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Drug Discovery & Development (DDD) Curriculum

Program of Study

The Master of Science in Drug Discovery & Development (DDD) program offers a flexible curriculum highlighted by a core set of required courses that introduce students to the essential scientific underpinnings of the field, key technical aspects, the various disciplines and the different organizational structures. Students gain comprehensive knowledge of pharmacology, physiology, pharmacoepidemiology, translational medicine, clinical resarch, regulatory affairs and pharmacogenomics. Working in project teams, students get practical experience implementing strategies.

Students have the opportunity to customize their program with a broad range of elective courses.

Topics covered in this program include:

  • The discovery process from target identification to IND submission
  • The development process from first in man to commercialization
  • Clinical research
  • Translational medicine, translational and preclinical models
  • New product development
  • Case studies across therapeutic and disease areas
  • Fundamentals of molecular medicine
  • Pharmaceutical management
  • Vaccines and vaccine development
  • Pharmacology and physiology
  • Intellectual property law
  • Regulatory and postmarketing issues
  • Entrepreneurship

Program Requirements

Drug Discovery and Development program students at Drexel University College of Medicine.

A total of 38 credits is required for graduation.

Both thesis and non-thesis options are available. A written thesis must be focused on an area of concentration within the pharmaceutical industry. The thesis may be based on research conducted during a pharmaceutical rotation at Drexel or at a pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies, or it may be a literature-based thesis on a topic of relevance to the program. The non-thesis option requires the preparation of a scholarly document of publication quality on a topic related to the biopharmaceutical field.

Download the Drug Discovery & Development policies and procedures [PDF]

Program Level Outcomes

Graduates of the Master of Science in Drug Discovery & Development program will achieve six program level outcomes that describe the skills, competencies and knowledge gained through completion of the program curriculum.

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the drug discovery and development process and an understanding of the fundamental scientific principles that guide the development of novel therapeutics
  • Recognize the role and evaluate the contributions of representatives of different disciplines, organizational functions and agencies involved in advancing a candidate molecule from the laboratory to the market
  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the fundamental principles of pharmacology and a familiarity with the mechanism of action of commonly used drugs
  • Evaluate the properties of a candidate molecule and assess its therapeutic potential, identify key strengths and weaknesses and recommend remedies to overcome limitations
  • Demonstrate sound ethical principles and values and the ability to work independently or in diverse groups to complete tasks or assignments
  • Synthesize information from multiple and diverse sources and identify the most fruitful plan of action
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate technical information clearly and effectively in both written and oral form to scientific and non-scientific audiences

Full-Time Plan of Study

Fall Semester I

Credit Hours

Graduate Physiology 4.0
Advanced Topics in Physiology 1.0
Drug Discovery & Development I - View Syllabus [PDF] 3.0
Responsible Conduct of Research 2.0
Current Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology 1.0

Spring Semester I

Drug Discovery and Development II - View Syllabus [PDF] 3.0
Research in Drug Discovery & Development 4.0
Biostatistics or Statistics for Neuro/Pharm Research 2.0
Current Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology 1.0
Elective(s) 3.0

Fall Semester II

Graduate Pharmacology 3.0
Advanced Topics in Pharmacology 1.0
Current Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology 1.0
Special Topics in Drug Discovery & Development 2.0
Elective(s) 3.0

Spring Semester II

Thesis Research (OR) 9.0
Intensive Internship (OR) 9.0
Elective(s) 9.0

Online/Part-Time Plan of Study

Semester I

Credit Hours

Drug Discovery & Development I - View Syllabus [PDF] 3.0
Elective 1 3.0

Semester 2

Drug Discovery and Development II - View Syllabus [PDF] 3.0
Applications of Clinical & Research Biostatistics 3.0
Current Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology 1.0

Semester 3

Graduate Pharmacology 3.0
Advanced Topics in Pharmacology 1.0
Fundamentals of Compliance 3.0

Semester 4

Elective 2 3.0
Elective 3 3.0

Semester 5

Research in Drug Discovery & Development 4.0
Elective 4 2.0

Semester 6

Elective 5 3.0
Elective 6 3.0

List of Required Courses

IDPT 500S: Responsible Conduct of Research1 - 2.0 Cr.

