Successful Student has compiled the 15 Best Drug Design Colleges in the United States. From theoretical speculation to actual clinical trials, there is a broad range of areas to study within the field of Drug Design. Drug Designers often work for pharmaceutical companies, designing medications for treating human and animal ailments. Other potential career fields include pharmacist, biochemist, researcher (e.g. with a pharmaceutical company), and working in academia. A Pharmacist’s duties include dispensing medication, compounding medicine, giving advice on health, and providing immunizations. (It should be noted that not all programs listed below offer the certification or licencing to become a Pharmacist, but only provide the necessary educational background, or may be geared towards professionals already in the field.)
Each program listed below has different emphases in its study, specifically within the realm of research. The common thread between all of the potential career fields and the various programs is the study of the chemical and physical principles of living things and the interaction with foreign chemicals with the hopes of designing useful drugs.
Factors that went in to the ranking include an overview of the schools, their variety of drug design coursework, facilities and related programs, and academic reputation. As always at Successful Student, this ranking is considered from the student’s point of view, and considers factors that would be important to students. Since these colleges offer different areas of research (for example, the University of Minnesota concentrates on HIV drug design) this ranking is meant to be more of a guide to students, showing students who may want to enter this field what their options are. If HIV drug design is of particular interest to a student, then the University of Minnesota would be at the top of this list. Students and readers of this list, feel free to work out your own opinion of which schools are ranked where. Part of the mission of Successful Student is to empower independent thinking.
1. USC School of Pharmacy (Los Angeles, CA)
The School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California was founded in 1905. In general the school emphasizes the area of preclinical drug discovery and development known as the ‘valley of death’. This challenging but necessary area engages students more intimately with the concepts of medical ethics, drug testing on human subjects, and the legal aspects of medicine.
The Master of Science in Management of Drug Development program requires 32 units for completion. Sample courses include Biomedical Commerce, Drug and Food Toxicology, Chemistry Manufacturing and Controls, and Structure and Management of Clinical Trials. Students enrolled full time are expected to complete this program in less than two years.
Drug Design and Discovery faculty members include Dr. James Adams who co-discovered ‘the mechanism of redox cycling of MPTP, the toxic agent that can produce Parkinson’s disease’, Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton Director of the USC Science, Technology, and Research Program, and Dr. Clay Wang who is ‘exploring the mechanism of natural product biosynthesis in bacteria and fungi’.
2. Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
Purdue’s Institute for Drug Discovery was founded in 2013. The Institute is currently managed by over 100 researchers from more than 16 countries all bringing diverse experiences in a vast array of scientific and medical fields, all with an emphasis on drug discovery.
Though innovative projects are encouraged, the primary research strengths as of today (with the majority of faculty support) include oncology, neurological disorders/CNS diseases, and infectious diseases.
Purdue is proud to have more than 40 drugs/agents in development and 17 drugs/agents at the stage of human clinical trials at this time. Over the years, ‘drugs discovered or developed by Purdue faculty have been tested in more than 1,600 research hospitals/clinics around the world’. Other related and/or affiliated centers of research and core facilities include the Bindley Bioscience Center, The Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, the Animal Sciences Research and Education Center, The Purdue Genomics Core facility, the Bone and Body Composition Core, and the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research housed in the Hansen Life Sciences Research Building.
3. Tufts University (Medford, MA)
At Tufts University the Master of Science in Pharmacology and Drug Development is aimed at students with a desire to train in pharmacology, and thereby help to diversify their career opportunities. The program offers various specialization options, including Clinical Investigation, Evidence-based Medicine, and Health Services and Outcomes Research. In addition to a research based thesis, students are expected to complete 11 credits of core courses, six credits of research, and two and a half credits of electives.
The Pharmacology and Drug Development program is available through the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. Located on the same campus is the School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, the Friedman School of Nutrition, and the USDA Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Institute on Aging. The close proximity allows for greater networking and a more multi-disciplinary approach to education and research. There’s a total student enrollment of 240 in the Sackler School and 27 students specifically in the Pharmacology and Drug Development degree.
4. University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
There are two main programs available at the University of Washington in the field of Drug Discovery and Design. The Certificate program requires four courses over four quarters. It should take students 15 months to complete the classes of Molecular Biotechnology, Drug Discovery and Design, Molecular Targets and Drug Classes, and Systems Biology and Bioinformatics. This brief overview is geared towards professionals already in the fields of biotechnology or pharmaceuticals who are looking to advance their careers, or to keep up with current trends.
For students seeking a more in-depth review, the Master of Pharmaceutical Bioengineering program should be considered. In addition to the core curriculum, the Master’s program requires six credits of seminars and ‘one of two advanced track options in Drug Discovery and Design or Translational Pharmaceutics’.
Research centers affiliated with the Bioengineering programs include the National ESCA and Surface Analysis Center for Biomedical Problems, the Center for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics, the Institute of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.
5. Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)
At Georgetown University students may enroll in the Master of BioTechnology program. This 30-credit degree track offers specializations in BioBusiness, BioScience, Drug Design and Discovery, Entrepreneurship, and Industrial Sciences. Without regard to the chosen concentration, all students in the BioTechnology program are required to participate in a capstone internship for direct work experience.
To assist student in obtaining internship, in addition to other networking and research benefits, Georgetown University maintains several affiliations with national agencies and laboratories including the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Livermoor National Laboratory.
Faculty members of the program, and specifically those with an interest in Drug Design and Discovery, include Vasna Nontanovan, Associate Director of the Biotechnology program, Dr. Peter M. Andrews, currently working to improve the ability of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs to induce the apoptosis of cancer cells, Dr. Mary Beth Martin investigating the role of estrogen and its receptors in breast cancer, and Dr. Carlos Suarez-Quian researching testicular function using cell biology methodology.
6. University of Florida, Online (Gainesville, FL)
In 1923 the University of Florida established the Master of Science in Pharmacy degree, and in 2000 was able to offer the degree completely online. There are approximately 980 students enrolled in the online courses through the College of Pharmacy. Currently there are two distance learning Pharmacy programs, the 32-credit Master’s program in Pharmaceutical Science with a concentration in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, or the 15-credit graduate Certificate.
All of the credits from the graduate certificate may be applied towards the Master’s program. Course topics in the Master’s program include Drug Development Strategies, Natural Medicinal Products, and Metabolic Biochemistry. Though all classes are offered online, the program culminates in a three day final exam held on campus. No online doctoral degree in pharmacy is available at this time.
Current director of the Forensic Sciences and Pharmaceutical Chemistry Programs is Dr. Tebbett. His current research interests include ‘the passage of drugs and metabolites across the blood/ brain barrier and the placental barrier, and the subsequent distribution, metabolism and elimination of these drugs’, among other topics.
7. Drexel University Online (Philadelphia, PA)
The Master of Science in Drug Discovery and Development is one of over 140 online programs at Drexel University. A total of 33 credits are required for the completion of this degree. Through core courses such as Applications of Clinical Research Biostatistics, Current Topics in Pharmacology and Physiology, and Research in Drug Discovery and Development, students will receive comprehensive scientific and technical training.
There are 26 areas of specialization within the Drug Discovery and Development program, including Biomarkers, Computer Aided Drug Design, Medical Writing, Pharmacoepidemiology, and Translational Medicine. Examples of relevant elective courses are Cancer Biology, the History of Misconduct in Biomedical Research, Health Policy and Economics, and Animal Models for Biomedical Research.
The six full-time faculty members of the program have a combined experience of 100 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields. Additionally, Drexel University Online maintains partnerships with more than 500 businesses, including numerous health systems, for internships, networking, and potential careers for students.
8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
At the University of North Carolina, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy manages the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry. Founded in 1897, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy is home to 118 full-time faculty members, 611 professional students, and 102 graduate students.
Accredited by the American Council for Pharmacy Education, the School offers a Doctor of Pharmacy, a PhD in Pharmaceutical Science, of a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a specialization in Health-System Pharmacy Administration. Currently the only public school of pharmacy in the state, international partnerships were established with the pharmacy schools at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and University College London, for greater networking and research.
Some of the faculty members of the School of Pharmacy, specifically those with an interest in drug design, include Dr. Stephen Frye, professor and director of the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, and Dr. Bryan Roth, professor and the director of the NIMH Psychoactive Drug Screening Program.
9. Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
The School of pharmacy at Temple University offers a Master’s and Certificate program in Drug Development. In fact, Temple University was the first institution of higher education to offer a Master’s in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, establishing the program in 1968. The Certificate in Drug Development may be obtained as part of or independent from the Master’s degree.
There are four required courses of the Certificate program which offer an introduction to the field: Drug Development, Food and Drug Law, a practice course such as Pharmaceutics, and one elective. All of the courses offered were developed by Temple’s Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs committee, comprised of senior executives from the industry, and may count towards a Master’s degree.
No GRE scores are required, and students may enroll in classes before applying for the Certificate if desired. All courses must be completed within a 3 year period. There are a total of 12 Certificate programs available in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, including Global Pharmacovigilance, Medical Devices, and Biopharmaceuticals and Generic Drugs.
10. University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA)
The history of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the University of the Pacific goes back to February 1955, when the first class was held. After years of growth and dedication, the school now offers numerous graduate and professional degrees in areas such as speech-language pathology and audiology, pre-health science, and pharmacy. The Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences program is available as a Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, or a dual Doctor of Pharmacy/Doctor of Philosophy.
There are five focus areas for students to specialize in: Bioanalytical and Physical Chemistry, Chemical Synthesis/Drug Discovery and Design, Drug Targeting and Delivery, Molecular-Cellular Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Pharmacoeconomics and Health Care Outcomes and Services. Among core class topics, students will also be exposed to industrial process and methodology, statistics and experiential design, and the basic and clinical sciences related to the pharmaceutical industry.
