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Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences: Drug Discovery and Safety

Drug Discovery and Safety is a specialisation of the Master’s programme Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences of Leiden University. This specialisation offers scientific training on and hands-on experience with a range of state-of-the-art techniques, required for the discovery and characterization of novel drug targets and the synthesis and optimization of new drugs. Research Project 1 will be conducted at the division Drug Discovery & Safety of the LACDR on one of the research themes described below.

To effectively design new drugs, understanding the mechanism by which potential drug targets affect the development and progression of disease at the molecular level is essential. The division unravels these mechanisms, particularly in the area of (breast) cancer metastasis, drug resistance and drug safety. After screening of candidate drug targets using a ‘systems microscopy’ approach, promising targets are evaluated in clinically relevant models and patient material, in close collaboration with clinical centers.

The division is also working on the design, synthesis and evaluation of new compounds that modulate G protein-coupled receptor activity (GPCRs). Essential is that these compounds meet specific requirements that enable them to work effectively as medicinal agents. To this end, a ‘chemical biology’ approach is pursued in which synthetic chemistry, new developments in bio- and cheminformatics, biochemistry/molecular biology and pharmacology are combined. Finally, the interaction with their targets is modelled and evaluated at atomic resolution for a more rational approach of drug design.

Programme BPS research component

  • the Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences in the specialisation corresponding to the division at which Research Project 1 is performed (4 EC)

  • a research project of 51 EC in one of the research groups of the division Drug discovery and Safety, including 5 EC for a thesis and 2 EC for an oral presentation

  • one of the lecture series listed below (4 EC)

  • the course Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation (3 EC)

  • a Literature Study at one of the research groups (other than the research group of the RP1) of the LACDR

  • a research project 2 of 36 EC at a pharmaceutical company, research institute, medical centre or university (abroad), including 5EC for a thesis (a colloquium of 1 EC is optional and if done, part of the electives of 15 EC)

  • Electives of 15 EC total

First and Second Year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Mandatory courses:

Introduction Course 4
Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation 3
Literature Study 7

Research Project 1 at the division of Drug Discovery and Safety of the LACDR

Research Project 1 - Practical Work 44
Research Project 1 - Thesis 5
Research Project 1 - Oral Presentation 2

Research Project 2

Research Project 2 - Practical work 31
Research Project 2 - Thesis 5

The MSc programme of Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences offers the following Lecture Series in the academic year 2020-2021 (one of these is mandatory):

Regulation of Drug Safety 4
Atherosclerosis 4
Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry 4
A Clinical Pharmacologist Approach to Combat a Viral Pandemic 4
Signal Transduction and Hallmarks of Cancer 4
Quantitative Pharmacology 4
Model organisms in cancer drug discovery and development 4
Drug Delivery 4
Blood-Brain Barrier: Drug Transport to the Brain 4
Capillary Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry for Metabolomics 4
Biophysics and Bioengineering for Pharmaceutical Sciences 4
Miniaturized Analytical Systems 4
Novel Concepts in Molecular Pharmacology 4
Pharmaceutical Outcome Research – Scientific key in the Life Cycle of Pharmaceutical Interventions 4

Optional courses in the academic year 2020-2021 (list is not restrictive):

Science Methodology (SCM) 4
Science and the public: contemporary and historical perspectives 6
Student assistantship bachelor research assignment 5
IP Law in Science 5
Research Project 2 - Oral presentation 1
Computational Techniques for Chemical Biology (CTCB) 6
Ethics in Quality Control Practices 1
Legislation of Production of Medicinal Products 1

Please Note

As of September 2018, the Course 'Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation' replaced the courses 'Attended Lectures and Colloquia', 'Scientific Conduct' and 1 EC of the 'Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences'.

If you started before September 2018 you need to pass the courses 'Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences' (5EC), 'Attended Lectures and Colloquia' (1EC) and 'Scientific Conduct' (1EC).

If you started in or after September 2018 (or you have made a individual program with the study advisor), you need to pass 'Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences' (4EC) and 'Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation' (3EC).

If you started in September 2021, you need to pass 'Introduction Course' (4EC) and 'Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation' (3EC).

Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences 4
Attended Lectures and Colloquia 1

More info

Course Schedules are published on Blackboard. An overview of Exam Dates as well as Class numbers for enrolling for courses and exams in uSis can be obtained here

General outline of the MSc programme of the research specialisation Drug Discovery and Safety:

Level EC
Introduction Course Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences: Drug Discovery and Safety 500 4
Research project 1, at the division of Drug Discovery and Safety
- practical work 600 44
- thesis 600 5
- oral presentation 600 2
Research project 2, (preferably in another discipline of BPS, not restricted to the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences)
- practical work 600 31
- thesis 600 5
Literature study plus thesis 500 7
Lecture series 1 (in BPS) 500 4
Course Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation 500 3
Optional courses or traineeships 400–600 (max 12 EC < 400) 15

Attending more than one lecture series of BPS is optional and may be part of the programme component ‘Optional courses’.