This two credit course is presented using lecture, discussion and problem-based curriculum approaches, with associated required readings in texts. Some topics additionally require web-based exercises and quizzes. Graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty discuss current issues of scientific integrity that all scientists encounter in their research. Solutions to hypothetical and real research challenges and ethical dilemmas are discussed and debated by trainees and faculty.

NEUR 500S: Statistics for Neuro/Pharm Research2 - 2.0 Cr.

This course will provide hands on instruction in how research data are managed and analyzed in neurobiological research. Students will acquire a basic statistical knowledge with emphasis on application to data sets similar to what they can expect to encounter in their thesis research. Instruction in the use of statistical programs will be included.

PHRM 512S: Graduate Pharmacology* - 3.0 Cr.

This team taught course provides a basic knowledge of the pharmacologic mechanisms of action, effects on organ systems, routes of administration, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic uses, adverse reactions, contraindications, and drug interactions of drugs.

PHRM 525S: Drug Discovery & Development I* - 3.0 Cr.

This course, the first of two, will provide in-depth exposure to the concepts and processes involved in drug discovery and development as practiced in the biopharmaceutical industry cover all facets from target identification through to the submission of the Investigational New Drug Application (IND). Current unmet medical needs and case histories from difference therapeutic areas will be reviewed.

PHRM 526S: Drug Discovery & Development II - 3.0 Cr.

This course will provide in-depth exposure to the concepts and processes involved in drug discovery and development as practiced in the biopharmaceutical industry. It will follow the first course (Drug Discovery and Development I) and will cover all aspects from clinical trials to the submission of the NDA to regulatory approval and post-marketing surveillance.

PHRM 605S: Research in Drug Discovery & Development - 4.0 Cr.

This course is designed to provide opportunities for the student to pursue research in the area of drug discovery and development. This can be done either in an academic or pharmaceutical laboratory under the supervision of a mentor. An alternative or an additional aspect can be the conduct of research for this thesis that is not laboratory research but library research based on an approved topic for the thesis requirement. Bother alternatives, laboratory or library research must be approved by the course directors.

PHRM 502S: Current Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology - 1.0 Cr.

Current topics in experimental pharmacology are presented via a journal club alternating with research presentations. In addition to active student participation, all members of the department of pharmacology and physiology including research assistants, postdoctoral fellows and faculty participate.

PHRM 517S: Advanced Topics in Pharmacology - 1.0 Cr.

This course will expand upon the Graduate Pharmacology course for graduate students enrolled in Graduate Pharmacology 512S. The intent is to provide more in-depth coverage of selected topics that will be beneficial to students pursuing a career where pharmacology is a principle component of training, education and/or employment.

IDPT 501S: Biostatistics I - 2.0 Cr.

Introduction to the theory of probability, frequency distribution, correlation's and regression analysis, probability, chi-square and analysis of variance, applications of statistics in the laboratory.

List of Approved Electives

BIOC 510S: Cancer Biology - 3.0 Cr.

This is a comprehensive team-taught course on various aspects of cancer including: transformation, oncogenes and suppresser genes, cell cycle, DNA damage/repair, cell signaling, oncogenesis, metastasis and cancer therapies. Faculty from Fox Chase Cancer Center participates in the teaching.

MIIM 508S: Immunology I* - 3.0 Cr.

This is a graduate level introductory course that will cover basic principles of immunology. The format is a lecture series with student participation.

MIIM 521S: Biotechniques I* - 2.0 Cr.

This course will introduce the molecular, cellular and computational methods that underlie modern biotechnology, drug discovery and development. The strengths and limitations of the procedures will be considered, and their suitability for either a basic or industrial research setting will be evaluated.

MIIM 524S: Vaccines & Vaccine Development* - 3.0 Cr.

This course will provide information pertaining to the history of vaccines, the principles of vaccine design, the concepts of induction of the immune protection, and the choice of vaccine types. Emphasis will be given to current and future methods for vaccine design, and approved tests for safety and efficacy. The concepts of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines will be discussed.

MIIM 530S: Fundamentals of Molecular Medicine I* - 2.0-3.0 Cr.

The course will provide an overview of key topics in biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. The courses will serve as the vehicle to provide basic information central to the concepts of Molecular Medicine, and will be taught in the evenings to provide sufficient flexibility for enrollees currently employed in the biologically-related fields.

