Drug discovery and Safety

Broaden your perspective on human disease and medicine

Broaden your perspective on human disease and medicine

From the characterization of molecular causes of pathology to a generation of new therapeutics to treat diseases, from small molecules and proteins to diseases and medicines. If you are fascinated by the idea of developing new pharmacological therapies, then this is the Master’s programme for you.

Challenging and relevant for society
In the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety, you will examine the interaction between molecules and the human body from a range of perspectives: chemical, medical, toxicological, pharmacological and genetic. You will focus on a specialization that suits your specific interests while working in a multidisciplinary environment where you will be challenged to address key questions about the medicines of the future. Sixty per cent of diseases are still incurable, so there are still a great many challenges for researchers to tackle.   


Studenten in het lab

The Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety is a two-year programme worth 120 ECs. During this time, you will take compulsory courses in your chosen specialization, plus a number of optional courses. Your own laboratory research is an important part of the program, which you perform in one of the participating research groups. Moreover, you write a literature thesis on a subject within Drug Discovery and Safety research and you acquire general academic skills.

Programme components

The Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety consists of: 

Programme componentECs
Introduction and advanced courses30 - 42
Major research project24 - 42
Academic skills6
Literature thesis and colloquium6 - 12
Elective space12 - 24
Total120

The exact balance between these components depends on the specialization and profile you choose. You are at liberty to put together your own programme, as long as it reflects the interdisciplinary character of Drug Discovery and Safety. The Master's coordinator will help you choose the proper courses for your individual programme.

Find more information about the Drug Discovery and Safety courses in the study guide. 
An overview of the courses can be found in the Year Schedule.

In the Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety you choose a specialization and a specific profile.

Within the Master's programme you choose one of five specializations:

Drug De­sign and Syn­the­sis
The specialization Drug Design and Synthesis is about chemistry in an interdisciplinary drug context and focuses on computer-aided drug design and organic synthesis of novel biologically active compounds. You will work with state-of-the-art computational approaches and the newest synthesis, purification and compound characterization equipment. Your classes will reveal how to reap the fruits of life science research and will guide you along the way to become an innovative computational designer and/or medicinal synthetic chemist. Uniquely, you can choose to devote your main attention to organic synthesis, to computational design, or to a combination of both.

Click here for a course overview and current research topics of this specialization.

Contact:
If you would like to know more about the specialization Drug Design and Synthesis, please contact the Master's coordinator:

Maikel Wijtmans

  Dr. Maikel Wijtmans
  Phone: +31 20 59 87603
  E-mail: m.wijtmans@vu.nl





Drug Dis­cov­ery and Tar­get Find­ing

In the specialization Drug Discovery and Target Finding (Molecular Pharmacology) you will investigate where and how the biological active molecule of a drug works within the human body. The research focuses on ligand-receptors interactions, signal transduction events, and novel concepts like ligand-independent signaling, biased signaling and receptor dimerization. You will learn concepts of molecular biology and pharmacology and use innovative imaging and biophysical approaches.

Click here for a course overview and current research topics of this specialization.

Contact:
If you would like to know more about Drug Discovery and Target Finding (Molecular Pharmacology), please contact the Master's coordinator:

Marco Siderius

  Dr. Marco Siderius
  Phone: +31 20 59 87564
  E-mail: m.siderius@vu.nl





Drug Dis­po­si­tion and Safety As­sess­ment

In the specialization Drug Disposition & Safety Assessment (Molecular Toxicology) you will study the causes and effects of unwanted and sometimes toxic properties of drugs and substances. The research focuses on elucidating enzymes involved in bio-activation and on reactive metabolites responsible for toxicity of drugs and drug candidates. These studies will make it possible to develop safer drugs and to identify patient risk groups which may develop adverse drug reactions. Among various techniques you will use biochemical and analytical approaches.

Furthermore, new cellular model systems are derived from induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS) (e.g. differentiation into kidney cells) to test drug toxicity and investigate Adverse Outcome Pathways.

Click here for a course overview and current research topics of this specialization.

