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XX50225: Techniques for drug discovery

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Credits: 18 [equivalent to 36 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 360
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW 50%, EX 50%
Assessment Detail:
  • Article (CW 20%)
  • Presentation (CW 10%)
  • Group work (CW 20%)
  • Exam (EX 50%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Description: Aims:
To provide an overview of the process of drug discovery and development, providing core knowledge of the techniques and considerations involved in the identification and validation of a drug target, the discovery and optimisation of small molecule drugs and biological therapeutics, drug delivery technology and the translation of a drug into a medicine.

Learning Outcomes:
After studying this unit, students should be able to:
* Distinguish the different phases of drug development and discuss the strategic, scientific and operational issues to be considered prior to launching a drug discovery programme
* Compare the different techniques (molecular, cellular, in vivo and clinical) used in the identification and validation of a drug target
* Compare different methodologies and techniques used to develop small-molecule drugs and therapeutic peptides
* Critically discuss the drug discovery approaches used in a range of therapeutic areas and organisations, including examples of drug discovery in these areas
* Justify the importance of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in drug development and successful drug therapy
* Describe the process by which drugs are assessed for market by regulatory bodies
* Describe different biological models used in preclinical drug development and the techniques associated with the identification and optimisation of therapeutic proteins
* Search, evaluate and use the published scientific literature to inform and justify their understanding of drug discovery practices
* Present scientific information in a variety of formats
* Develop and work inclusively in a multidisciplinary team
* Critically interpret chemical and biological drug discovery data and design new hit-to-lead compounds to answer a scientific question.

Numeracy (F,A), Problem solving (T, F, A), Scientific writing (F, A), Independent working (F), Group working (F, A), Oral communication (F, A)


* Historical overview of the approaches to drug discovery (natural products, synthetic chemistry, recombinant protein, recombinant antibodies, nonpharmacological therapeutics)
* Strategic, scientific and operational issues to be considered prior to launching a drug discovery programme
* Target identification and validation (transcriptomics and disease models)
* Oligonucleotides and oligonucleotide therapeutics
* Biophysical and structural techniques (eg NMR, X-ray crystallography))
* Small molecule identification (eg High-throughput screening and fragment-based drug discovery)
* Peptides and peptidomimetics
* Soft drugs
* Evidence base for existing therapeutics
* Pre-clinical models (eg biochemical, cellular, tissue, in vivo)
* Overview of a range of therapeutic areas and examples of drug discovery in these areas
* Pre-clinical drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (DMPK)
* Pre-clinical safety and toxicology
* Regulatory affairs
* Biopharmaceuticals (including antibody-based therapeutics)
* Evidence base for novel therapeutic targets
* Virtual drug discovery exercise.

Programme availability:

XX50225 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
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