Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Drug Discovery and Translational Biology MSc, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgDip

Funding opportunities

The rapid transformation in the nature of drug discovery means that knowledge of related disciplines, and the technologies used, is essential for those considering a career in commercial or academic research.

This MSc in Drug Discovery and Translational Biology will help you explore the latest methods of developing drugs and therapeutic compounds for humans and animals and disease control agents for plants.

Our multidisciplinary approach links structural biology, bioinformatics, chemistry and pharmacology.

You will:

  • learn about marketing, licensing and regulations, which are all part of the development process
  • investigate the fundamental scientific problems and techniques of drug discovery and design, alongside the challenges of developing principles for new therapeutic strategies
  • have hands-on experience of crystallographic computer programming and computation for bioinformatics
  • consider the moral and ethical aspects of the agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries through case studies, seminars and discussions

Why study with us?

In the School of Biological Sciences, we offer a choice of courses and opportunities in biological areas beyond the core drug discovery theme, allowing you to tailor your degree to your personal interests and future plans. This can include courses exploring:

  • biotechnology
  • biochemistry
  • synthetic biology
  • bioinformatics

At the end of the programme, our graduates are highly valuable and capable of pursuing a professional career in industry or government agencies or continuing their research at PhD level. You will develop focused research skills, as well as an understanding of the environmental, health and social problems that accompany work in the field of drug discovery and working with proteins and their ligands.

The programme consists of two semesters of taught courses, followed by a research project and dissertation.

The learning and teaching activities that will form your teaching include sessions such as lectures, tutorials, workshops and seminars. Where possible, we will also teach in the laboratories and computing suites.

You will:

  • do presentations
  • work on your own research skills
  • develop literature and data skills
  • work on individual projects, as well as those in groups


Those students who progress to MSc level will carry out their own research project at the frontier of knowledge and can make a genuine contribution to the progress of original research.

Projects often vary widely in terms of the subject matter. These include:

  • database mining and modelling projects
  • approaching problems from a purely computational point of view
  • wet lab projects where atomic resolution structures of target and ligands are determined by a variety of analytical platforms

This aspect of the programme involves intensive practical training and instruction as well as development of the skill sets required for effective review of relevant papers, data analysis and writing a dissertation.

After completing this programme, students will:

  • describe and critically assess the approaches in current use for protein modelling, structure-based drug design, structure determination and production/analysis methodologies for therapeutic targets and new drug molecules
  • appreciate the important factors driving the research and technology development within the biopharmaceutical industry
  • have increased understanding of biological and biochemical systems, at the molecular level
  • have an appreciation of the important role molecular structure and biochemical mechanisms play in the design of new drug modules
  • have an increased understanding of the fundamental drivers for molecular recognition in protein-drug complexes
  • produce a high-quality scientific report of the work you have performed in a manner suitable for publication and discuss the quality and significance of your approaches and conclusions, both in the local and wider context of the literature/field

The Drug Discovery and Translational Biology MSc is designed to help you pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry or relevant government agencies involved in the development of therapeutics or the associated regulatory bodies.

It also provides a good background for managerial or technical roles in research, design and development.

Because of the programme's high molecular bioscience content, focusing on target ligand structure and function, it is also a very solid basis from which to continue your studies to PhD level in a number of disciplines.

Our Careers Service will support you throughout your time studying with us and for 2 years after your course finishes. They can provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internship and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics or pharmacology.

We will also consider your application if you have a background in chemistry, pharmacy, physics, computer science or medicine.

Your degree should include some university level chemistry.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:


If you receive an offer of admission you will need to pay a deposit to secure your place.

  • £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)

Any applicants who are required to pay will receive an offer with full details.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications may close earlier than the published deadlines if there is exceptionally high demand.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline.

We aim to make the majority of decisions within eight weeks of the selection deadline.

If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:

  • your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
  • your application is still being considered, will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to the next deadline
1 15 December 1 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD