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Chemical Biology and Drug Design MSc

(Full time) 2018/19

Masters in Chemical Biology and Drug Design

Chemical biology is the application of chemical tools and ideas to biological and medical problems. This programme is designed to build on an existing knowledge of chemical structure and reactivity to give you a thorough grounding in contemporary chemical biology and drug discovery as well as introducing you to topics from the research frontier.

You’ll be taught by experts from across the Astbury Centre in chemical biology, biophysics and medicinal chemistry using a "problem-based" approach. Visiting lecturers from the pharmaceutical industry will share their expertise in industrially-relevant applications of chemical biology and drug design with you.

Bridging the gap between your undergraduate degree in a core subject, and interdisciplinary research in chemical biology, you’ll develop the skills to solve real-life research problems, benefitting from a multi-million pound investment in fantastic research facilities. Rather than focusing on a single discipline, you’ll learn to use either chemical or biological approaches to tackle the problem in hand.


Royal Society of Chemistry Accreditation

The University of Leeds launched the first taught MSc degree in Chemical Biology in the UK. The course was one of the first two MSc courses in the UK to receive accreditation from the Royal Society of Chemistry; graduates from the programme with an appropriate first degree in chemistry satisfy the academic requirements for the award of Chartered Chemist (CChem) status.

In the first half of the year you’ll cover a core range of modules designed to build on an existing knowledge of chemical structure and reactivity to give you a thorough understanding of chemical biology and the techniques required for drug design. In the second half of the year you’ll spend the majority of your time working on an interdisciplinary research project which will allow you to work with and gain advice from two supervisors with complementary expertise.

This project will contribute 50% of the mark for your degree. The School will help you to select the project that is right for you, in an area that interests and motivates you. The project will provide you with key research experience to take your career forward. With the core modules behind you, you’ll be ideally positioned to choose an exciting problem to investigate.

The breadth of expertise available at Leeds means that you will be able to combine a wide range of techniques from computational ligand design to synthesis, protein engineering and laser spectroscopy. These techniques might span one of more of the following general areas;

  • Synthesis of biologically active molecules
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Enzymology and directed evolution
  • Biophysical chemistry
  • Chemical genetics

You’ll receive training in the generic skills that are required for the module, including scientific writing and giving oral presentations. You’ll select your project at the start of the second semester, undertaking a programme of directed reading before writing an initial report. You’ll then spend over four months in your supervisors' research laboratories working alongside PhD students and experienced postdoctoral researchers. During the research project, you’ll have access to the outstanding research facilities in chemical biology that are available in Leeds.

Course structure

Year 1

Compulsory modules

  • Foundation of Chemical Biology 10 credits
  • Drug Discovery and Development 15 credits
  • Emerging Topics in Chemical Biology 25 credits
  • Extended Laboratory Project for Chemistry-based MSc courses 90 credits

Optional modules

  • Practical Bioinformatics 10 credits
  • Medical Diagnostics 10 credits
  • Advanced Topics in Chemical Biology (40 Credit) 40 credits
  • Advanced Topics in Chemical Biology (30 Credit) 30 credits

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

For more information on typical modules, read Chemical Biology and Drug Design MSc in the course catalogue

Learning and teaching

You will be taught by experts across the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, meaning you’ll learn from both chemists and biologists to gain the skills and knowledge to work in a multidisciplinary environment. You’ll be taught through a series of lectures, small group workshops and practical lab sessions. You will also get involved in student led activities such as literature presentations.


The wide range of continual assessment formats will allow you to improve your generic skills, and to hone your ability to solve problems. As part of the continual assessment of modules, you will give a wide range of oral presentations; prepare short articles, essays and research reports; perform computational exercises; and undertake group-based problem solving activities. Your research project will be assessed through your practical work and a written research report.

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in Chemistry, Biochemistry, or a related subject.

We also consider how much experience you have in topics directly relevant to the Chemical Biology and Drug Design degree programme and whether you are achieving 2:1 level marks in modules such as: organic, inorganic, physical, analytical and medicinal chemistry; biochemistry; enzymology; molecular biology.

International qualifications

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information please contact the School of Chemistry admissions team.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in all components. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

If English is not your first language, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course before you begin your studies. This can help if you:

  • don't meet the English language requirements for your course or
  • want to improve your understanding of academic language and practices in your area of study.

Our pre-sessional courses are designed with a progression route to the degree programme and are tailored to the subject area. For information and entry requirements, read Language for Science (6 weeks) and Language for Science: General Science (10 weeks)

How to apply

Application deadlines

31/07/18 - International

31/08/18 - Home/EU


This link takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.
If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you’ll need

Original or certified copies of your transcripts

Original or certified copies of your degree certificate

Copy of passport (if applicable)

Letter of sponsorship (if applicable)

Two academic references

Original or certified copy of your IELTS/TOEFL results (if applicable)

It may help your application if you include a personal statement and CV.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences Taught Postgraduate Admissions Policy


UK/EU: £9,250 (total)

International: £21,500 (total)

Read more about paying fees and charges.

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

The School of Chemistry offers a range of scholarships.

Find out more about our Scholarships.

On graduation, you’ll be ideally placed to undertake interdisciplinary research in academia and the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry. You’ll also be in a strong position to pursue a science-related career, such as patent work, scientific publishing or scientific administration.

In addition, this course will leave you well-placed to forge a career at companies working at the interface between chemistry and biology. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are increasingly seeking researchers with a strong interdisciplinary background.

Further study

Many of our graduates have secured positions on Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry PhD programmes in the UK and internationally. The Astbury Centre hosts a wide range of PhD programmes incorporating Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, offering many opportunities for students graduating from this MSc course. This MSc provides tailored training at the interface between chemistry and the biological sciences, and will enhance your prospects of securing a place on one of these highly competitive postgraduate programmes.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

Key facts

Start date:
September 2018

12 months full time

UK/EU fees:
£9,250 (total)
International fees:
£21,500 (total)

Entry requirements:
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in Chemistry, Biochemistry, or a related subject.

Language requirements:
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in all components


Contact us:
School of Chemistry Admissions Team
+44 (0)113 343 6440