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Drugs and Drug Discovery


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Dr Clare Sansom
  • Assessment: short-answer and MCQ tests (40%) and individual and team project reports (60%)

Module description

In this module you will establish a secure knowledge and understanding of how new drugs are developed, from the discovery of initial ‘lead’ compounds, with promising activity, through lead optimisation strategies, to clinical trials. You will examine selected drugs and their modes of action, as well as therapeutic strategies in drug administration. In addition, you will gain familiarity with cutting-edge research approaches in drug development, beyond the classic design paradigms.

Indicative syllabus

  • Strategies of drug development, including sources of new 'lead' compounds (synthetic libraries, natural products)
  • Assay methods for drug discovery
  • Lead optimisation strategies, including structure-activity relationships
  • Pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism
  • Frontiers in drug development: metabolic engineering, new modalities and nanomedicine

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • describe the series of stages usually required to discover, optimise and develop a new drug for commercialisation
  • discuss commonly used drug bioassay methods
  • discuss the behaviour of drug molecules in the body (pharmacokinetics), i.e. absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion
  • apply fundamental chemical concepts to explain the interaction of drug molecules with target biomolecules, and their pharmacokinetic behaviour
  • discuss how drug molecules can be modified to improve their properties (lead optimisation)
  • describe new strategies currently being developed, in particular new modalities, synthetic biology and nanomedicine.