Drug Discovery and Development MSc - University of Sunderland

Course overview

Do you want to contribute to the discovery and development of drugs that could potentially improve the health and well-being of millions of people? The UK has long been a leader in this complex technical area, in which each new drug requires around $1 billion of development work.  

Our research-led teaching and state-of-the-art facilities make the University of Sunderland one of the UK's top locations for pharmaceutical science. Our strong links with the pharmaceutical industry ensure a flow of guest speakers and good contacts for your chosen Masters project/dissertation. Previous projects have involved collaborations with companies such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Helena Biosciences.

The course covers advanced pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical analysis, drug design, pharmacology, proteomics and pharmacogenomics. You will also cover regulatory processes for medicines, in line with ICH guidelines. The course is a direct response to employers’ search for postgraduates who have a mix of theoretical and practical skills and who will push boundaries in drug development.

With a Masters course, it’s important to consider the relevance of the research interests of tutors who will supervise your dissertation. At Sunderland, our interests include pharmaceutical analysis, process chemistry, various drug discovery programmes, and drug delivery systems, including those for large biological pharmaceuticals. Our academic team have produced some ‘world-leading’ research, according to the latest Research Excellence Framework (2014).

Course content

Modules on this course include:

Core modules:

  • Essential Research and Study Skills (20 Credits)
  • Fundamentals for Pharmaceutical Science (20 Credits)
  • The Pharmaceutical R&D Cycle and its Regulation (20 Credits)

Choose four out of the five following modules:

  • Advanced Pharmacology (15 Credits)
  • Pharmacogenomics and Proteomics (15 Credits)
  • Advanced Pharmaceutical Analysis (15 Credits)
  • Advanced Drug Design (15 Credits)
  • Advanced Pharmaceutics (15 Credits)

Choose one Masters option:

  • Double Project (60 Credits) or
  • Double Dissertation (60 Credits) or
  • Single Project (30 Credits) and Single Dissertation (30 Credits)

Teaching and assessment

We use a wide variety of teaching and learning methods which include lectures, seminars, open learning, laboratory work and group work.

The Masters project may involve collaboration with a pharmaceutical company. Previous projects have involved collaborations with companies such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Helena Biosciences.

Compared to an undergraduate course, you will find that this Masters requires a higher level of independent working and problem solving. Assessment methods include laboratory reports, oral presentations, case studies, critical reviews, examinations and the Masters project.

Information about our policies relating to student experience and quality assurance processes can be found on the Academic Services website.

Facilities & location

This course is based in the Sciences Complex at our City Campus, which boasts multi-disciplinary laboratories and cutting-edge equipment thanks to multi-million pound investments.

Facilities for Pharmaceutics

We have pharmaceutical-related equipment for wet granulation, spray drying, capsule filling, tablet making, mixing inhalation, film coating and freeze drying.

As well as standard pharmacopoeial test methods, such as dissolution testing, friability and disintegration, we also offer highly sophisticated test methods. These include rheometry, thermal analysis (differential scanning calorimetry and hot stage microscopy), tests for powder flow, laser diffraction, photon correlation spectroscopy, image analysis and laser confocal microscopy.

Facilities for Medicinal Chemistry

Our state-of-the-art spectroscopic facility allows us to confirm the structures of new molecules that could be potential pharmaceutical products and to investigate the structures of potential medicinal substances that have been isolated from plants.

We are equipped with Liquid Chromatography-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectroscopy (LC-NMR/MS) platforms; this is an exceptional facility for a university. We also have low and high resolution mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance and elemental analysis equipment.

Our facilities allow you to gain hands-on experience of a wide range of analytical techniques such as atomic absorption spectroscopy and infra-red spectroscopy, which are of great importance in determining both ionic/metal content of pharmaceuticals and simple chemical structures respectively.

You will also gain experience of revolutionary protein and DNA separation techniques, as well as Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography (x8) and Gas Chromatography for separating all kinds of samples of pharmaceutical or biomedical interest.

Facilities for Pharmacology

Our highly technical apparatus will give you first-hand experience of the principles of drug action and the effects of drugs on pharmacological and cellular models. As a result, you gain a better understanding of the effects of drugs on specific receptors located throughout the human body and related physiological effects.

University Library Services

We’ve got thousands of books and e-books on pharmaceutical and biomedical science, with many more titles available through the inter-library loan service. We also subscribe to a comprehensive range of print and electronic journals so you can access the most reliable and up-to-date academic and industry articles.

