Genomic Approaches to Drug Discovery

MSc Genomic Approaches to Drug Discovery

SRSFNew genomic technologies are making it possible to use increasingly targeted pharmacological techniques to develop new treatments for disease. On this masters course, scientists at the University of Sheffield who use these state-of-the-art technologies in world leading research, will train you in drug screening and gene discovery, using the latest genomics techniques.

We are home to the Sheffield RNAi Screening Facility, the UK's first Drosophila RNAi screening centre, where researchers are working on groundbreaking functional genomics studies. This means our students can get professional training in pharmaco-genomics, using human 2D and 3D models of disease and organoid systems, as well as experimentally tractable model organisms, such as Drosophila and Zebrafish.

This course is designed to equip you with the skills and expertise to identify novel gene targets and candidate drugs, and our close links with the pharmaceutical industry will help you prepare for a successful career in drug discovery.

Find out more about Biomedical Science research at the University Sheffield


To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

You can find more information about the application process on the University's postgraduate webpages.

How to apply: applying essentials


Course Director: Dr Stephen Brown

If you have any questions about this course, contact our admissions office: | +44 (0)114 222 2319

You can also visit us throughout the year:
Postgraduate open days, visit afternoons and online chats

Pathway programme for international students
Don't meet our entry requirements? Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

About the course

This 12-month course has been designed to offer specialist practical and lecture modules on key elements of drug discovery and techniques used in the pharmaceutical industry. Topics include genomic screening, 3D tissue culture and genome editing – a full list of current modules can be found below. You'll also get training in the skills every professional scientist needs, such as research ethics and literature analysis.

The biggest part of your degree will be your research project, which you'll be able to work on at the Sheffield RNAi Screening Facility. You'll be working alongside professional scientists, and under the supervision of one of our academic staff, based here in Biomedical Science or in a related department at the University of Sheffield, depending on your project. They'll train you to use the specialist equipment that you'll need to complete your project, and provide support to help you design your experiments, analyse your results and present your findings.

Sheffield RNAi Screening Facility

Throughout your degree, you'll be taught through lectures, practical sessions and lab placements. You'll have the opportunity to meet representatives from pharmaceutical companies and learn more about the pharmaceutical industry to support your career goals. The course is designed to build on your undergraduate studies or related work experience so that you can gain the specialist knowledge and practical skills that employers in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries are looking for. The course can also prepare you for further study at PhD level.

Example projects include:

  • An RNAi screen for the mesendodermal marker, MIXL1, in human embryonic stem cells
  • A kinase screen for regulators of the cell cycle
  • Cell penetrating peptides as anti-cancer agents

Read more about this course on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

MSc Genomic Approaches to Drug Discovery

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for a good upper second class (2:1) honours degree, or equivalent, in a biomedical or related subject such as biochemistry, genetics, zoology, cell biology or biochemistry. Applicants with relevant work experience and good academic potential are also encouraged to apply.

We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.

We can also accept equivalent qualifications from other countries. You can find out which qualifications we accept from your country on the University's webpages for international students.

Prospective international students: Your country

International pathway programmes

If you are an international student who does not meet our entry requirements, the University of Sheffield International College offers a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme. This programme is designed to develop your academic level in your chosen subject, introduce you to the study skills that will be vital to success and help with language if you need it.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at the University of Sheffield.

Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

English Language Requirements

If you have not already studied in a country where English is the majority language, it is likely that you will need to have an English language qualification.

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6.0 in each component

You can find out whether you need to have an english language qualification, and which other English language qualifications we accept, on the University's webpages for international students.

English language requirements

The English Language Teaching Centre offers English language courses for students who are preparing to study at the University of Sheffield.

English Language Teaching Centre

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Funding your postgraduate course

UK/EU scholarships

100+ scholarships image

We're offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in 2019 that can be used towards fees or living expenses.

Find out more

International scholarships

International scholarships image

We're offering 100 International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarships, each worth 25% of the original tuition fee for a postgraduate taught programme starting in September 2019.

Find out more

Alumni rewards

Alumni rewards

If you’ve previously graduated from the University and intend to pursue further studies with us then you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on your tuition fees.

Find out more

Up-to-date fees can be found on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

Tuition fees

Current modules

Core modules – students take all four:

Literature Review (30 credits)

Before starting on the laboratory component of their research, project students must undertake an in depth survey of the literature relevant to the project and prepare a research proposal. Students will be required to carry out an exhaustive search of material relevant to their project using the resources of the University, including the web. This will involve primarily private study by the student under the direction of the project supervisor who will meet with the student at regular intervals to ensure satisfactory progress.

