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Molecules in medicine

This module surveys a prominent area of contemporary medical science: the molecular understanding of disease and its use in the design of drugs to treat different disease states and conditions. You’ll be introduced to a range of drug therapy topics, including heart disease, infectious diseases (including bacterial and viral), cancer, and neuropharmacology. You will also have the opportunity to undertake independent research, culminating in the production of a literature review which is excellent preparation for the MSc project module (S810). 


Start End England fee Register
30 Jan 2016 Oct 2016 £1748.00

Registration closes 12/01/16 (places subject to availability)

Click to register
This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2020.

What you will study

This subject is of fundamental importance in medical therapy, because it enables potential drug intervention strategies to be identified and the drugs to be designed. Such drugs, designed to help the body to cope with transient or chronic disease, can both enhance quality of life and increase longevity.

The module is designed to enable you to develop a broad and balanced appreciation of these areas of contemporary medicine, rather than a detailed ‘professional’ knowledge. You will study two introductory topics which give a broad overview of the key scientific concepts and then study four topics (heart disease, infectious diseases - both bacterial and viral, cancer and neuropharmacology) in more detail.

You will learn

The aims of the module are to:

  • introduce higher-level study of the molecular aspects of drug action, particularly in areas at the forefront of research
  • develop the skills appropriate to study at masters level, so that you can both articulate your understanding of the molecular basis of drug action and apply the same skills to other areas of study
  • develop communication skills using poster presentations and online forums
  • develop the use of IT skills in the interpretation and dissemination of scientific information.

By the end of the module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the molecular principles that underlie the design, development and delivery of drugs
  • describe, with suitable examples, the thinking behind molecular intervention in the treatment of disease
  • explain the medical benefits and assess the risks of using drug therapies described in the module
  • use electronic means of communication and search and retrieve information electronically
  • assess secondary and some primary literature in a given area of medicinal chemistry
  • prepare an extended, cogently argued piece of writing that summarises an aspect of medicinal chemistry
  • manipulate simple mathematical expressions that describe the measurement of drug activity
  • use scientific software to analyse and present data.
Normally you must have completed either this module SH804, SD815, SEH806, S808, S809, S819, or S827 before progressing to the MSc project module (S810) or the MSc project module for MSc in Professional Science (SXB810). Before progressing to the MSc project module for MSc in Medicinal Chemistry (SXM810) normally you must have completed either this module, or S827. 


To register for any of the science masters courses you must normally hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in science or a science-related subject. If you have other study or experience that you believe equips you to study at postgraduate level you can still apply, but must supply evidence of that study or experience. Your case will be referred to our MSc in Science Admissions Panel. For further advice, contact the postgraduate science team.

 You will also need good computing skills (e.g. able to search the Web, use email and use word processing packages).

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for the level of study you wish to take. We strongly recommend that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies you can visit the IELTS website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact us.


S807 is a compulsory module in our:

S807 is an optional module in our:

It can also count towards our Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering (E22 ) and MSc in Engineering (F46) (and M03 which is no longer available to new students). If you have taken this module (or the discontinued S803) as part of the requirements for RSC recognition, you can count it (or the discontinued module S803), instead of the Level 3 options, towards our BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences with Chemistry.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

S807 depends heavily on reading and writing text on computer screens, and much of the material is presented on the dedicated website, including video material. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have seriously impaired sight or reduced manual dexterity, you may find using the web and module-related software challenging. You can obtain more information and advice from the MSc in Science Programme Office. The printed study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully assessable using a screen reader and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The course requires you to access literature resources electronically. If you use a screen reader to access material on screen, you should check that it is compatible with the Open Library's electronic databases and resources before you start the module.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

A dedicated website, two course books, online study guides, printed study guide, DVD, molecular drawing software, online forums.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Electronic communication will be used extensively. All study activities will be completed online.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

There are two interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) which cover the general medicinal chemistry and drug design themes and four tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) which cover the specific disease therapies. One of the TMAs also includes a poster presentation (to be presented online).

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in January 2016. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code S807
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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