Postgraduate MSc

Drug Design and Discovery

School of Science, Engineering and Environment





One year

Three year

Next enrolment

September 2020

Add to shortlist

In a nutshell

It is an exciting time for chemists to be involved in all aspects of biomedical research. 

This course is training a new generation of bioscientists to meet challenges at the interface between biology and chemistry, and to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge directly to improve quality of life. Chemistry is inherently well positioned to have a major impact on drug discovery, since other disciplines cannot create novel small molecules. This course offers classical natural products-based drug discovery, involving extraction, assay-based functional fractionation, isolation, characterisation, and target validation. However, increasingly, this approach is complemented by molecular target-based drug discovery and molecular modelling. Discovery of new generation antimicrobials against multidrug resistant strains of bacteria is advancing by extensive use of those modern tools.

The syllabus is designed to develop the analytical techniques and problem-solving skills relevant to postgraduate-level employment in both the pharmaceutical sector but also to provide access to transferable skills relevant to a great variety of professional careers.

Following completion of the Human Genome Project, the pharmaceutical industry is also preparing for a revolution in cancer and inherited disorder therapies. This course is training a new generation of bioscientists to meet challenges at the interface between biology and chemistry, and to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge directly to improve quality of life.

Furthermore nanotechnology is fulfilling medical science’s need for more precise treatments that are less invasive, less costly and less complicated to administer than traditional methods. This translates into better patient outcomes, lower healthcare costs and wider access to healthcare services in under-resourced parts of the world.

You will:
  • Learn to meet challenges at the interface between biology and chemistry and to apply pharmaceutical and analytical knowledge directly to improve quality of life
  • Learn where chemistry, nanotechnology and genome technology is pushing the boundaries of biomedical research
  • Develop the tools to enhance your employability including analytical techniques and problem-solving skills
  • Acquire strong training in drug synthesis and analytical methods, natural product chemistry and molecular modelling

students accepted

This is for you if...


You are a committed bioscientist with a background in chemistry or biochemistry


You are excited by the developments in biomedical science


You want to design new generation drugs for the 21st century

Course details

All about the course

The course has both full-time and part-time routes which, for the MSc, comprises three, 14-week semesters or five 14-week semesters, which you can take within one or three years respectively. 

For the full-time study option:

  • Semester one - September to February
  • Semester two - February to June
  • Semester three - June to September
Semester one

Postgraduate Scholarship Skills

This module will provide you with the key skills and knowledge to pursue academic research at the postgraduate and professional level. You will gain knowledge and understanding of the current ‘big issues’ in the life sciences and will understand how ethics and bioethics can enhance critical thinking in often controversial subject areas.

Drug Design and Molecular Modelling

You will be able to define, explain and discuss the principles of rational drug design. By the end of the module you will have the skills and knowledge required to demonstrate the appropriateness of drug design solutions in analysing common problems found in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry and academia. Ultimately you will achieve a high level of understanding of current practices in molecular modelling/database analysis and the application of these techniques in modern day drug design, gaining a comprehensive understand of modern day approaches to the design and discovery of new antimicrobial, anticancer, antimalarial, and antiplatelet drugs.

Novel Therapeutics

You will develop an understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of age-related pathologies such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and dementia as well as a comprehensive conceptual and practical understanding of molecular medicine driven treatment strategies. You will have the opportunity to use the acquired theoretical and practical knowledge for designing creative and innovative solution to “real world” problems applicable to translational molecular medicine.

Choose one option from

Molecular Biology and Proteomics (15 credits)

You will develop a comprehensive conceptual understanding of molecular biology and proteomics and their uses in biotechnology along with a practical knowledge of bioinformatics. Crucially you will develop skills in the application of laboratory techniques in the field of molecular biology.


Advances in Drug Analysis and Discovery (DDD)

You will have the opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding on the advances in pharmaceutical analysis and drug development.  You will acquire information on state-of-the-art drug analysis approaches and give insight into cutting-edge research on the drug analysis developments. You will consider limitations of current methodologies for drug analysis. This module will prepare you for employment in pharmaceutical research and development, quality control and regulatory aspects of pharmaceuticals and provide you with the opportunities to critically engage with topics of discussion via problem-based learning (PBL) and group learning approach.

Semester two

Bionanotechnology and Nanomedicine


You will have the opportunity to engage critically with literature and develop your knowledge and understanding on man-made and naturally occurring nanomaterials for uses in nanomedicine. We aim to provide you the opportunity to acquire information on state of the art nanoparticle fabrication, rationale for the design of nanoparticles applied in biology and medicine with particular emphasis on the nanodiagnostics, nanoparticle based drug delivery strategies and nanotechnology applied to treatment of cancer, including nanotoxicity, nanosafety and ethical implications with the use of engineered nanomaterials. You will enhance your critical thinking on the factors contributing to opportunities and potential limitations of current methodologies for drug delivery and diagnostic sensing using nanotechnologies in realistic biological environments, and provide you with the opportunities to critically engage with topics of discussion via problem-based learning (PBL) approach.

Natural Products

You will acquire a sound knowledge of the importance of natural products in medicine, understand the mechanisms of natural product isolation and evaluation of their biological properties and be able to undertake problem solving in drug design. Ultimately you will be able to demonstrate the principles and application of spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to molecular characterisation and drug identification.

