Drug Discovery and Development MSc

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
12 months full time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a relevant subject area
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
UK fees
£13,500 (Total)
International fees
£33,000 (Total)

Course overview

Female scientist using a digital tablet while looking at the Carbamazepine molecule writing on a glass screen in a laboratory, thinking whether to redesign the drug.

Do you want to have a positive impact on society by discovering new medicines that will improve lives?

Now, more than ever, we need well-trained cross-functional specialists willing to work towards a positive impact on society by finding and developing new medicines to help treat disease. Global and regional health challenges, such as obesity, malaria, tuberculosis or cancer, require the combined effort of dedicated people in multiple areas of science and medicine alongside the commercial sector.

This programme will offer you exposure to a range of fields spanning the pharmaceutical industry, including pharmacology, biochemistry, chemistry, clinical research, and pharmaceutical commercialisation. As a result, upon graduation, you’ll already be equipped with the skills necessary to work for large pharmaceutical companies, small biotech companies, contract research organisations, government regulatory bodies and many more. Our dedicated Employability and Professional Development Team will also support you with skill-building and opportunities to ensure you’re able to secure a graduate role.

The multidisciplinary aspect of the programme means you will be taught by experts from the School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Chemistry, the Faculty of Medicine and Health, the Business School, as well as experts currently working in the pharma sector. This breadth of topics will allow you to tailor your experience to gain exposure to the aspects you are most interested in, offering you the opportunity to focus on topics such as medicinal chemistry, molecular pharmacology and preclinical/clinical drug development.

Course highlights

  • There’s a wide range of modules to choose from meaning you can choose a specialisation pathway based on your experience and interests, reflecting the different career areas within the pharmaceutical discovery and development pipeline.
  • Undertaking a substantive lab-based project will build on your expertise and confidence, while gaining new research skills that will prepare you for the professional lab environment.
  • You will be taught by experts from the multidisciplinary Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, meaning you will learn from medicinal chemists, structural molecular biologists and pharmacologists to gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in a multidisciplinary environment.
  • Our close links with the pharma industry and the clinical trials unit in the Faculty of Medicine and Health means you will gain valuable real-world insight into drug discovery and clinical drug development.
  • When applying for graduate jobs, you’ll already have valuable experiences to refer to, such as our drug commercialisation project, replicating a real-world industry setting.

Course details

The modules of this programme cover the entire drug discovery and development pipeline, enabling you to develop an integrated and comprehensive understanding of the process.

Semester 1

After introducing the pharmaceutical business sector, the programme begins by providing a foundations module that is tailored to your particular background in order to ensure you have a solid foundation of any key disciplines missing from your undergraduate experience (e.g. organic chemistry, human physiology, pharmacology, ethics, molecular biology, etc.).

At the start of the first semester, you will also be introduced to the process of discovering and developing small molecule drugs, peptide drugs and biopharmaceuticals, while also beginning to understand the economic factors across the pharmaceutical industry and the intellectual property rights required to bring products to market. The programme will boost your commercial acumen and leadership skills through undertaking a drug commercialisation project replicating a real-world industry setting.

You will then focus on modern small molecule pharmaceutical discovery in more detail, gaining an in-depth understanding of the process and the underpinning science. Depending on your interests, you can then focus on topics in either medicinal chemistry or preclinical drug trials.

Semester 2

In your second semester, you will have the opportunity to tailor your degree by choosing 4 optional modules from a choice of 8, including advanced topics in chemistry, practical recombinant DNA technology, preclinical drug development, animal models in preclinical development, structure-based drug discovery, cancer drug development, and clinical pharmacology.

Semester 3

In your final semester, you will undertake an interdisciplinary research project supervised by a research-active academic. Our breadth of expertise and world-class research facilities will enable you to select research approaches which are most suited to the research problem in hand. The project can be conducted within a wide range of research areas, such as medicinal chemistry, structural molecular biology and drug-related research.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Drug Discovery and Development MSc in the course catalogue

Year 1 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Introduction to Pharmaceutical Science and Commerce 15
Research Planning and Scientific Communication 15
Drug Development: from candidate to patient 15
Foundations of Drug Discovery 15
Modern Drug Discovery 15

Learning and teaching

The learning and teaching on this course have been designed in order to reflect the current needs and activities performed in the industry, preparing you to be work-ready after you graduate.