Contact:
If you would like to know more about Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment (Molecular Toxicology), please contact the Master's coordinator:

Jan Commandeur

  Dr. Jan Commandeur
  Phone: +31 20 59 87595
  E-mail: j.n.m.commandeur@vu.nl





Com­pu­ta­tional Med­i­c­i­nal Chem­istry and Tox­i­col­ogy
In the specialization Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology you will utilize state-of-the-art computational approaches to study new molecules and to predict their properties and interactions with biological molecules. You will explore the fascinating structures of proteins and other drug targets using methods such as molecular docking, molecular dynamics, ab initio studies and free-energy calculations. Even before a molecule has been created and tested, you will be able to predict whether it is likely to have medicinal applications.

Click here for a course overview and current research topics of this specialization.

Contact:
If you would like to know more about Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology, please contact the Master's coordinator:

Daan Geerke

  Dr. Daan Geerke
  Phone: +31 20 59 87606
  E-mail: d.p.geerke@vu.nl





Bio­mark­ers and Clin­i­cal Chem­i­cal Analy­sis
In the specialization Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis you will be involved in the development of new methods for analyzing living cells and finding proteins associated with particular diseases. Or you work on the quick and accurate measurement of large numbers of biological samples, for example to test for performance-enhancing drugs in sport. Another possibility is the development of high throughput systems for the study of interactions between drugs and proteins.

Click here for detailed information on this specialization and a course overview.

Contact:
If you would like to know more about Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis, please contact the Master's coordinator:

Henk Lingeman

  Dr. Henk Lingeman 
  Phone: +31 20 59 87539
  E-mail: h.lingeman@vu.nl





Profiles
You also need to choose for a profile. There are four profiles: research, social, communication and education. Each specialization and profile combination can be tailor-made to your personal requirements. 

You can choose between the following profiles:

  • Research: focuses on Drug Discovery and Safety research. With this profile you gain experience for a career in research, both in the university (PhD) as in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Social: focuses on policy-analysis, management and entrepreneurship. This profile enables you to combine your background in Drug Discovery and Safety with applications or management in industry.
  • Communication: focuses on science communication theory and research, as well as on practice. This profile provides you with special training for a job in science communication. Please note this profile is partly in Dutch.
  • Education: provides you training as a teacher in chemistry for Dutch pre-university level (VWO) or vocational education (HBO) level. Please note this profile is partly in Dutch.

At the initial planning stage of your Master's, you can define your own programme in consultation with the Master's coordinator. Each specialization and profile combination includes a balance between compulsory courses, optional courses and research training. Visit our study guide to find out more about our four profiles.

VU Amsterdam offers a double degree programme for students enrolled in the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety. This double degree programme covers the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The first year of your Master’s you study at VU Amsterdam. The second year you follow courses and perform an internship at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Application

Application for this programme is open to students who have finished Master's programme courses for at least 60 ECs in their first year. Students who pass the double degree programme will be granted a Master of Science degree from VU Amsterdam as well from the University of Copenhagen. Please note this programme is only open for students who have chosen the research profile.

For more information on the double degree programme contact the Master’s coordinator of your specialization.

Graduates in Drug Discovery and Safety have excellent employment prospects and can generally expect to earn a good salary. This Master’s programme opens up a whole range of career opportunities. The most obvious ones are in medicinal research, the pharmaceuticals industry and hospital laboratories, but there are also plenty of opportunities within research institutes and government inspection agencies.

Research
About 50% of the graduates pursues a career in research. Within the university or a research institute, you can be employed as a PhD student. For four years you work on your own research, which will be awarded with a PhD degree. You can obtain a PhD degree on various topics, such as the application of the immune system against cancer or the influence of enzymes in neglected diseases like African sleeping sickness. After obtaining their PhD, many graduates continue their career in research or find themselves in  leadership positions at universities, pharmaceutical companies or in governmental agencies. 