Professional Practice

This module provides the opportunity for you to use research skills acquired in the applied context of ‘real world’ project work in a variety of professional settings (companies, charities etc) and develop the skills necessary for successful delivery of project outcomes. You will design, plan and execute a programme of research through active enquiry and to apply appropriate analysis of research results.

Research Design and Delivery

In this module you will develop essential research skills in your area through project work broadly aligned to the focus of your dissertation.

Semester three

Research Project

Following successful completion of semesters one and two, you will undertake a laboratory-based research project for a minimum of four months. Set projects are available but you are welcome to propose your own project, providing you choose a supervisor and discuss the project with them.Examples of staff research interests and potential projects:Examples of staff research interests and potential projects:

  • Nanotechnology, medical and biosensor applications
  • Synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry: free radical chemistry, asymmetric synthesis of anticancer agents
  • Development of spectrometry-based techniques to measure biomarkers of DNA, protein and lipid damage and DNA repair
  • Pharmacology: biological evaluation of novel anticancer agents
  • Genomics, analysis of microbial genomes (including clinically relevant studies)
  • Genome editing (CRISPR/Cas) for therapeutic treatment
  • Biofuels and enzyme discovery
  • Cancer studies: DNA repair mechanisms, protein protein interactions
  • Cancer studies: glycobiology, anticancer drugs

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What will I be doing?


Teaching is through lectures, practical sessions and workshops, guided reading and a research project where you will be supervised by an expert member of staff who are actively engaged in international research programmes. 


There are eight taught 15 credit modules each of which have only one assessment. Assessment methods consist of coursework portfolios, lab reports and case studies, examinations, laboratory portfolios and presentations. 

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

From cyber security to biomedicine to architecture, our expanding suite of multidisciplinary courses shapes the next generation of scientists, engineers, consultants and conservationists. Through advanced research, we’re pioneering robotics and AI, smart environments and the appliance of data. With a team of over 200 dedicated academic, technical and administrative staff, you’ll experience a supportive, professional environment where you can realise your potential.


The university hosts industry standard instrumentation including cell culture facilities, FACS, MALDI-TOF, LC and GC mass spectrometry, FTIR and FTNMR spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Having access to industry standard technology means that upon graduation, our students are fully prepared and equipped to enter the workplace.

We have recently invested in the development of a new, state-of-the-art, integrated teaching laboratory known as the Bodmer Lab. The Bodmer Lab is a specialist, purpose built facility and ensures our students benefit from the latest technologies to support their learning and remain on the cutting edge of innovation and discovery.

Academic profiles

Dr Natalie Ferry (Programme Lead)

Programme Lead for MSc Biomedical Science, MSc Drug Design and Discovery, and MSc Biotechnology
I took my lectureship in Biotechnology at the University of Salford in 2010 where my research now focuses on identifying plant proteins and peptides for a variety of biotechnological applications.

Dr Zeljka Krpetic

Module Lead for Bio-Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine

Dr John Hadfield

Module Lead for Natural Products and Research Project

Dr David Pye

Module Lead for Drug Design and Molecular Modelling

Dr Gianpiero DiLeva

Module Lead in Novel Therapeutics.

Dr Joe Latimer

Module Lead Postgraduate Scholarship Skills

Prof Mike Wood

Module Lead Research Design and Delivery

Dr Rhod Elder

Module Lead Molecular Biology and Proteomics

Employment and stats

What about after uni?

Although particularly relevant to those looking for a career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, this course will also equip you for a career in research, teaching and many other professions including cosmetic science, animal health, food science, medical laboratory research, patent law, scientific journalism and health and safety.

Many students have progressed onto research and studying for a PhD (working in the areas of biofuels, cancer research and drug synthesis). Some of these have progressed to PhD here at Salford but we have recent alumni pursuing PhDs globally.

We have recently had students find employment as research assosiates (Liverpool University, John Innes Centre), technical roles (University of Salford) and with pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Cyprotex) both in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

A taste of what you could become

A scientist

A medical researcher

A laboratory technican

An inspirational teacher

And more...

Career Links

Research projects may be carried out at other institutions (recently Universities in Bremen or France and the Paterson Institute, UK). We also invite visiting lecturers to share their expertise on the subject areas.


What you need to know


This course is recommended for applicants who want to develop their skills and knowledge in preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology sectors. It is ideal progression for chemistry or biochemistry graduates seeking to broaden their knowledge base. The part-time route is well-suited to applicants who already work in industry, as there will be opportunities to complete workplace-related research projects. 


International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Standard entry requirements

Undergraduate degree

Applicants should possess at least a UK lower second class honours degree (2:2) or equivalent in bioscience, biochemistry, chemistry, pharmacy medicine or related subject.

Alternative entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home/EU 2019/20 £7,776per year
Full-time international 2019/20 £14,310per year
Part-time 2019/20 £1,296 per 30 credit module
Full-time home/EU 2020/21 £9,000per year
Full-time international 2020/21 £15,210per year
Part-time 2020/21 £1,500 per 30 credits
Additional costs

You should consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

 Scholarships for international students 2020/21

If you are a high-achieving international student, you may be eligible for one of our international scholarships worth up to £5,000. Our international scholarships include the Salford International Excellence Scholarship.

To find out more information, visit our International Scholarships page.


Apply now

All set? Let's apply

Enrolment dates

September 2020

January 2021

September 2021