MEDSCI 700 : Drug Discovery Biology

Medical and Health Sciences

2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Reviews recent studies on the use of chemical and genetic methods to characterise the role of proteins in disease and their potential as drug targets. Topics will include proteins involved in regulation of immune response, lipid mediated cell signalling pathways, drug-protein interactions, some discovery methods, and pre-clinical studies on mechanism of action.

Course Overview

To provide students with an in-depth understanding of the early phases of drug discovery. Specifically, the role of genetic, pharmacological and chemical biology research in drug target discovery will be covered along with some of the processes involved in the discovery and design of new drugs. Students will be provided with current examples of approved drugs or emerging drug targets, and a “hands on” experience in a computer based drug discovery workshop.

A sound understanding of molecular pharmacology and either medicinal chemistry or protein structure and function is highly recommended.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Course directors
Assoc. Prof. Jack Flanagan (Dept of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology and Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre)

Dr Julie Spicer (Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre)

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically review and assess pharmacology, chemical biology and drug discovery literature (Capability 1, 2 and 5)
  2. Identify and discuss chemical, pharmacological and genetic methods and data in drug and drug target characterisation (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  3. Describe and apply the properties of an effective drug target and its drug (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of of topic specific knowledge using the "druggability" concept (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)
  5. Learn and apply drug discovery theory to a drug target by virtual screening (Capability 1, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essay 40% Individual Coursework
Presentations 35% Individual Coursework
Discussions 5% Individual Coursework
Assignment 20% Group & Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
A minimum of 50% is required to pass this course

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 150 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 24 hours of lectures, and 126 hours of self-guided work on assignments, presentations and essay preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including workshops/labs/tutorials to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including workshops/tutorials/labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will include some live online events including group discussions/presentations.
Attendance on campus is not required for the test.
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.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester 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 and respond with summaries and actions.

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

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Students taking MEDSCI 700 find a high level of satisfaction with this course. The 2023 edition of MEDSCI 700 will lead off its lectures with student presentations, and a new "hands-on" computer-based drug discovery workshops will be available.

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.

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 01/11/2022 10:04 a.m.