Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Theory and Applications of Molecular Pharmacology

UM LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

DESCRIPTION This study-unit provides a comprehensive introduction to molecular pharmacology and its applications in drug therapeutics. It initially covers the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic basis of pharmacology and then goes on to focus on molecular and biochemical aspects of cellular pathways that govern drug action, classes and function of drug targets, and pre-clinical drug development.

This study-unit also presents pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomic aspects of drug actions, with an emphasis on the theory and applicability of such technologies to optimize therapeutic outcomes.

Experimental aspects of molecular pharmacology will be discussed, in order to empower the students with the theoretical background of basic drug response research, as carried out on molecular models. These lectures will discuss experimental approaches, measurable endpoints and data interpretation.

Study-unit Aims:

- To provide an introductory basic understanding of the principles underlying the therapeutic action of drugs with a focus on pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic aspects;
- To provide a general overview of cellular drug targets, and cellular components that influence, or are substrates for drug action;
- To familiarize students with the theoretical concepts and practical applications of pharmacogenetic research; and
- To provide a sound foundation to functional pharmacology molecular-based research, with a focus on experimental approaches and measurable targets.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Explain pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic aspects of drug action;
- Explain the concepts of drug selectivity, potency, efficacy, agonism and antagonism;
- Define pharmocokinetics in terms of absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination;
- Describe the live models used in pre-clinical pharmacology research;
- Discuss the theoretical aspects and practical implications of the genetic influence on drug action;
- Describe the molecular mechanisms of important drug targets;
- Discuss experimental approaches to molecular drug research, with a focus on measurable endpoints and their interpretation with respect to functional drug outcomes.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Apply the basic principles of drug action to experimental design;
- Apply the basic molecular concepts of pharmacogenetics within a research environment;
- Analyse the approaches, strengths and limitations of molecular pharmacology-based research, with a view of applying such knowledge as a basis for experimental research;
- Design a pharmacological assay;
- Analyse experimental data;
- Interpret experimental data in a pharmacological context.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Tozer, T. N. Essentials of Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics. 2nd edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2015.
- Clementi, F. and Fumagalli, G. General and Molecular Pharmacology: Principles of Drug Action. 1st edition. Wiley-Blackwell. 2015.
- Rang H. P., & Ritter, J. M. Rang & Dale's Pharmacology. 8th edition. Churchill Livingstone. 2015.

Supplementary Reading:

Foreman, J. C. and Johansen, T. andGibb, A. J. Textbook of Receptor Pharmacology. 3rd edition. CRC Press. 2010.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Anthony Fenech
Godfrey Grech
Godwin Mario Grech
Janet Mifsud
Vanessa Petroni
Michael Portelli
Charles Scerri


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2022/3. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.