Naturally you do not have to pursue a PhD degree. With your Master's degree you can also work as a researcher at a pharmaceutical company. Employers in the pharmaceutical industry include:

AstraZeneca

Novartis

Merck 

Pfizer  

Johnson & Johnson

Consultant or manager 

With your Master's degree in Drug Discovery and Safety, you can also obtain a job as a consultant or a manager. These jobs can mainly be found in the pharmaceutical industry, the government and in drugs inspectorates. Within this line of work, emphasis lies on management and policy aspects. It is important that you are able communicate with professionals from various backgrounds.

Own business
Being your own boss in the pharmaceutical sector? That is also possible! Pharmaceutical scientists from VU Amsterdam started their own businesses. Take a look at: 

Griffin Discoveries

Iota Pharmaceuticals

Communication
Would you like to become a science journalist or press officer? Or do you want to create an exhibition in a science museum? Entering this line of career is also possible with Drug Discovery and Safety. You combine your knowledge of the pharmaceutical sciences with insights into communication processes. This is how you can make science understandable for everyone!

Education
Would you like to teach or to develop teaching materials? In the second year of the Master’s programme you can follow the training to become a chemistry teacher. With this training you are entitled to teach chemistry or Dutch pre-university level (VWO) or vocational education (HBO) level.

Starters in the pharmaceutical industry earn most
Graduates in Drug Discovery and Safety can expect to earn a good salary. According to employers association AWVN, starters with a university or higher vocational degree receive the highest salaries in the pharmaceutical and chemical sector. University graduates earn an average of over 38.000 euro’s gross per year; higher vocational graduates earn around 32.500 euro’s.

Our alumni

Edith Gelens
"I love the combination of physical and mental labor!"

Edith GelensEdith Gelens (39) graduated in 1997 and currently works as a research manager at Nano Fiber Matrices. 

Research in university and industry

"After obtaining my Master’s degree, I pursued my PhD at the drug synthesis research group of VU Amsterdam Here I could combine two passions: medicinal chemistry and organic chemistry. Subsequently I had two postdoctoral positions in different research groups at VU Amsterdam."

"In 2005 I switched working places to start a job in the pharmaceutical industry. As a researcher at the university I had worked together with several pharmaceutical companies. I wanted to experience the industrial way of working myself and went to work for the pharmaceutical company Syncom. Soon I was appointed as principal investigator of a multidisciplinary research team."

My current job

"In 2011 I switched to my current job. I now work as manager of the R&D department at Nano Fiber Matrices. This biotechnology company operates at the interface of chemistry and biochemistry. We focus on the development of gels (micro-environments) in which cells can grow optimally. The goal with these gels is to produce medical applications."

"The  medical applications we are currently investigating include the development of a gel that withstands tissue scarring after eye surgery and a gel that improves recovery of heart tissue after a heart attack. I am responsible for the company’s research results and the conversion of these results into products that Nano Fiber Matrices can introduce on the market."

"My work is very diverse; I learn new things every day. After collaborating with a colleague, I am now well up in cell biology. It is very nice to see that our scientific results are converted into products that customers need. It is not just science for science, it is very applicable. Since Nano Fiber Matrices is still a small company, I spend quite some time in the lab. I love the combination of physical and mental labor!"

Patricia Baede
"I work at the interface of science, legislation and society"

Patricia BaedePatricia Baede (41) graduated in 1994 and now works as head of regulatory affairs at Kinesis Pharma. 

My first job

"After I obtained my Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences, I started working as a pharmacokinetic assessor at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). I assessed pharmacokinetic calculations of drugs before they were introduced on the market. The information derived from these calculations is important to determine the proper dose of the drug and whether it is safe to take the drug along with other medicines and nourishments."

Switching to a pharmaceutical company

"Some years later I joined the pharmaceutical company Kinesis Pharma. My first position was project manager clinical pharmacokinetics. I made study plans for clinical trials, which ensure the quality of the study and the safety of the volunteers. During the clinical trial, I measured the drug concentration in the blood of the volunteers and I performed calculations with these data. Based on those results, I advised on further development of the drug."  

