Find a Degree Postgraduate Taught Programmes Drug Discovery and Development
MSc Drug Discovery and Development

Programme Details

Develop your knowledge and understanding of how drugs and medicines are made and used safely with this MSc programme delivered by Scotland's leading pharmacology researchers and bio-entrepreneurs.

The University of Aberdeen has developed an enviable reputation in pharmacology and drug metabolism since the discipline was founded over 50 years ago.

The main areas covered in the MSc are:

  • drug metabolism and toxicology
  • small molecule drug discovery
  • biologic drug discovery

In addition to these topics you will also learn about research methods which are key to understanding modern drug discovery and development. Uniquely, this programme will also teach you about Bio-Business which describes the commercialisation of scientific ideas, demystifies the language of business and explains the business models used by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

This MSc is suitable for graduates in biomedical science, pharmacy and medicine who want to improve their career prospects, widen their knowledge base and are interested in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

MSc 12 months full-time

Why choose Aberdeen?

  • The University of Aberdeen is regarded as a “centre of excellence” for drug discovery and commercialisation.
  • You will be taught by world-leading researchers and bio-business entrepreneurs on-site, many of whom are involved with successful spin-out companies.
  • You will experience studying within the one of the top 10 medical schools in the UK.
  • We have a huge range of online learning materials so you can re-listen to lectures and access revision materials whenever you need to. We aim to make your learning as interactive as possible to improve your understanding of clinical scenarios.
  • You will learn best practices, increasing the relevancy of your degree. There will also be opportunities to build a network of contacts within the drug discovery and development field which will help with your future employability and career development.
  • We strongly believe in inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary learning, which is reflected in the collaborations we organise with other universities, research institutions and governments within the UK, Europe, America and more than 12 developing countries.
  • You will have access to a University and a hospital – all on one campus.
  • Close links with the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) and the British Toxicological Society (BTS) mean the content of the programme is maintained in line with UK standards and there are significant opportunities for membership, interaction and networking across these learned societies.

Contact Information

College of Life Sciences and Medicine Graduate School
Tel: +44 (0)1224 437097


Compulsory Courses

Introduction to Bio-business and the Commercialisation of Bioscience Research (15 Credits)

This course will describe the basic language of business and give examples of large versus small businesses in the bioscience area. Intellectual property rights will be explained as will how present your business and how to set up a small biotech company. A comparison will be made of the big Pharma business model and that of small biotech businesses. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Small Molecule Drug Discovery (25 Credits)

The course will focus on small molecule drug discovery. Receptor theory and cell communication and signalling will be revised to facilitate understanding of the remainder of the course. The basis of the drug discovery process will be described and the phases of drug development discussed. A range of targets for drug discovery will be identified and how small molecule drug affect these will be described. Issues around drug regulation will be raised. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Drug Metabolism & Toxicology (15 Credits)

This course provides advanced level drug metabolism and includes the importance of drug transporters in the drug discovery process, dealing with molecular toxicology and pharmacology at an advanced level. Mechanisms of drug and oxidative stress and immunopharmacology are described. External experts are invited to provide their unique expertise on a range of topics which can include toxicopathology, immunotoxicology, risk assessment and an industrial perspective on the drug discovery process. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Advanced Bio-business and the Commercialisation of Bioscience Research (15 Credits)

This advanced course builds on the basics provided in Introduction to Bio-business and the Commercialisation of Bioscience Research (BT5012). It provides more detail on financing and setting up a Bio-business. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Pharmacokinetics (15 Credits)

Pharmacokinetics describes "what the body does to a drug" and thus is a central feature of applied pharmacology. The course will develop an understanding of the role that pharmacokinetics play in all aspects of drug administration, distribution, metabolism and excretion and how these effects can be modelled and predicted graphically and mathematically. Such modelling is a fundament of therapeutic regimen design, drug development, clinical pharmacology and drug safety and will be considered within all of these contexts providing a broad and relevant appreciation of the importance of pharmacokinetics to the pharmacologist. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Biologic Therapies (25 Credits)

This course is aimed at the understanding of novel areas of drug discovery with the specific aim of understanding the roles immunology and peptide chemistry play in informing the development of antibody and small molecule peptide-based biologic therapies for diverse diseases. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Basic Research Methods (15 Credits)

This course reviews a range of methodologies that are currently used in basic research. Experts in the various techniques describe the methodology and showcase the equipment. The course aims to provide a basic understanding of state of the art technology used in Clinical Pharmacology and Drug Discovery research. It will introduce the key aspects involved in designing a research project, the fundamentals of a range of currently used technologies and an introduction to basic epidemiology. Students will have the opportunity to experience how some of these basic research methods can be applied to clinical diagnoses and inform patient management. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Basic Laboratory Techniques: core practical (15 Credits)

This course is designed to provide or revise the basic skills you will require for your MSc. The course will revise basic laboratory skills and techniques, providing hands-on experience in key areas of practical, experimental science. An expert for the library will also explain the use and facilities of the library and the basics of database searching.

