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Pharmacology and Medicinal Chemistry

Module titlePharmacology and Medicinal Chemistry
Module codeBIO3041
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Alison Hill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module offers you an insight into the design of drug molecules, the biological macromolecules they are designed to target and their mode of action. It covers a broad area of the subject from the chemical design to allow molecules to get to their target in the human or bacterial cell, the biological targets and mode of action and their medical application. It will be of invaluable experience for those wanting to pursue a career in medicine or medically-related research. It will also be of interest to those wanting to work in the pharmaceutical or medically related biotechnology industries.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the biological aspects of pharmacology using known examples of commonly used drugs and anti-microbial compounds. This will be integrated with medicinal chemistry considerations and will cover the factors involved in drug discovery from initial lead compounds to the final drug launch. The latter part of the course will expose you to current knowledge of several important human diseases including HIV, and Covid-19. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss the basic concepts of pharmacology and illustrate how several major groups of drugs have been discovered and developed
  • 2. Explain and critically evaluate all aspects of the drug discovery process, particularly from lead compound discovery to the optimisation of biological activity.
  • 3. Analyse important human diseases and critically assess current therapeutic approaches

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of biological and medicinal chemistry with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 5. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a sub-discipline of the biosciences
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. With limited guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the biosciences

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 9. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 10. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data with very limited guidance

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Introduction to the biological macromolecules where drugs interact in the body i.e. lipids, protein receptors and enzymes and nucleic acids and carbohydrates. The current knowledge of drug/macromolecular interactions will be reviewed. Topics covered include: pharmacokinetics, the pharmacology of receptors, neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, the measurement of agonist and antagonist activity and drug access and prodrugs.

The module examines the discovery of new drugs starting from natural products, through optimisation of biological activity ("rule of five"), pharmacokinetics and QSAR to clinical trials. Examples will be given from many different drug classes. Combinatorial and computer-based methods for drug discovery will be briefly introduced.

The current status and future impact of molecular biology in drug discovery will be addressed and major groups of drugs such as antimicrobials, morphine analogues and antivirals are studied in detail. Lectures will consider the disease process and current therapy used for their treatment.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching16Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Data handling
Guided Independent Study103General reading of material presented in lectures
Guided Independent Study30Additional web-based material on ELE


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
ELE-based activitiesAd hocAllOnline
Feedback from lecturer during contact sessions11 x 1 hourAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay, short-answer and problem-based examination602 hours1-6, 8-10Written via tutor on request
Test 1 (medicinal chemistry)201 hour1, 5, 7-10Written
Test 2 (pharmacology)201 hour1, 5, 7-10Online


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay, short-answer and problem-based examinationEssay, short-answer and problem-based examination1-6, 8-10August Ref/Def
Test 1Essay, short-answer and problem-based examination1-6, 8-10August Ref/Def
Test 2Essay, short-answer and problem-based examination1-6, 8-10August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Patrick, An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry, 6th Edition 2017 Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-874969-1.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Drug design, drug target, medicinal therapeutics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1332 Biochemistry or BIO1341 Biochemistry and Genetics or A-level chemistry

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date