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Molecular Pharmacology MRes

Key information

Qualification type

MRes - Master of Research

Subject areas

Pharmacy Pharmacology

Course type


Course Summary

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest family of cell surface receptors and are involved in the regulation of nearly every mammalian cellular response. Approximately 34% of all currently approved drugs target GPCRs, making these receptors the most successful drug target in history. Our research is focused on the structure and function of GPCRs and understanding the signalling pathways that are important for different physiological and pathophysiological responses. We employ wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary approaches to take a ‘molecule to behaviour’ approach to understand, validate and then translate therapeutic opportunities by targeting trans-plasma membrane and intracellular signalling pathways. We identify unique small molecule ligands that modulate cellular signalling cascades and exploit these to define both underpinning biology and their effects on disease progression and remission.

We have driven understanding and therapeutic validation of previously poorly understood and ‘hard to target’ G protein-coupled receptors that are activated by metabolic intermediates, particularly fatty acids of varying chain length. We are established as ‘world-leading’ in areas at the interface so created between metabolism and immunity. This has resulted in ‘spin out’ in 2015 of the company Caldan Therapeutics, which garnered £4.5 million in Series A funding, and in Milligan being a finalist in the 2016 BBSRC ‘Innovator of the Year’ competition. Moreover, our expertise in this area has resulted in the establishment of new links to companies including Heptares Therapeutics and Galapagos NV, as well as consolidating links to the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, resulting in enhanced funding and joint publications.

By linking small molecule ligands, the new wealth of information on structural characteristics of G protein-coupled receptors, and a prion-based model of neurodegenerative disease that displays impaired cognition, Tobin and Bradley have unequivocally established that selective activation of the M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor not only improves cognition, a key requirement for any new therapy designed to treat the cognitive decline associated with progression of Alzheimers dementia, but also may actually slow neurodegenerative progression. This work is linked directly to studies being conducted by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. An approach within these studies of generating mouse transgenic ‘knock-in lines of receptors modified to act as ‘Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs’ has not only been integral to these studies but has inspired the group to broaden this approach to the type of ‘hard to target’ G protein-coupled receptors, a concept developed and reduced to practice by Hudson and Milligan for free fatty acid receptor 2.

Different course options

Full time | University of Glasgow | 1 year | SEP-20

Study mode

Full time


1 year

Start date


Tuition fees

UK fees
Course fees for UK / EU students

For this course (per year)


Average for all Postgrad courses (per year)


International fees
Course fees for non-UK / EU students

For this course (per year)


Average for all Postgrad courses (per year)


Entry requirements

Students need Awarded or expected 1st class or high upper 2nd class BSc degree.

University information

The University of Glasgow is one of four ancient universities in Scotland, founded back in 1451. The university is part of the prestigious Russell Group, and is one of only two universities in the UK to be awarded a 5 Stars Plus by the QS University Rankings 2017. Alumni include seven Nobel Prize winners, Scotland’s First Minister and a Prime Minister, while Albert Einstein gave a lecture on the theory of relativity there back in 1933. The...more

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