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Intercalated BMedSci in Clinical & Molecular Pharmacology

This pathway through the BMedSci programme provides students with the opportunity to specialise in pharmacology and therapeutics at degree level as an adjunct to their medical studies and a preparation for a potential future career in academic medicine.  Most graduates find the course greatly enhances their understanding of drugs and prescribing.

The field of clinical therapeutics is becoming increasingly scientific, molecular and mechanistic in approach with new therapies based upon strategic intervention in well-defined biological pathways. Practitioners and researchers therefore require increasingly specialist knowledge in molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and chemistry.

This one year intercalated degree will provide a framework of expertise in this discipline and practical experience in clinical and basic science laboratory research. Students are able to choose an exciting research project working with international leaders in cardiovascular, clinical pharmacology and inflammation research. 

As a result of their project, significant numbers of our students are able to publish in research journals and present their work at scientific and medical conferences.

Students who undertake core modules in pharmacology, therapeutics and toxicology and who take one of the four offered option modules in either clinical pharmacology, inflammation therapeutics, vascular pharmacology, immunology, neuroendocrinology, medical genetics or forensic medical sciences will be eligible to be awarded a BMedSci Molecular Therapeutics degree.

Research Centres within the William Harvey Research Institute have an international reputation in the field of molecular therapeutics, particularly in the areas of cardiovascular disease and inflammation and you will be encouraged to become fully integrated members of their respective research teams.

Structure and timing

Summary for 2014/15with unit values and approx. dates

Students studying for the BMedSci programme will complete a 45-credit core module, a 30-credit taught option module which the students can choose and a 45-credit intercalated research project. Specific guidance on the selection of option modules that match research projects will be provided to students by tutors and the programme director.

Core Module: Mid-September to Mid December 2014 (45 credits) Concludes with a written exam.

In the core module, which is split into 4 units as shown below, BMedSci students will focus on developing key concepts and research methods and analysis for understanding molecular mechanisms in disease.

The following topics will be covered in the core module (45 credits):

  • Bioanalytical principles and techniques
  • Cutting edge technologies used in medical research such as confocal microscopy, flow cytometry and mass spectrometry
  • Mechanisms of drug action – receptor targeting, drug design and development, clinical trials
  • Commonly prescribed drugs for inflammatory diseases, cancer, rheumatic diseases, endocrine disorders, hypertension, asthma, infections / HIV and psychiatric disorders
  • Bioinformatics
  • Statistics for research
  • Molecular Biology – principles and techniques such as DNA structure and function, protein prediction, modelling and analysis, human genomics, polymerase chain reaction and sequencing.
  • Immunology – innate and adaptive immune responses and disease, tolerance, autoimmunity, allergy
  • Ethics and Law applied to Medical Research – includes a historical perspective, use of animals, human subjects and the Declaration of Helsinki and the working of ethics committees.

Option Module:  Beginning of January – Beginning of February 2015 (30 credits)

Options include clinical and vascular pharmacology, inflammation science, immunology, medical genetics, neuroendocrinology or forensic medical science with an emphasis on forensic toxicology.  This is a 4 week taught course run by Research Centres within the William Harvey where students will gain an insight into the world of cutting-edge research in preparation for their own research project.

Project module:  Beginning of February – End of May 2015 (45 credits)

This is the final phase of the course that allows students to experience the world of medical research for themselves. The project will normally be a piece of original research, closely mentored and supervised by experts in the field. It is expected to occupy at least 12 weeks duration. Students become an integral part of an existing research team and many have the opportunity to publish their work or present at a national or international scientific conference. The results of the project will be presented as a written report not exceeding 6000 words and an oral presentation. The report is assessed and marked by internal examiners and reviewed by external examiners.


Summary of course units

Required Units

MT1/MM1. Core course unit 1 - Molecular Medicine

Course Organiser: Prof. Patricia Munroe

The aim of this module is to teach the rapidly advancing field of molecular medicine. This will include the topics of chromosome structure, gene structure and expression. Particular emphasis will be placed on the use of molecular techniques for the analysis of clinical problems such as cardiovascular disease and pre-natal diagnosis. There are a number of laboratory practicals to introduce DNA technologies, etc.

MT2/MM2. Core course unit 2 - Biosciences & BioMedical Informatics

Course Organiser: Prof. Patricia Munroe

This module will explore fundamental concepts and methods in the Biosciences, from the dual perspective of the bioanalytical principles and techniques employed and the related methods of statistics and information technology used in data acquisition, statistical analysis and interpretation. Laboratory and computing practicals link with various aspects of the course. Emphasis will be placed on developing informatics and other computing skills. Additionally, it will be concerned with issues and skills employed in assessing, gathering and communicating biomedical information.
The overall aim is to build a framework of concepts, methods and practical skills, through a balance of teaching and practical work, which will also be applicable directly to the conduct and assessment of ensuing project work.

