BIOSCI 356 : Developmental Biology and Cancer


2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Molecular, cellular and genetic aspects of normal and abnormal development focusing on a variety of model systems including drosophila, the zebrafish and the mouse. Molecular events underlying the development of body form, the differentiation of specific tissues such as the blood, and abnormalities of development which contribute to diseases of the body such as cancer. Implications of transgenic techniques on development.

Course Overview

This course focuses on the molecular, cellular and genetic aspects of normal and abnormal development, including cancer. In the first module (one third of the course), we make use of a variety of model systems such as the zebrash, mouse and Drosophila to address molecular events underlying the development of body form, specic organs and tissues. We also explore later phases in the life cycle including maintenance of adult tissues (stem cells) and ageing. In the second module (the last two thirds of the course) we address
the fundamental mechanisms that cancer cells exploit to aect their growth and invasive properties. The molecular genetics of some cancers such as melanoma and colorectal cancers and the role of the immune system in cancer recognition will also be discussed. The links between developmental and cancer pathways are examined.

This course will interest a wide-range of students who want to know more about the molecular and cellular biology of development and disease with some perspectives about how this knowledge can lead to a clinical translation. The laboratories provide a unique opportunity to work with a wide-range of model organisms.

The course is part of:
the BIOMED Cancer Biology and Therapeutics pathway (with MEDSCI319 and MEDSCI302)
the BIOMED Reproduction and Development pathway (with MEDSCI312 and MESCI313)
the BIOSCI Biochemistry and Cell Biology pathway  ( as an option with BIOSCI350 and BIOSCI353)
could be an elective in the BIOSCI Genetics pathway ( as an option with BIOSCI351 and BIOSCI355)

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 201

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Define mechanisms driving early and late development with reference to a number of model organisms (Capability 1)
  2. Summarise the mechanisms that underlie the development of various cancers (Capability 1)
  3. Recognise the link between pathways used in development and cancer (Capability 1 and 2)
  4. Develop practical laboratory and research skills by working with a variety of model organisms (Capability 1 and 5)
  5. Generate and critically analyse biological data and present findings in a report (Capability 2 and 4)
  6. Demonstrate and apply an ability to work autonomously to develop an independent understanding of course content (Capability 5)
  7. Develop an ability to work collaboratively and constructively during lab based exercises (Capability 4)
  8. Practice science with an understanding of the ethical implications of working with animal and human samples (Capability 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 10% Group & Individual Coursework
Laboratories 20% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Test 20% Individual Test
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Final Exam

Students must pass the practical (laboratories) and the theory (assignment, test and exam) components independently to pass the course overall


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

Special Requirements

The mid-term test will be held in the evening.
Students are required to supply and wear a lab coat and safety glasses while in the teaching lab.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 33 hours of lectures, 3 hours of tutorials, 66 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 30 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be taught on campus and available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials/labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

S.F. Gilbert (2016): Developmental Biology. 11th ed. Sinauer.
Wolpert & C. Tickle (2015): Principles of Development. 5th ed. OUP.
R. A. Weinberg (2013) The Biology of Cancer. 2nd ed. Garland Science

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

We listen to student feedback. The overall course satisfaction tends to be high ( 94% in 2022, in a COVID affected semester) with respondents stating that they found that this course, taught by "enthusiastic and engaging lecturers",  was well structured, interesting and with well-integrated and useful laboratories. Students on the biomedical Cancer Biology and Therapeutics specialisation pathway noted the clear linkages between this course and MEDSCI302.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2022 09:27 a.m.