Some of the most important sources for your studies include:

  • Embase, which is a complex database covering drug research, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, toxicology, clinical and experimental human medicine, health policy and management, public health, occupational health, environmental health, drug dependence and abuse, psychiatry, forensic medicine and biomedical engineering/instrumentation
  • PsycINF, which includes information about the psychological aspects of medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, pharmacology and physiology
  • PubMed, which contains life science journals, online books and abstracts that cover fields such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine and health care
  • Science Direct, which offers more than 18,000 full-text journals published by Elsevier
  • Web of Science, which covers a broad range of science areas

Learning Environment

Sunderland Pharmacy School has a rich heritage in scientific studies and our degree courses are extremely well respected in the industry. We are fully plugged into relevant medical and pharmaceutical industry bodies, with strong links and an exchange of ideas and people. Your Masters project may involve collaboration with a pharmaceutical company, including working at their sites.


Fleming Building

Sciences Complex, City Campus, Chester Road, Sunderland, SR1 3SD

Entry requirements

Applications are welcome from holders of a good Honours degree (2:2 or above) in one of the following subject areas; pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy, biomedical sciences or a related subject. Alternative qualifications may be considered if supported by relevant experience.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

If you feel you already know some of the topics covered in this course, either due to previous learning or from experience of work, then you may not need to study all of the course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the name given to the process of gaining credit towards a qualification because of something you have learnt in the past. If you are eligible for APL you won't have to learn the same topic again, and so you can be exempt from a module, set of modules or year of a course. 

Read more about APL in the Quality Handbook (.pdf). If you think you may be eligible for APL, please contact the course leader.

Fees & finance

Postgraduate loans

From 2016/17, tuition fee loans will be available to UK/EU postgraduate students for the first time. Find out more about the eligibility criteria.


The annual fee for this course is:

  • £4,750 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £11,500 if you are an International student

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or International student, please see the International section of this website.

Employment & careers

Graduates from this course can pursue a variety of careers in the following areas; Drug Design, Pharmaceutical Analysis and Research, Pre-clinical Research in Experimental and Biological Studies, Formulation and Product Development, Pharmacogenomics and Proteomics, Clinical Research, Product Registration, Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. 

Previous Sunderland graduates have been employed in companies such as GSK, Eisai, Reckitt Benckiser, Merck, Sharp & Dohme and Norbrook Laboratories.

Some students may apply for a PhD programme or those who already hold a Pharmacy degree can pursue MSc/PG Pharmaceutical Sciences for the Overseas Pharmacist Assessment Programme (OSPAP) and go through one-year pre-registration training.


Support for your learning

From the start of the course you will be allocated a Personal Tutor. You’ll meet your Personal Tutor at agreed times throughout your course. Personal Tutors encourage your personal development and are a useful point of contact for any queries about your course, extracurricular activities and issues where they can point you towards specialist services at the University. These include student counselling, financial advice and chaplaincy support.

Further support is provided by our technicians who help you make the most of the University’s equipment and software.

Support for your development

To help ensure the course is meeting aspirations for personal development, we invite students to fill in questionnaires at the end of modules. This provides a structured way for you to keep us up-to-date with your views.

During your course, and particularly towards the end of it, we encourage you to make full use of the resources at our Careers & Employability Service. The Service helps you explore your options, clarify your ideas, develop a career focus and make effective applications.

Extracurricular activities

The University supports student-led initiatives that enhance the extracurricular activities available to you. Some of these are related to particular subjects while others allow you to pursue interests and social activities. It’s all part of the vibrant and life-changing atmosphere at the University of Sunderland.

Apply for this course

You can apply online using the link below.

    Next Open Day

  • For further information on future postgraduate events, please contact the Student Helpline on +44 (0)191 515 3000.

Contact Sunderland

For more information, contact the Programme Leader:

Dr W John Lough
Tel: 0191 515 2570
Email: john.lough@sunderland.ac.uk

Contact the Student Helpline for further information about studying at the University of Sunderland:

Telephone: 0191 515 3000 
Email: student.helpline@sunderland.ac.uk


Programme Starts  
Monday 16th October 2017 Apply now

The details

Course Name Drug Discovery and Development
Classification MSc
Course Mode Full-time
Course Level Postgraduate
Duration 1 year
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 16 October 2017
UK/EU Fee £4750
Intl Fee £11500

Entry requirements

2:2 or above honours degree in pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy, biomedical sciences or a related subject

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