"Currently I work as head of regulatory affairs. I am a liaison between the pharmaceutical companies and U.S. and European governments. I combine study reports on the development of a new drug.  I coordinate between many different research groups, such as pharmacists, toxicologists, physicians, but also marketing and sales departments. Since instructions on a new drug have to be crystal clear for both the clinician and the patient it is very important to assemble these study reports. I work for different clients on different drug studies, which makes this job very diverse. "

"I find it fascinating that I work at the interface of science, legislation and society. The development of a drug must comply with the latest developments in science and in law. Moreover, the drug has to make a valuable contribution in the treatment of a disease."

Foundation for career

"The broad knowledge I gained with my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Pharmaceutical Sciences has been the foundation for my career. My first job directly followed up on the subject of my Master’s research project. Thereafter I have been able to expand my work field. I am still in touch fellow students and other people I know from VU Amsterdam, as friends or as business relationships."

Ronald Korthouwer
"I gained lots of sales and marketing experience, but the basis remains pharmaceutical sciences"

Ronald KorthouwerRonald Korthouwer (36) graduated in 1998 and currently works as an international product manager at Krka. 

Product manager

"I started my career as a medical sales representative at Servier Netherlands. In this sales job I informed doctors about Servier’s medications for high blood pressure and diabetes type II. I then moved on to become product manager. As a product manager I lead the sales team. Subsequently I joined the company Ferring, as a product manager for urology drugs and later for drugs in gynecology."

Slovenia

"In 2006 I moved to Slovenia, where I spent a year as a consultant working for Entrapharm. When Lek-Sandoz – another pharmaceutical company – offered me a job as international product manager, it was an easy decision! The international role that I could play in this company attracted me tremendously!"  

"Currently I work at Krka, also as international product manager. Krka originated in Slovenia and ranks among the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. At Krka I coordinate the European marketing of antibiotics and drugs against asthma and allergy. I train local product managers, support them and ensure that their performances fit into Krka’s overall strategy. Moreover, I work on the communication strategy of our medicines advantages and communicate this with product managers and customers in all countries where Krka markets these drugs or is planning to introduce them."

International environment 

"The nice thing about my job is that I work in an international environment. It is a challenge to monitor and influence the state of affairs for Krka’s drugs in all European countries. All these countries have different cultures, languages ​​and health systems. I find it very exciting to build relationships with foreign colleagues and with our customers – the doctors who prescribe medications to patients."  

"I give direct advice to the product managers on how they can improve their marketing activities. I also make it possible for countries learn from each other. It is very important to keep a good overview of our complex international environment.  I also train product managers on marketing and product knowledge, which I very much like to do!"

Benefiting from education

"In the past years I have gained a lot sales and marketing experience, but at the basis there was always my pharmacological and medical knowledge. That basis I have laid with my education in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Hence I can continue to work with other therapeutic areas and drug classes. My next responsibility will be the central marketing of Krka's antacids."


The Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety is a unique education: it resides at the intersection of chemistry and life sciences. This Master’s provides you on one hand with broad theoretical knowledge on all aspects of drug discovery and development, through a number of introduction and advanced courses. On the other hand, you become a real expert in one of the drug discovery and development aspects with the specialization you chose.

Specialists who look beyond their own center of expertise

The challenges and opportunities of our era in pharmaceutical sciences ask for bright scientists that are willing to look beyond their own center of expertise. This is exactly how you will be trained with the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety. You will also learn to work effectively in a multidisciplinary team. This way you will be optimally prepared for a career in academic or industrial pharmaceutical research.

Boosting innovation in pharmaceutical research

The multidisciplinary approach of this Master’s has received much appreciation in recent years. Teaching and research are set up in a similar way as in projects in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug Discovery and Safety offers a large number of research projects within the Top Institute Pharma, an important Dutch initiative to further boost innovation in academic and industrial pharmaceutical research.

AIMMS

The Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS) comprises seventeen research groups in pharmaceutical sciences, life sciences, computational life sciences and molecular sciences at VU Amsterdam. By integrating these scientific disciplines, the researchers involved in AIMMS are aiming at the elucidation of molecular mechanisms of diseases, the development of novel and safer drugs, therapeutics and diagnostics. You will utilize the expertise of this institute during your studies.