MIIM 531S: Fundamentals of Molecular Medicine II* - 2.0 Cr.

The course, along with the companion Fundamentals in Molecular Medicine I (MIIM-530) will provide an overview of key topics in biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. It will be offered only in the evenings. Emphasis will be placed on the areas that are the foundation of modern bioscience.

MLAS 536S: Animal Models for Biomedical Research - 1.0 Cr.

In this course university investigators will discuss their research using animal models, emphasizing why they chose the animal model they are using and how the model helps them understand basic biological processes. Grading is based on a single term paper.

NEUR 507S: Graduate Neuroscience I - 3.0 Cr.

This is the first of two courses that provide a foundation in the structure and function of the nervous system. Clinical correlations relate the material to effective clinical practice and provide a neurophysiological basis for pathological entities described in the student's clinical neurology courses and commonly encountered in the clinic.

PHRM 503S: Pharmacology & Physiology Lab Rotation - 4.0 Cr.

Guided research is conducted on a part-time basis for two or three 8-10 week periods. A written research report is required at the end of each rotation.

PHRM 507S: Principles of Neuropharmacology - 3.0 Cr.

This course covers basic concepts in neuropharmacology, all of the major neurotransmitter systems, behavioral pharmacology as well as approaches to molecular and cellular physiology including photo-activated biomolecules, electrophysiology and phosphorylation.

PHRM 516S: Advanced Topics in Physiology - 1.0 Cr.

This course uses several formats throughout the semester to discuss cellular physiology, neurophysiology, muscle physiology, cardiovascular physiology, pulmonary physiology, gastrointestinal physiology, endocrinology, and renal physiology. These formats include review of past scientific findings, journal club presentations, self-directed problem sheets, development of a working models, and point/counter-point discussions where students debate pros and cons of a controversial issue in physiology.

PHRM 518S: New Frontiers in Therapy - 1.0 Cr.

This course will provide a glimpse of what could revolutionize diagnosis and treatment with emphasis on personalized medicine. Scientific impact, technical challenges, and sociopolitical repercussions will be discussed. Students will be required to write a research proposal in NIH format and are expected to participate in peer review.

PHRM 519S: Methods in Biomedical Research - 2.0 Cr.

A primary goal for this course is to introduce pharmacology and physiology graduate students to the breadth of techniques used within the Department. Students will gain insight into not only some of the technical aspects of a variety of methods, but also how to critically examine techniques in both their own research and the literature for strengths, weaknesses and limits. At the end of the course, students should have a greater appreciation for the modalities used outside of their own labs, and an understanding of how those technologies are moving biomedical research forward.

PHRM 520S: Internship in Drug Discovery - 4.0 Cr.

The Internship in Drug Discovery and Development provides the student with a unique opportunity to apply the principles and skills learned in the classroom and acquire valuable professional experience and critical insight in a specific field. The internship is integrated into the curriculum such that it complements classroom activities and permits the student to explore an area of interest that they may ultimately pursue as a career path. Students are paired with experienced professionals who supervise their work and act as mentors and advisors. Internships can be arranged with an extensive network of pharmaceutical corporations, biotechnology companies, foundations and universities in the region as well as Drexel University itself.

PHRM 521S: Intensive Internship in Drug Discovery & Development - 9.0 Cr.

The Intensive Internship in Drug Discovery and Development provides the student with a unique opportunity to apply the principles and skills learned in the classroom and acquire valuable professional experience and critical insight in a specific field. The internship is integrated into the curriculum such that it complements classroom activities and permits the student to explore an area of interest that they may ultimately pursue as a career path. Students are paired with experienced professionals who supervise their work and act as mentors and advisors. Internships can be arranged with an extensive network of pharmaceutical corporations, biotechnology companies, foundations and universities in the region as well as Drexel University itself.

PHRM 999S: Special Topics in Pharmacology & Physiology* - 2.0 Cr.

This is a special topics course that will focus on graduate level topics in the area of Pharmacology, Physiology and/or Drug Discovery. The exact content, readings, and grading will be determined by the professor on a course by course basis.

PHGY 503S: Graduate Physiology - 4.0 Cr.

This lecture course is designed to introduce graduate students to the major organ systems of the body and their integration. A major focus will be on the basic biological/biophysical processes that underlie the integration functioning of these systems. The focus is on general principles, and examples will be drawn from both human and animal physiology.