Faculty members of the program include Dr. Alhamadsheh with research interests in Protein-Protein Interactions and Amyloid Beta Aggregation in Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Felmlee with research interests in Drug Transporters, and Dr. Jasti with research interests in Oral Mucosal and Targeted Drug Delivery.
11. University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
Dr. Robert Vince, medicinal chemist, researcher, and holder of over 20 medical patents, founded the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota in 2002. Now the director of the center, one of Dr. Vince’s most notable achievements was the “design of carbovir, a potent anti-HIV/AIDS drug”.
Located in the Academic Health Center of the University of Minnesota, current research areas of the Center for Drug Design include Alzheimer’s Disease, Functional Cosmetic Ingredients, and a Pre-Clinical Study for Cyanide Antidote.
Other cutting edge, state-of-the-art tools provided by the center include the 600 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility, the Agilent Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, several high-performance liquid chromatographs, and most recently the in-house pharmacokinetic laboratory. The center is currently offering a course on HIV Drug Discovery covering the topics of HIV Replication Cycle, Target Selection, Nucleoside and Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, Entry Inhibitors, and Intellectual Property in Drug Discovery.
12. University of Connecticut (Mansfield, CT)
Part of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Connecticut is the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Offering degrees in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutics, and pharmacology and toxicology, among others, it is the medicinal chemistry field which provides a comprehensive overview of ‘structural biology, including the determination of structures of drug targets using X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance.
Current research in the field covers a variety of topics from the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, to understanding the ‘interactions between the cannabinoid receptor and its cytosolic regulatory proteins’. Faculty members with an interest in the field of drug development and design include the head of the department, Amy Anderson. Her research focuses on the ‘use of structural information to design highly potent and selective enzyme inhibitors’. She also serves as chair of the Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resistance Study Section.
13. University of Montana (Missoula, MT)
Previously known as the Graduate Program in Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the newly named Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Design in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Montana offers Master of Science and Doctoral degrees. The goal of the laboratory training received by the students is to design ‘effective new drug therapies while minimizing adverse effects’.
Students are granted up to five year to complete their training. Degree requirements include courses such as Molecular Pharmacology, Advanced Pharmacokinetics, and Biomedical Research Ethics.
Affiliated research centers include the Center for Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, the Center for Environmental Health Science, and the Center for Structural for Functional Neuroscience. Faculty members with an interest in drug design research include Dr. Hélène Bazin-Lee currently focusing on ‘the design and synthesis of TLR agonists and antagonists as therapeutic immunomodulators’, Dr. David Burkhart who’s focus is on the ‘formulation and nanoparticle delivery of vaccines and immunotherapeutics’, and Dr. Andrij Holian, Director of Center for Environmental Health Science.
14. University of Toledo (Toledo, OH)
At the University of Toledo, the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences manages the Center for Drug Design and Development. The current personnel of the center include two medicinal chemistry graduate students, two postdoctoral Research Assistants, two Research Associate Professors, and one Biological Technician.
Areas of research cover Oncology, Chiral Auxiliaries for Synthesis of Enantiomerically Defined Drugs, Molecular Modeling/Statistical Methods, Critical Care and Topical Soft Drugs, and Human Drug Metabolism Database. The center is in close proximity and maintains academic and research partnerships with the Toledo Hospital and St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
Other Centers and laboratories within the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences include the Pharmaceutical Care and Outcomes Research laboratory, the Shimadzu Laboratory for Pharmaceutical Research Excellence, and the Drug Information Center. There is also a Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics which offers a broad range of disciplines including pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacokinetics/toxicokinetics.
15. Rochester Institute of Technology (Henrietta, NY)
Founded in 1829 as a private technical institute, the curriculum at RIT emphasizes ‘career education and experiential learning’. Undergraduate programs prepare students for careers in areas such as Pathology, Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Drug Development, Toxicology, Neuroscience and Genetic Counseling.
Offered through the College of Health Sciences and Technology, the Bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences program, requiring 120 total credit hours, has concentrations in Exercise Science, Genetics, Prehealth Professions, and Premedical Studies/Biomedical Research, among others. This Bachelor’s degree has a Life Sciences core, and a wide variety of electives from which to choose. This undergrad degree is a great precursor to a career in Pharmacology and Drug Design. The student is guided by a counselor in choosing the right electives to take in order to tailor the degree towards a career in Drug Design.
Students in the Biomedical Sciences program are encouraged to participate in the Co-op Program offering ‘hundreds of short-term (10-weeks), full-time, paid opportunities directly related to their career interests’. Such places offering internship experience include the Rochester Regional Health center.
Faculty members of the Biomedical program include Vice Dean Dr. Richard L. Doolittle with involvement in the research areas of biomedical engineering projects in orthopedic rehabilitation and the creation of virtual reality medical education environments; and Dr. Laurence Sugarman, Director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation, Biomedical Sciences Institute for Health Sciences and Technology.