Studying abroad

Thinking about doing an internship abroad? The Master’s coordinators and other staff members from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences have contacts with renowned research groups all over the world. These contacts provide many opportunities for studying abroad, both within the academic world and the pharmaceutical industry. More on internships and studying abroad.

Double degree programme

VU Amsterdam offers a double degree programme for students enrolled in the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety. The first year of your Master’s you study at VU Amsterdam. The second year you follow courses and perform an internship at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. More information about the double degree programme.

Personal guidance

For your major research internship, a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher will be assigned as your daily supervisor. You can discuss the progress of your internship project and all the questions you have with him or her.

Master’s coordinators

Each specialization has its own Master’s coordinator, who helps you putting together your own personalized Master’s programme. Being assistant and associate professors, the Master’s coordinators are experts in their research area’s and they teach many Bachelor’s and Master’s courses. They are around a lot and can be easily reached by e-mail, phone or in person. Contact the Master’s coordinators.

VU Amsterdam

VU Amsterdam holds a campus at which all Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes are taught. All courses of the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety are at the Faculty of Sciences in the W&N building.

The VU offers modern teaching facilities: multiple libraries, a media library, the digital learning environment Blackboard and computer workstations. VU Amsterdam is located in Amsterdam: a great metropolis in which there is always something to enjoy! Click here for more information about studying at VU Amsterdam.

Overview Drug Discovery & Safety

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 June:
- for students with a Dutch Degree.
1 December:
- students who want to start in February (only possible for VU students Farmaceutische Wetenschappen).
1 April:
- Non-EU/EEA students with an international degree.
1 February:
- Non-EU/EEA and EU/EEA students who also wish to apply for a VUFP grantDutch students.
* * EU/EEA students with an international degree who do not need housing services through Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June. 1 april for non-Dutch students, with an international degree.

START DATE

1 September
1 February, only possible for VU students Farmaceutische Wetenschappen

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

SPECIALIZATIONS

Drug Design and Synthesis
Drug Discovery and Target Finding
Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment
Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology
Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis

FIELD OF INTEREST

Health and Movement
Natural Sciences

Student DDS

Network-based drug discovery to find new targets and make new drug molecules 
Are you interested in investigating the role of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) in cancer and inflammatory diseases using genome and proteome wide analyses? One of the research lines in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry is a systems biology approach to map key cell signaling events and components, in order to completely understand the role of GPCRs in pathological signaling. Besides the identification of new drug targets, this approach will direct in vivo studies to examine and modulate the clinically relevant GPCR-induced signaling pathways.

Moreover, the findings offer new opportunities for the discovery of drugs for GPCRs involved in cancer and inflammatory diseases. Advanced computational techniques are used to propose interesting organic molecules, which are then synthesised by a diverse array of chemical techniques and approaches. Who knows what hidden biological properties these new molecules may have!

Identification of molecular mechanisms underlying rare adverse drug reactions 
Idiosyncratic drug reactions are very rare and severe adverse drug reactions. It is hypothesized that chemically reactive drug metabolites formed by cytochrome P450 enzymes are initiating this process, leading to severe drug-induced liver injury. The Division of Molecular Toxicology is currently investigating the involvement of hepatic enzymes in the cellular balance between bioactivation of drugs and the bio-inactivation of reactive metabolites.

Designing fully automated methodologies
How do you determine low levels of bioactive proteins in complex biological samples? The Division of BioAnalytical Chemistry designs fully automated methodologies which integrate isolation of the target proteins, inline digestion into smaller peptides and highly sensitive analysis of the peptide mixture.

An important part of the Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety is your major research project. You conduct this internship in one of the internationally renowned research groups within the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences: 

During your internship, you will be supervised day-to-day by a PhD student or a postdoctoral researcher. Moreover, a staff member from one of the research groups will be your second supervisor. Your research project will be established in consultation with your supervisors and the Master’s coordinator of your specialization. Please contact the Master’s coordinator for more information.

Examples of research projects

  • Click here for research topics of the specialization Drug Discovery and Target Finding (Molecular Pharmacology).
  • Click here for research topics of the specialization Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment (Molecular Toxicology).
  • Click here for research topics of the specialization Drug Design and Synthesis.
  • Click here for research topics of the specialization Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology.