Generic Skills/I-SEE (0 credits)

This course will improve your employability skills. I-SEE (Individualised self-assessment to enhance employability) is a bespoke online resource developed to help identify your strengths and areas needing improvement. The self-assessment process allows you to identify development areas for employability skills like communication, IT and numeracy skills and personal attributes like creativity, organisation and timekeeping, flexibility, team working. This leads to automated, tailored feedback and signposting to self-study to assist in improving your CV. Reflection and an e-portfolio will assist in articulation of these enhanced skills/attributes during mock interviews. Some sessions are compulsory, but otherwise it involves self-directed learning. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Elective Courses

Links take you to our course catalogue in a new tab/window.

Research Project (60 credits)

This is a 16 week project for MSc students. A list of proposed projects, based on the work currently being undertaken by lecturing staff, is distributed to the students early in the second half session. Students undertaking a laboratory based research project must attend the short course Basic Laboratory Techniques.


Each course has its own continuous assessment criteria based on the progress of practical and course work as well as a written degree examination. Some examples of the course work assessed throughout the component courses are: essays, commercially focused presentations, business planning and bio-entrepreneurship, public communication of science and written examinations.

Progression to a research project is dependent on performance in the individual courses. The MSc project is assessed with the submission of a thesis and via examination.


The teaching of our MSc Drug Development and Discovery programme is lecture based with self-directed learning, practical classes (where appropriate) and tutorials to support the lecture material. External experts are also regularly invited to provide specialist expertise. Many lectures are recorded via Camtasia and can be viewed again whenever they are needed.

The MSc makes the most of hands-on learning to enable repeated exposure to evidence-based practice using real life examples. Some of the teaching methods employed in the programme include:

  • Inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary learning
  • Exposure to leading academic and industry experts
  • Research-led teaching taught by key opinion leaders
  • Insight into real-life situations and examples
  • Real life learning in a clinical environment

On-going support is provided by the University’s dedicated, interdisciplinary team of experienced researchers, who will be tutoring you. Peer support will develop throughout the course(s) as engagement with students from other countries and disciplines is actively encouraged.

Much of the teaching on this course is participatory and students are expected to consolidate all taught content by completing related tasks and activities and engaging in independent study in their own time.


Completing the MSc in Drug Discovery and Development at the University of Aberdeen will give you a wide range of career opportunities within academia and industry.

The University of Aberdeen strongly believes in inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary working, meaning our programme will help you build an essential network of contacts that will prove useful in establishing your career in drug discovery and development.

On graduating from the programme, there are several career options you can choose from, some of which include:

  • Research in academia or the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry
  • Further study (PhD, MPhil)
  • Regulation of medicines/drugs worldwide
  • Business development in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry

Applicants will usually require the equivalent to a second (2:2) class Honours degree or equivalent in a biomedical science subject such as biochemistry, biomedical science, pharmacology or a degree in medicine or pharmacy.

Please check the In My Country pages to find out if your degree is equivalent.

Document requirements

For this application we need at least:

  • An official full Bachelor degree transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) so far (original & official English translation)
  • Degree certificate (if you have already graduated)
  • Academic reference letter OR a reference letter from your employer (if you have 2+ years of work experience in an industry relevant to the programme)
  • Detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Ideally - current CV/resume

It is important when submitting an application that you ensure you have completed all the necessary sections and enclosed all the relevant documentation to ensure that your application can be processed as quickly as possible. Any missing document may result in delay.

English Language requirements

Even if you have been educated in the medium of English you must meet our English Language requirements (certain countries may be exempted from this requirement). Full details are available on our English language requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the 'Postgraduate Standard' level of English proficiency.

University of Aberdeen offers also pre-sessional English courses that when successfully completed will remove language conditions for studying at the University of Aberdeen. Further details are available on the Language Centre website.


Tuition Fee Rates 2016/17 - MSc Drug Discovery and Development

  • UK/EU students: £4,500
  • International students: £17,200

Further information about tuition fees and cost of living for both UK/EU and International students can be found on the Finance and Funding web pages.


Prospective students should visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database

SFC Taught Postgraduate Scholarships

Thanks to additional funding from the Scottish Funding Council, this programme has funded places for Scottish and EU Students. More Information.

University of Aberdeen Alumni Discount Scheme

The University of Aberdeen is very pleased to offer a 20% discount on postgraduate tuition fees for all alumni who have graduated with a degree from the University of Aberdeen.  More Information can be found here.

(Please note this cannot be claimed in conjunction with any other scholarship award)


Related Information

General Information

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
The Hub
King's College

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272090 / +44 (0)1224 272091
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272576