Career Orientation

During the Master Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences (BPS) we want to provide you with the best possible preparation for the job market. In addition to knowledge, it is important that you develop skills, gain practical experience, orientate on positions & careers, and reflect on your own profile and development. In addition to substantive knowledge, it is also important to be aware of the so-called transferable skills that you develop outside and during your education. These are, for example, your cognitive skills such as critical thinking and communication. Altogether, this contributes to your development as a professional and offers good preparation for the labour market.

Students in the Master’s program are trained for a scientific career in drug research and development. Depending on your interests, you can choose from seven specializations to further extend your scientific training and theoretical background in innovative drug research or supplement it with training in Business Studies, Science Communication and Society, or Education.

From the start of the master, you are challenged to work on your academic skills and prepare yourselves for the labour market. As part of the Introduction course a career symposium is organized with presentations from alumni. Moreover, during the mandatory course Advanced Academic Skills and Career Orientation, you are expected to join career events, workshops and symposia, and to visit multiple colloquia given by peers. Writing assignments about your experiences during the master, reflection on what you have learned, and what you still want to learn and ideas about your career are also part of the course.

In summary, you will receive a complete and challenging program with a focus on scientific development as well as on the academic skills for a broad array of careers in the pharmaceutical field.

Nevertheless, questions about this subject may arise during your studies, such as: How can you use the knowledge and skills you gain within and outside your study program in the labor market? Which direction do you choose within your study and why? What are you already able to do, and what skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses you choose into something you would like to do later?

You may have already discussed this with the study advisor, mentor, tutor, the Science Career Service, fellow students or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. All kinds of activities are organized where you get the chance to orientate yourself on the job market and gives opportunities to reflect on your own development, possibilities and (study) career profile as well. Central to this are the questions: "What are my capabilities?", "What do I want?" and "How do I achieve my goals?".

In the prospectus, learning objectives have been formulated for each subject, the purpose of which is to inform you which components are covered in the development of your (study) career profile and preparation for the labour market. Various activities are also organized that help you in making all kinds of career choices and to develop skills. An overview of activities is shown below.


In the Brightspace module “Master Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences” information is compiled for you about career prospects of graduates of our programme and alumni career paths.

First year

  • Introductory meeting with the study advisor

  • Mentorship

  • Workshops and Career Colleges Science Career Service

  • Career Symposium with presentations by alumni

  • Career Orientation reflection assignment 1 – You are here!, to reflect on current profile, expectations and need for orientation

  • Career Orientation reflection assignment 2 – On Track!?, to reflect on to reflect on your academic and personal development

  • Career Orientation reflection assignment 3 – Choosing direction, to evaluate how the career orientation activities helped you to develop a view on the career perspectives of a Bio-Pharmaceutical scientist.

  • Career Events (e.g. Science Career Event, L.P.S.V. „Aesculapius” Career Day, K.N.P.S.V. Profession Day, BCF Career Event)

  • Colloquia by peers

  • LACDR Symposia

  • Bio Science Parc Excursion

Second year

  • Workshops and Career Colleges Science Career Service

  • Career Events (e.g. Science Career Event, L.P.S.V. „Aesculapius” Career Day, K.N.P.S.V. Profession Day, BCF Career Event)

  • Colloquia peers

  • LACDR Symposia

  • Bio Science Parc Excursion

  • Voluntary Career Orientation reflection assignment 4 – Dream Job Ahead!, to learn how to write an application letter and Curriculum Vitae for the dream job that you aspire after your graduation.

Science Career Service

Science Career Service, one of the utilities of the Science faculty, offers information and advice on study (re)orientation, career planning and personal professional profile as well as preparation for the job market, such as job applications. Facilities provided to students include online information, walk-in consultations, workshops and individual counselling sessions. In addition, Science Career Service offers expertise and support to programmes that want to strengthen the connection between their curriculum and the job market. This can vary from providing specific guest lectures/workshops to advising on integrating career orientation programmes into the curriculum.

LU Career Zone

The Leiden University Career Zone is the website for students and alumni of Leiden University to support their (study) career planning. You will find advice, information, video recordings of webinars and tools such as professional tests to get an idea of your personal profile. You can also explore positions and sectors, you will find tips about CV, job application, LinkedIn and there is a vacancy platform that you can make use of.


Leiden University likes to prepare students and young alumni well for the job market. For this we use the knowledge and experience of Leiden alumni. To bring students and young alumni with questions about their careers into contact with experienced alumni, Leiden University has established the Mentor Network. Students and young alumni can register for free.


Do you have questions about your (study) career choices and has the above information not been able to help you further? Please contact the study advisor at