MT3. Core Course Unit 3 Molecular Therapeutics and Toxicology

Course Organisers: Prof A Johnston and Prof Nick Goulding

The aim of this module is to teach basic principles of molecular pharmacology with emphasis on current research methods and developments in drug design. Areas covered will include mechanisms of drug action, pharmacokinetics, drug development and testing, receptors, cell signalling and toxicology

MT4. Core Course Unit 4 Clinical Therapeutics & Ethics

  • Clinical Therapeutics
    Course Organiser: Dr Martin Carrier
    By the end of the course students will have gained an understanding of recent advances in drug development and use, including immunotherapy and gene therapy with particular reference to cardiovascular and bone and joint diseases. Students will also have the opportunity to attend clinics and research seminars and visits to other pharmaceutical organizations are planned.
  • Ethics and Law in Medical Research
    Course Organiser: Prof Nick Goulding and Dr Miran Epstein
    This module will explore ethical and legal questions posed by contemporary medical research. Its aims are twofold. First, students will understand the philosophical and historical background to the Helsinki Declaration, along with its relation to statute and case law concerning informed consent. Second, students will be able to apply this understanding to clarifying ethical and legal debates about particular types of medical research, especially those within reproductive medicine, genetics and research on animals.

Optional Units

There is a very wide choice of projects for Molecular Therapeutics students.  You can choose or design your own project and then choose one of the flexible option module teaching programmes in clinical / cardiovascular pharmacology, inflammation therapeutics or immunology, neuroendocrinology, medical genetics or forensic medical sciences on offer during the spring term.

Clinical Vascular Pharmacology

Course Organiser: Professor Shu Ye and Prof Amrita Ahluwalia, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Charterhouse Square

The aim of this course is not to cover the whole of clinical pharmacology but to concentrate on those areas in which there have been exciting advances is research over the past few years.

The main areas taught will be human vascular pharmacology, the genetics of cardiovascular disease and the pharmacology of inflammation. Emphasis will be put on the link between basic scientific understanding of disease mechanisms and how this understanding is able to identify new targets for drugs to combat disease.

The following projects were among those undertaken in recent years:

  • Nitric Oxide and beetroot juice
  • The genetics of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease 

Inflammation Therapeutics

Course Organisers: Drs Dianne Cooper and Lucy Norling, WHRI, Charterhouse Square

Inflammation is central to many disorders and chronic inflammatory diseases are a major source of disability; for example in rheumatoid arthritis. This module will examine the scope of inflammatory disorders, the causes of inflammation, how to treat it and how it should be assessed both experimentally and clinically.

The principal aim is to understand the mechanisms and treatments of common chronic inflammatory disorders.

The objectives will include: defining the pathogenetic mechanisms; determining the mediators of inflammation; and evaluating how therapeutic intervention can modulate the inflammatory response.

The following projects were among those undertaken by BMedSci students in recent years:

  • Capsaicin as an inflammatory adjuvant in the mouth
  • Annexin I and antiinflammation
  • Methods for protecting chondrocytes and cartilage against damage


Course Organiser: Prof R Mageed, Bone & Joint Research Unit, Charterhouse Square

Students will acquire knowledge in immunology, animal models of disease, immunomodulation in cancer, autoimmune diseases using biologicals and gene therapy approaches.

Experimentally they will learn molecular biology methods including DNA isolation and cloning, cell culture, gene expression, cell signalling, cell transfection, immunological assays such as cell proliferation, ELISA of cytokines and therapeutic genes and use of viral vectors.

Neuroendocrinology - Basic and Clinical Aspects

Course Organiser: Dr Peter King

The aim of this module is to give students a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of neuroendocrinology, including an understanding of the structure and function of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis and its relation to growth, stress, reproduction and immune-endocrine interactions. This will then lead naturally to discussions of diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary, particularly hormone-secreting tumours, and rationales for different modalities of therapeutic intervention. Throughout the course, the emphasis will be on the integration of molecular medicine with disease processes and interventions.

The following projects were among those undertaken in recent years:

  • The influence of IGFBP-3 on colonic cell proliferation and apoptosis
  • Cellular localisation of T-Star

Forensic Medicine

Course organiser: Profs. Peter Vanezis and Atholl Johnston, William Harvey Research Institute

Current medical education contains little, if any, forensic medicine teaching. However, there is a need for doctors to be aware of and to understand, their medico-legal responsibilities.

This course option is unique in the U.K. and will introduce medical undergraduates to the possibilities of victim and suspect identification using modern systematic, scientific techniques. The legal ethical framework of human identification will be explained.

The course topics will include:

Legal and human rights issues in identification; identification of the body at different stages of decay; victim identification from crime scene investigation; forensic odontology; forensic osteology; investigation of clandestine graves; craniofacial identification; DNA analysis including the human genome/molecular biology techniques and tools used in human identification; identification from prints; emergency planning and victim identification in mass disasters.

The majority of the teaching faculty will be drawn from experts external to QMUL. These will be practicing forensic scientists, police officers, coroners, lawyers and forensic pathologists.

Recent projects includes:

  • Cold Case DNA investigations
  • Time of death from analysis of Vitreous Humor samples

Medical Genetics

Course organisers: Prof Shu Ye and Prof Patricia Munroe, Clinical Pharmacology WHRI

This area of medial research and therapeutics has grown rapidly over the past 10 years.  This module provides the student with an overview of human genetics and genomics and explores the role of gene sequencing, epigenetics and gene regulation in 21st century medical practice.  Examples of monogenic and polygenic diseases will be used to explore issues such as inheritability and genetic risk.  Many exciting projects using cutting edge technologies will be available for students.

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