- Academic Registry
Programme & Unit Catalogues

CH40209: Blockbuster drugs

[Page last updated: 21 April 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/3
Owning Department/School: Department of Chemistry
Credits: 3 [equivalent to 6 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 60
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before taking this module you must take CH10191 AND take CH10192
In taking this module you cannot take CH30209
Learning Outcomes: After taking this course the student should be able to understand:
* How different types of drugs that target different therapeutic areas were discovered and the combination of factors that combined to make them market leaders;
* Why major pharmaceutical companies target certain therapeutic areas, and the opportunities available to small biopharma companies/academia for the development of novel treatments for less profitable/rarer diseases;
* Appreciate the range of emerging techniques, scientific breakthroughs and economic factors that define the future of drug discovery;
* Understand how financial, legal, logistical, marketing and political decisions affect the drug discovery process;
* Participate in a virtual drug discovery exercise that simulates the trials and tribulations that are encountered in bringing a novel drug candidate to market;
* Critically apply the above principles to selected target drugs recently introduced to the market.
Students will be expected to apply their knowledge to the design of a novel drug within a major therapeutic area based on knowledge gained from elements of the course.

Aims: A number of major blockbuster drugs that are currently on the market will be discussed, gaining knowledge on how they were discovered, the problems that were faced in bringing them to market and the reasons why they are so successful.

Skills: Numeracy (F, A), Problem solving (T, F A), Scientific writing (F, A), Independent working (F), Group working (F).

Content: A series of case studies on blockbuster drugs will be used to illustrate various aspects of the drug discovery process. This will include discussion of leading small molecule drugs in respiratory and inflammatory areas (e.g. Seretide and Naproxen). It will also discuss case studies associated with recent expensive failures in the drug discovery process (e.g. Avandia and Vioxx). Successful case studies of drugs discovered by smaller biotech companies/academia will be discussed. The difficulties in developing drugs for treatment of diseases of the developing world and orphan drugs will also be discussed. A virtual drug-discovery exercise will be run that simulates many aspects of the drug-discovery process.

Programme availability:

CH40209 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Chemistry
  • USCH-AFM05 : MChem(Hons) Chemistry for Drug Discovery (Year 4)
  • USCH-AAM06 : MChem(Hons) Chemistry for Drug Discovery with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USCH-AKM03 : MChem(Hons) Chemistry for Drug Discovery with Industrial Placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.