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Chemical biology is the application of chemical tools and ideas to biological and medical problems. In this course, you’ll develop your existing knowledge of chemical structure and reactivity into a thorough understanding of contemporary chemical biology and drug discovery. You’ll also be introduced to topics from the research frontier.

You’ll be taught by experts from across the Astbury Centre in chemical biology, biophysics and medicinal chemistry to solve problems relevant to contemporary research at the boundary between chemistry, biology and medicine. Visiting lecturers from the pharmaceutical industry will share their expertise in industrially-relevant applications of chemical biology and drug design with you.

In 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, benefiting from a multi-million pound investment in our research facilities for synthetic chemistry and analysis of molecular interactions. Rather than focusing on a single discipline, you’ll learn to tackle a problem using either chemical or biological approaches.


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.

Course content

In the first half of the year, you’ll cover a core range of modules that provide you with a thorough grounding in the theory of chemical biology, while training you in the techniques you will later require 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.

Using the knowledge you’ve gained from the core modules, you’ll be ideally positioned to choose an exciting problem to investigate. This project will contribute 50% of the mark for your degree, and the School will help you to select a topic in an area that interests and motivates you. This project will provide you with the key experience in independent research you need to advance your career.

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 may span one or more of the following 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.

Finally, you’ll spend over four months in your supervisors' research laboratories working alongside PhD students and experienced postdoctoral researchers.

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.

Career opportunities

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.

Visit the Chemical Biology and Drug Design MSc page on the University of Leeds website for more details!





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