Pharmacology MPhil/Phd/MD

Major code: PXMR/PXPR/PXMD


About us

The Department of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology

The Department of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology (http://www.liv.ac.uk/pharmacology/) provides excellent opportunities for basic and clinical research on drug safety science, immuno-pharmacology, individualized medicines, nanomedicines and HIV (www.liv.ac.uk/pharmacology). The department has state-of-the-art research facilities and we have funding from sources including MRC, BBSRC, Wellcome Trust, NIHR, Wolfson Foundation and the EU. Our focus is on research that is directed towards understanding disease processes, defining therapeutic strategies for intervention, and the scientific basis of drug safety. The ultimate aim of this research is to translate laboratory findings into the clinic for the benefit of patients, the public and the healthcare system.

The department is among the most highly rated for research in theUnited Kingdomand hosts the MRC funded Centre for Drug Safety Science and the Wolfson Centre for Personalized Medicine.

Our research specifically focuses on the following areas:

  • Drug Safety Science - We undertake fundamental clinical and basic research into the causes, characteristics and consequences of adverse drug reactions
  • Pharmacogenetics – We aim to identify the specific differences which cause individuals to respond to drugs differently
  • Immuno-pharmacology -  We undertake basic and clinical research to characterize drug interactions with immune cells and identify novel drug targets
  • The Pharmacology of Infectious Disease – We aim to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the variability in response to HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis therapy.
  • Nanomedicines – We investigate the application of nanomedicines in infectious disease

Institute of Translational Medicine

The Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM) (http://www.liv.ac.uk/translational-medicine) comprises the Departments of:

The overarching themes of Translational Medicine are:

  • Basic studies which define the biological effects of therapeutics in humans.
  • Non-human or non-clinical studies conducted with the intent to advance therapies to the clinic or develop principles for application of therapeutics to human disease.
  • Investigations in humans which define the biology of disease and provide the scientific foundation for the development of new or improved therapies for human disease.
  • Any clinical trial of a therapy that was initiated based on the above.
  • The biology-chemistry “bridge”.

Translational medicine is a two-way street from bedside to bench and back again and also from bench to bedside. This is because not all in vitro and in vivo models replicate human disease. It is only possible to translate high quality basic research. Therefore, it is vital that we have integration of clinical, whole animal and in vitro work. This must be underpinned by strong cellular, molecular and bioanalytical technologies alongside clinical networks. The integration of practical research with theoretical advances is being strengthened by advances in Computational and Systems Biology.

A primary aim of the Institute is to provide the necessary infrastructure, facilities, professional support and environment to foster collaborative research between basic science and clinical science postgraduates. The Institute of Translational Medicine will draw on the established expertise within each Department to foster, develop and enhance translational medicine work streams and projects throughout the Institute as a whole. The Institute has close links with the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) and participates in both undergraduate and taught postgraduate teaching including CPDs.

The Institute runs a comprehensive Master in Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine (MRes) programme with ten research strands (pathways) covering all it core areas.

  • Biology of Cancer
  • Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing
  • Biostatistics (with Health Informatics)
  • Cancer Medicine
  • Cellular and Molecular Physiology
  • Drug Safety
  • Medical Sciences
  • Molecular and Clinical Gastroenterology
  • Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology
  • Nanomedicine
  • Neuroscience
  • Stem Cells, Tissues and Disease
  • Women’s, Children’s and Perinatal Health

All departments in the Institute of Translational Medicine also offer a comprehensive range of MD, MPhil, and PhD programmes both full time and part time in all their core areas (see for detailed programme codes and how to apply under the individual departments).

Dr Dean Naisbitt

The Institute of Translational Medicine provides the opportunity to learn and conduct completely original research that translates directly into clinical care.

What do you consider a postgraduate degree from your department has to offer and benefit a prospective student both within their academic discipline and outside? (For instance, what transferable skills are gained; what knowledge do you consider is applicable to other career paths)?

A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to explore the mechanistic basis of adverse drug reactions. Within the Centre for Drug Safety Science where I work, all students receive training in a broad range of subjects including chemistry, pharmacology, genetics, immunology and molecular biology. The broad range of techniques that a student acquires at Liverpool is particularly attractive to future employers. In fact, many of my past students now work in the Pharmaceutical industry.  

Please describe your research interests and any research projects you are involved with.

My research brings together staff with expertise in drug bioanalysis, protein mass spectrometry, pharmacogenomics and immunology to study the fundamental mechanisms of clinically important adverse drug reactions. As a pharmacologist I have always been intrigued by and eager to understand how drugs – designed to interact with pharmacological targets – bind in a highly restricted manner to immunological receptors and cause serious adverse reactions. My work has helped to define (1) the chemistry and (2) the human biology that underpins immunological drug reactions. I now mean to identify the key factors necessary for the priming of immune cells and the reasons for the susceptibility of individual patients.

What do you see as the significance and impact of your research within your own specialism and beyond (potentially to society at large)?  Do you consider your research to be ‘making a difference’ (improving lives, shaping policy, or expanding the boundaries of our knowledge and changing perceptions)? 

Immunological drug reactions are important because of their severity and they account for many cases of drug withdrawal; they cannot be predicted. The scientific knowledge that we are generating provides important insight into the development of biological assays to diagnose adverse reactions in the clinic, which will help to stratify drug use and predictive screening tools for the pharmaceutical industry.

Who funds or contributes funding to your research – is it a particularly prestigious or renowned organisation or business?  Does your research have commercial potential or application?

Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, European Union and AstraZeneca.

Does pursuing your research involve travel to particularly interesting or prominent places?  Does it involve collaboration with particularly interesting or prominent institutions or organisations?

In the past 12 months I have travelled and presented our research findings at meetings in the USA and throughout Europe. We have active collaborations with research groups in Lyon (France) and Bern (Switzerland) and students travel to each location to share knowledge and experiences.

What skills, qualifications and experience do your students usually have?

Qualifications: A high quality undergraduate degree in biomedical science.

Skills: motivated, dedicated, ready to learn and develop drug safety science.

Is there an academic route that they’ve usually taken before they apply for your programme(s)?

They will normally arrive after an undergraduate and/or masters degree.

What have some of your students gone on to do?

Jobs in academia and the Pharmaceutical Industry. 

What do you love most about the University of Liverpool?

It provides an active research environment to investigate basic scientific questions. The results of which will be of “real” benefit to patients.

Why should prospective students study a postgraduate qualification here?

The researchers (world leaders in basic and clinical pharmacology), the research environment (including the availability of state-of-the-art techniques) and the city.

What are the benefits?

High quality publications in internationally recognized journals and working closely with internationally recognized researchers.

What does your department/subject, in particular, offer a prospective student?

The opportunity to learn and conduct completely original research that translates directly into clinical care.