drug Discovery with Physical and Organic Chemistry (30 credits)

You will cover the following topics:

  • 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

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

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. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

See information on how to fund your masters, including our step-by-step guide. Further information is available on the school website.

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.

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.


Careers and professional development

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

In 2017, 100% of postgraduates in the school who were available for employment had 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 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

careers 450x200

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. 


Related courses and downloads


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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