CR 500S: Epidemiology* - 3.0 Cr.

Epidemiology is at the core of research professions as it is the study of the distribution, determinants, and the course of health related events in populations, and the efficacy and effectiveness of prevention and intervention strategies.

CR 505S: Ethical Issues in Research* - 3.0 Cr.

Students explore ethical issues to sound clinical research, review the foundations of regulations for clinical investigations, and to better understand the operational imperatives of good clinical practices.

CR 513S: Pharmaceutical R&D: Business Process and Information Flow* - 3.0 Cr.


CR 514S: Worldwide Regulatory Submissions* - 3.0 Cr.


CR 515S: Introduction to Clinical Trials* - 3.0 Cr.

This course introduces regulatory responsibilities of clinical investigators, sponsors, monitors, IRBs, FDA -all those parties intimately involved in clinical research. Information and exercises are designed to reinforce the elements of Good Clinical Practices.

CR 520S: Applications of Clinical Research Biostatistics* - 3.0 Cr.

Examines role of the statistician in clinical research. Course includes a discussion of the language of statistics to facilitate communication with the clinical research project team, basic methods of describing data, fundamentals of probability, simple models and methods of parameter estimation and statistical software packages for reporting data.

CR 525S: Scientific Writing and Medical Literature* - 3.0 Cr.

This course teaches the medical professional the ability to read for understanding, and evaluate validity of information a medical or scientific paper. In addition, the student learns how to recognize various types of medical literature and the basics of how to perform a review of the medical literature.

CR 530S: Tech Transfer* - 3.0 Cr.

The study of leveraging research capabilities with the marketplace and communicating research results for public benefit. Topics to include: the identification, management, development and commercialization of marketable research and technologies. Additional topics include patents and licensing.

CR 535S: Current Regulatory Issues in Biomedical Research* - 3.0 Cr.


CR 545S: Pharmaceutical Law* - 3.0 Cr.

Presents principles and practices of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act governing the research and development of pharmaceuticals and biologics for both humans and animals including an analysis of legal and social constructs affecting industry and the academic clinical investigator with emphasis on FDA enforcement actions.

CR 550S: Leadership Skills* - 3.0 Cr.

This course is an in-depth analysis of specific human capital, organizational behavior and project management issues facing research facilities as they pertain to larger, integrated organizations. Selected topics include: high impact communications, negotiating, motivation and recognition.

CR 555S: Compliance and Monitoring Issues* - 3.0 Cr.

This course focuses on measuring and improving clinical trial performance as a means of saving time and money, while ensuring quality health care, as well as offering to patients both safe and effective therapeutic products. Students are required to develop milestone efficiencies through the use of process-performance data.

CR 560S: Special Topics* - 3.0 Cr.

Individualizes enhancement to core curriculum in research. Students will determine which extracurricular lectures and events they will attend based on their interest and career intent.

CR 570S: Principles and Practice of Pharmacovigilance* - 3.0 Cr.

This course is an introduction to the ethical, clinical, and regulatory complexities of medication safety and matters thinking skills for improving the quality and effectiveness of drug safety monitoring for both the pharmaceutical industry and its impact on the public.

CR 600S: Designing the Clinical Trial* - 3.0 Cr.

Designers and ethical, clinical, strategic issues surrounding clinical drug research are the focus of this course. Topics include design of trials for Phases one though four, an overview of the statistical component of a clinical trial, monitoring of the trial, and managing clinical data.

CR 609S: Innovative Produce Development* - 3.0 Cr.

This comprehensive course provides a solid foundation in new therapeutic product research and development for the subsequent courses in the CROM program. This course focuses on the process of drug and medical device development from early research, discovery, and product formulation, through the federal requirements form proving safety and efficacy.

CR 612S: Fundamentals of Compliance* - 3.0 Cr.

The study of the federal bodies and regulations that govern research. Topics include: the rules and regulations surrounding HIPAA and how it affects research on human subjects, the history and current role of the FDA, IACUC, and the IRB within the research arena.

CR 614S: Pharmacotherapy in New Drug R&D* - 3.0 Cr.

