MSc Drug Design


Graduate Tutor: Dr Edith Chan


Tel: 020 7679 6710

The post genomics era has brought a basic change in traditional drug discovery. This programme reflects the rapid changes in this subject in the last few years.

Students will investigate the approaches and methods of modern drug design and discovery, particularly how to manage the diversity and wealth of the emerging knowledge in this area.

The programme is taught by research scientists, clinicians and feature a series of "cutting edge" lectures by industry experts.

Course Credit value

MSc 180 credits (ECTS 90)

PG Dip 120 credits and PG Cert 60 credits

Who is the Drug Design course designed for?

This degree programme is suitable for life science graduates in biological sciences, chemical sciences and pharmacy. Students will obtain a broad understanding of the drug design process. The degree programme will provide a good background for students looking to establish a career in drug design/discovery and related industries, and for industry professionals seeking to gain a greater understanding of new methodology. The knowledge and transferable skills delivered will also be useful for those intending further PhD or medical studies. This degree programme requires a full study commitment.

Aims and objectives of the course

This programme of study is available full time for one year. Major aspects are:

  • Understanding of all aspects of drug design concepts: genomics , bioinformatics, drug target selection, structural biology, molecular modeling, intellectual property and marketing.
  • The development of essential skills: Research approaches, methods, and techniques of modern drug design.
  • Understanding of the industrial practices of modern drug design technologies.
  • Providing an introduction to growth areas in drug design research, such as siRNA, stem cells, high throughput screening and scientific workflows.
  • The syllabus may change every year, partly reflected by the Industrial trends.
  • Research project gives students the opportunity to engage in original research and to aid their development as independent researchers.
  • Teaching involves a mixture of lectures, tutorial and practical sessions in a dedicated teaching room. Standard industrial and renowned academic softwares/databases will be used in tutorial and practical sessions.

Distance Learning

MSc, Diploma, and Certificate (flexible 2-5 years) are available.

How long is the study and what is the final degree?

  • The study is flexible (between 2-5 years) and MSc, Diploma and Certificate are available. Ideally it should be completed in 3 years. For example: 
  • To study for a MSc within 3 years Year 1 - Modules 1-4 Year 2 - Modules 5-8 Year 3 - Module 9 (Research project)
  • Research project: This will be computer-based. They involve applying molecular modelling, cheminformatics, or bioinformatics on drug design/discovery projects. Wet lab projects can be also conducted at UCL, London.

How is the course delivered?

  • Windows PC with good internel connection is recommended for distance learning from home.  
  • Moodle - a web-based virtual learning environment, will be used as a teaching and learning platform. 
  • Lecturecast for viewing lectures.
  • Electronic library
  • An optional 1 week Summer workshop in London for intensive software/program training at student's own expense.
  • All our software run on Windows only.
  • Modular (Flexible) students can spread their studies over a period of up to five years. Your 'Fees Due' will show as £0 initially but you should still pre-enrol and then enrol. After enrolment, Modular students select their modules for the year. Once selected, a fee will be calculated for the academic year based on the number of credits assigned to the modules chosen - in any academic year you will only pay for the number of credits chosen in that year. Please note that all courses are subject to annual inflationary increases. 


Biotech, Pharma, National research laboratories, NHS agencies, Medicinal Chemist, Biologist, Structural Biologist, Cheminformatian, Bioinformatian, Molecular Modeler, Information Specialist, Patent/ IP/ Knowledge Analyst.

Degree Module Components Full Time On-Site Flexible Distance Learning
MSc 8 taught modules + research project 1 year full time
2-5 years, ideally within 3 years
Postgraduate Diploma 8 taught modules Sept-April full time
2-3 years, ideally within 2 years
Certificate 4 taught modules 3 months full time Ideally within 1 year


  1. Bioinformatics and Structural Biology. 
  2. Target Identification, Pharmacology and High Throughput Screening.
  3. Cheminformatics and Computer Drug Design.
  4. Biological molecules as therapeutics – Antibodies, siRNA, and Stem Cells. 
  5. Biophysical screening methods, X-ray crystallography, protein NMR and phenotypic screening. 
  6. Fragment based drug design. 
  7. Target selection – Cancer, Aging, and new Targets. 
  8. Intellectual property, Law, Economics, and Marketing.
  9. Research project - 