You will be challenged to think about creative solutions to complex problems, enhance your interpretation and data analysis skills, improve your ability to communicate information and defend ideas. You will also develop your understanding of legal, economic and social elements affecting the area of drug discovery and development.

The course will follow a blended learning approach. All tutorials, seminars, debates, discussions, data analysis sessions, laboratory sessions, oral/poster presentations and computer-based learning activities will be delivered face-to-face on campus. However, traditional lecture content will often be delivered via pre-recorded screencasts that enables flexible access and the ability to study it at your own pace.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


The type of assessment varies by module, but assessment methods may include in-course essays, oral presentations, business reports, annotated bibliographies, short answer questions, problem-based assignments, preclinical and clinical trial designs, computational drug design tasks, laboratory reports, ethics reviews, and the main research project dissertation paper.

Choose your independent advanced research project from a wide list of topics, which are designed to offer you an immersive individual research experience, as well as the opportunity to contribute to science in an area you are passionate about.


Entry requirements

Applicants should normally have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 2:1 or equivalent, preferably in a chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical sciences, pharmacy or pharmacology subject. Consideration will be given to applicants holding a 2:2 but who have 2:1 level marks in modules relevant to the programme.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Science (6 weeks) and Language for Science: General Science (10 weeks)

We also offer online pre-sessionals alongside our on-campus pre-sessionals. Find out more about our six week online pre-sessional.

You can also study pre-sessionals for longer periods – read about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.

How to apply

Documents and information you’ll need

  • Completed online application form (for Taught Postgraduate Study).
  • Full CV.
  • Transcript of degree examination marks achieved to date.
  • Copy of final degree certificate (if completed).
  • Evidence of English language qualification (non-native English speakers only).
  • Copy of passport (if you’re an overseas student).
  • Completed supporting statement.

Find out more about how to apply.

The ‘Apply’ link at the top of this page takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Taught postgraduate confirmation

Taught postgraduate applicants are required to submit their results for consideration as soon as possible. Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK are recommended to submit their results no later than 31 July, although they will still be considered if submitted after this date.


It is standard procedure to interview applicants, prior to making a decision on their application, for MRes Neuroscience, MSc Biopharmaceutical Development (Industrial), MRes Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, and MSc Sport and Exercise Medicine. Interviews do not form part of the standard admissions process for other programmes in the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

International application deadline: July 31 2024

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Admissions Policy 2025

This course is taught by

School of Chemistry
Faculty of Biological Sciences

Contact us

Faculty of Biological Sciences postgraduate taught admissions team

Email: fbspgt@leeds.ac.uk


UK: £13,500 (Total)

International: £33,000 (Total)

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Scholarships for Faculty of Biological Sciences students

The Faculty of Biological Sciences offers a number of Masters scholarships to support and reward students from the UK and around the world. Don’t miss out on available support, visit our dedicated faculty scholarship page to check your eligibility.

Career opportunities

The pharmaceutical industry requires expertise across its many multi-disciplinary areas. This programme reflects this diversity by providing several flexible study pathways that you can tailor to your own interests and experience. Therefore, you have the chance to get an understanding of the drug discovery and development pipeline as a whole, and experience working with experts across many discipline, while also having the opportunity to focus on the most appropriate strand to reflect your future career aspirations.

This course can either help you to progress in roles as part of pharmaceutical companies, small biotech companies, contract research organisations, government regulatory bodies, or put you in a strong position to undertake a further research degree.

Our dedicated employability and opportunity team will support you throughout your time with us, ensuring that you’re aware of events and opportunities, with a goal of helping you into graduate employment. In addition, our Masters career development programme will support you to:

  • Explore career options and career planning.
  • Understand the PhD application process and optimise PhD application.
  • Learn how to use LinkedIn and other social media for effective networking and career opportunities.
  • Practice interviews for both job and PhD applications.

You’ll also have access to seminars and presentations from industry professionals (including our alumni) at faculty-led career events. We also have regular research seminars presented by leading academics from around the world on their specialist subjects.