Through the use of selected readings, case studies available from the FDA, and Blackboard discussions, this course will integrate preclinical/clinical research pharmaceutical operations along with federal regulatory approval principles, emphasizing the essentials of pharmacokinetic /pharmacodynamic activity of medications as the sound basis for understanding the clinical application of drug therapy with specific populations.

CR 616S: Intro to Therapeutic Products* - 3.0 Cr.

This course is designed to provide an overview of the diverse marketing and advertising practices and strategies of the pharmaceutical industry and their impact on the professional healthcare infrastructure, as well as on the healthcare recipient population. Students will be encouraged to develop skills to crucially evaluate the marketing techniques of the pharmaceutical industry.

CR 617S: Informatics in Pharmaceutical Research & Development* - 3.0 Cr.

Using a combination of printed materials, case studies, literature reviews, and on-line discussions, this course will cover past and present contributions of computer applications in pharmaceutical research and development. In addition, the student will be challenged to portend where technological advances may prove to be strategically beneficial in the future.

CR 620S: Biotech/Research* - 3.0 Cr.

The study of the history, use and progression of biological techniques developed through basic research and now how it is applied to research and product development.

CR 625S: Health Policy and Economics* - 3.0 Cr.

The study of the development, analysis and communication of economic data in the context of clinical research.

CR 635S: Strategic Planning* - 3.0 Cr.

This course introduces the student to the project management and planning process. Topics include: project communications, leadership, objectives, scope, success criteria, procurement, cost estimating, control mechanisms, developing mission statements and devising strategies that turn vision into reality. May be repeated twice for credit.

List of Approved Electives (quarter-based)

BIO 631: Bioinformatics I - 3.0 Cr.

This course uses a combination of lecture and hands-on exercises to develop computational, algorithmic, and database navigation skills utilized in the analysis of genes and genomes. Topics include genomic databases, genome annotation, sequence alignment, metagenomic analyses and phytogenetics.

BMES 604: Pharmacogenomics - 3.0 Cr.

Covers the interaction between chemical agents and biological systems at all levels of integration. Discusses general classes of drugs, with particular emphasis on general concepts and problems of medical importance.

MGMT 685: Implementing Strategies Using Project Teams - 3.0 Cr.

Implementing Strategies Using Project Teams. Covers the role of the project team manager and the skills necessary to implement projects successfully in a team-based environment. Discusses techniques for planning, performance monitoring and appraisal, and the use of teams to foster synergistic problem solving

MGMT 910: Readings in Strategic Management - 3.0 Cr.

This course introduces students to many of the major theoretical approaches and debates in strategic management. This course supplies a roadmap for students to roam the terrain of organization theory and gear up to generate original research ideas that extend inquiry in a student's chosen area of research.

MGMT 940: Seminar in Organizational Behavior - 3.0 Cr.

This course provides a critical review of significant concepts within the field of organizational behavior. The course starts with individual behaviors concepts such as work motivation, job design, and work attitudes, turns to group processes and leadership; and concludes with a consideration of cultural issues in organizational behavior.

ORGB 625: Leadership and Professional Development - 3.0 Cr.

This course helps students develop knowledge and skills to enhance their professional development and to become effective leaders. Students will understand trends in contemporary organizations, enhance their self-awareness, and refine their interpersonal skills, and apply these skills to improve their work effectiveness.

PBHL 530: Principles of Epidemiology - 4.0 Cr.

Introduces and applies the principles of epidemiology and study design needed to support population-based and community health assessment/evaluation. Basic and more advanced methods are covered as appropriate with applications to public health and community contexts, and integration with the biostatistics.

PROJ 501: Introduction to Project Management - 3.0 Cr.

This course will prepare students to manage scheduling, supply management, project team recruiting, resource allocation, time/cost tradeoffs, risk assessment, task coordination, team-building, progress monitoring, and post-project assessment through a comprehensive overview of project management. Case studies are used to illustrate the principles and tools of project management as a process.

PROJ 535: International Project Management - 3.0 Cr.

Examines the uniqueness and adaptations of project management when operating in an international context. Details the investigation of cultural, legal, and regulatory environments as the context of international project management.


  • One quarter credit is equal to two-thirds of a semester credit for satisfying program credit requirements
  • 1 - CR 612S may be substituted for IDPT 500S
  • 2 - CR 520 may be substituted for NEUR 500S
  • * course available online
Hand and isolated test tube in a research laboratory.