    • Minimum 12 weeks
    • Expert groups in UCL - e.g. Cancer Institute, Royal Free Hospital, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Medicine, etc.
    • External Companies and Institutes - e.g GSK, European Bioinformatics Institute, Cresset, etc.
    • Projects cover every aspect of drug design and discovery from computational modelling to X-ray crystallography and protein NMR, from chemical synthesis to cutting edge biology of cancer or other diseases. See examples here.
Screening, Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Optimization of small molecule drug inhibition of a kinase targets for therapy of Polycystic Kidney Disease
Towards novel antibiotics: small molecule inhibitors of the serine/threonine protein kinases of Gram positive bacterial pathogens
Probing host-HIV interactions using small molecule inhibitors
Medicinal Chemistry
Exploration of a new scaffold as a potential new class of a kinase inhibitor
Modified analogues of an established scaffold with potential for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions
Computational, Cheminformatics, Bioinformatics, and computer-based literature projects
Drug repositioning using internal technology
Fragment-based design of peptidomimetic drugs
Natural hormones and neurotransmitters as drug leads
Structural and Molecular Biology
Crystal structure determination of protein-ligand complexes
Cloning and NMR study of Drug protein target
PK/ADME, Assay development
Development of PK/ADME assay for a Cancer project


There are eight modules carrying 15 credits. Each module will consist of a written exam  (50%) and coursework (50%).
Assessment will be by unseen written examinations and coursework. 
A research project will be assessed by written dissertation and an oral presentation.

Programme Director - Professor David Selwood

Professor Selwood is a medicinal chemist with 12 years experience in big pharma at the Wellcome Foundation latterly Glaxo-Wellcome. Whilst at Wellcome Prof Selwood worked on the successful anti-migraine drug zolimitriptan (over $1 billion dollars in sales) and also invented GW4991W94 a compound which completed phase 2 clinical trials.

Prof Selwood moved to UCL in December 1995 to become head of the chemistry group at the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research. He founded several spin out companies: ProAxon Ltd, NCE discovery (now Domainex) and Canbex Therapeutics, a spin-out company focussed on MS Therapies.

Programme Coordinator - Dr Edith Chan

Dr Chan has over 17 years pharmaceutical and biotech experiences in the area of molecular modeling, cheminformatics, structure/ligand-based drug design, and bio-computing.

She worked in big phama and biotech: Sanofi Aventis and Inpharmatica, which involved all spectrum of drug discovery program. While working in Sanofi Aventis, she helped design ICE inhibitors, one of which has achieved Phase II status. She joined UCL in 2009 and her research is focused on computational drug design.

Graduate Tutor - Dr Andrei Okorokov

Dr Okorokov's research interest is in cell, molecular and structural biology of the protein machineries and signalling pathways controlling and maintaining the integrity of our chromosomes.

A minimum of second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or an appropriate professional qualification or work experience. 

Maximum number of students accepted onto the programme is 20 per annum.

Entry requirements for those who do not have English as their first language requirements.

To apply

Application can be made online at

For the distance learning option, please select 'Flexible study:distance learning option'.

Application can be made online at

For the distance learning option, please select 'Flexible study:distance learning option'.

MSc programme (2014-15)

Home/EU Students - £11,600 p/a

Overseas - £22,100

Post graduate diploma full-time (2014-15)

Home/EU students - £7,200 

Overseas - £14,700


Two bursaries of £2500 each will be awarded to applicants based on their academic excellence. Apply to UK and EU students only.

For those students working to organize scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants), early application for admission is strongly encouraged (preferably by May 1st for the following academic year).

Links to UCL information for prospective students on scholarships and funding.

Links to UCL and Santander Master's Scholarships.

The post genomics era has brought a basic change in traditional drug discovery. This programme reflects the rapid changes in this subject in the last few years.