Laboratory Research Project (60 credits)

The unit aims to provide students with experience of laboratory research and develop their practical and organisational skills required for a career in science. Students undertake a project related to their area of specialization which reflects the research activities in the Department. Projects will run in the laboratories of the research groups and although students will have contact with various staff, each student will have an identified member of staff as their project supervisor. Students will gain experience of experimental design and execution and in the collation, interpretation and presentation of data. Assessment of the project will be based on; a written report, laboratory performance, delivery and defence of an oral presentation, a poster presentation and an oral examination.

Critical Analysis of Current Science (15 credits)

This unit is designed to develop the student’s ability to read and understand the scientific literature relating to their own research area and also enable them to integrate their own work into the wider scientific field. The unit consists of three components; a tutorial/seminar programme of up to 16 tutorial sessions designed to develop student skills in reading, understanding and criticising scientific literature; attendance at departmentally organised review lectures covering broad areas of science delivered by internationally recognised scientists; participation in all support sessions provided by the research groups in support of their research programme. Each component would be assessed separately with written reports, some undertaken under formal examination conditions.

Ethics and Public Awareness of Science (15 credits)

This unit introduces an outline of the legislative limitations and ethical influences on biomedical science. It will address how these are influenced by public attitudes and explore how these, in turn, are influenced by the scientific community. The unit will contain a factual and objective core, however students will be encouraged to explore, develop and express their own beliefs and value systems.

Practical modules – students take both:

Small Molecule and Functional Genomic Screening (15 credits)

This unit aims to provide students with the practical skills to design and implement a screening campaign. Students will learn the tools of how to obtain genetic and biochemical disease information, build a reporter system and develop an assay for screening. Students will get the opportunity to screen either genetic or chemical modifiers using high throughput automation. Students will develop their skills in cell culture and use reporter-based assays with automated plate readers and high content microscopy.  Students will learn how to analyse the data using R and genome databases. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of skills and the acquisition of data using automated research equipment.

3D Tissue Culture and Genome Editing (15 credits)

This practical unit aims to provide students with the experience of building molecular tools to replicate Human diseases in culture ready for a chemical or genetic screening programme. The unit will teach students how to practically manipulate the tools used in CRISPR genome editing, RNAi knock-down and gene overexpression. Students will also gain practical experience of how to build 3D spheroids, study their behaviour using molecular probes and will be able to critically evaluate 3D spheroid models in the study of disease.

Lecture modules – students choose two:

Genomic Approaches to Drug Discovery (15 credits)

This unit will cover all the steps required to design a screening campaign with either biological or chemical entities. The aims are to teach the student the types of molecules which can be drugs, how to screen them and what are the biochemical cellular assays that are used to identify target molecules. The Student will learn the core elements of designing an automation workflow using robotics and acquisition hardware. Topics that will be covered include; laboratory automation, assay design and testing, models of disease, which molecules or libraries to screen, planning a screening campaign, screening controls, data acquisition, high content analysis, statistical analyses, data visualisation, databases and information retrievable, hit selection and validation. Students will learn how genomics and screening can be used to better understand disease pathways and how this eventually can lead to better drug discovery.            

The Biotech and Pharmaceutical Industry (15 credits)

This unit will provide students the opportunity to understand the economic drivers for  drug discovery and learn first-hand, from industry experts, what are the processes that guide target selection, screening, validation, production and trialling of candidate new drugs. Students will learn the principles behind each step of this process and strategies companies use to fund, develop and test these new drug entities. Lectures will be given by experts from manufacturing- describing drug production and clinical safety, toxicology- lecturing on assays and safety, commercialisation from either a startup or large company, market forces, screening practices in a large pharmaceutical company, the supply chain, technology changes, biologics and traditional small molecules. Students will also be given lectures from academics describing their own drug discovery to clinic story and what are the pitfalls during this process. The aim of this unit is to give the students a wide background of industry practices with the legal, commercial and scientific principles with which the industry guides itself.

Modelling Human Disease and Dysfunction (15 credits)

This unit aims to provide students with an understanding of the way that post-genomic developmental biology is impacting on our ability to understand, and treat, human disease. Students will be introduced to some of the major experimental systems and approaches that are pertinent to disease modelling. These include genetically-tractable animal model systems, in vitro cellular systems, including stem cells, and bioinformatics. The principles involved in establishing how these systems can be exploited to develop new strategies for regeneration, and the prevention of degeneration, will be explored. Lectures will be interspersed with critical evaluations of primary research papers, so that students gain experience of analysing experimental work, data presentation and interpretation of results.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Some optional practical and lecture modules share the curriculum with final year undergraduates.

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.