Internship abroad

Students who chose the research profile have the option to conduct a second internship in a research group abroad. (For this second internship you use the elective space in your Master’s programme.) You can arrange a foreign research internship relatively easily through ULLA, the European Consortium for training in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

ULLA takes the name from the cities of the founding universities of the consortium, namely Uppsala, London, Leiden and Amsterdam. Meanwhile, ULLA has been extended with four more universities: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris, Parma and Leuven. The consortium has grants available for Master’s students from ULLA member institutions who study as exchange students at ULLA partner institutions. Click here for more information.

Moreover, the Master’s coordinators and other staff members from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences have contacts with renowned research groups all over the world. These contacts provide many opportunities for studying abroad, both within the academic world and the pharmaceutical industry.

ULLA, the European Consortium for training in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Master’s students Drug Discovery and Safety who chose the research profile have the option to conduct a second internship in a research group abroad. (For this second internship you use the elective space in your Master’s programme.) You can arrange a foreign research internship relatively easily through ULLA, the European Consortium for training in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

ULLA takes the name from the cities of the founding universities of the consortium, namely Uppsala, London, Leiden and Amsterdam. Meanwhile, ULLA has been extended with four more universities: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris, Parma and Leuven. The consortium has grants available for Master’s students from ULLA member institutions who study as exchange students at ULLA partner institutions.
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Moreover, the Master’s coordinators and other staff members from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences have contacts with renowned research groups all over the world. These contacts provide many opportunities for studying abroad, both within the academic world and the pharmaceutical industry.

Olaf van der Veen chose the specialization Drug Design and Synthesis and conducted an internship at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Olaf van Veen"The science of life has always fascinated me; especially studying chemical approaches that can mimic and influence nature. Within my higher vocational Bachelor’s in Organic Chemistry, both my internships were related to biological molecules. So when I decided to pursue a Master’s degree, the choice for the Drug Design and Synthesis specialization within the in Drug Discovery and Safety Master’s programme was one that came naturally."

Inhibitors against African sleeping sickness

"A variety of courses in the first semester got me up to speed in all pharmaceutical disciplines as well as strengthening my medicinal chemistry knowledge. Thereafter, I started my first internship in-house in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry. Over the course of seven months, I successfully designed and synthesized a line of novel inhibitors against the Trypanosoma brucei parasite: the causative factor for African sleeping sickness.

First I computationally designed a series of inhibitors by modelling them into the target protein. As these inhibitors seemed potent, I subsequently synthesize them in the organic laboratory. This line of compounds has contributed to a major multi-year project aimed at developing new therapies for some of the world’s neglected but very serious diseases."

Working and living in Uppsala

"Another goal of mine was to perform an internship abroad - preferably in Scandinavia - so I could develop my skills cross-culturally. At the previously mentioned first internship, I was fortunate enough to be supervised by a Swedish postdoctoral researcher. She helped me greatly in arranging an internship at Uppsala University. At the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, I synthesized a series of novel inhibitors against HIV-1 proteases: enzymes essential for the virus’ life cycle. These compounds proved to be very potent and might just become future HIV medicine. My results have been published as an addition to the data my supervisor had gathered so far.

It was an amazing experience to work and live in a society different from my own. While my lab consisted mostly of Swedish nationals, I lived in a student’s house on the Uppsala campus with a lot of national and international (Erasmus) students. Together with my flatmates, I had an amazing five months discovering the city in day and night time. In the weekends I got to experience the beautiful and humongous Sweden while travelling by car and train through the countryside.

By working in a new environment with other habits and procedures, I feel like I learned a lot intellectually. Also, I developed myself socially as I got to know people from many different nationalities and cultures, at the VU as well as in Uppsala.

Recently, I graduated and feel the world is at my feet with my diploma and experiences. The Master’s degree in Drug Discovery and Safety has been a significant addition to the knowledge I gathered at the University of Applied Sciences. It provided me with deeper understanding in organic chemistry and broader knowledge in pharmaceutical processes related to my practical work. I am not quite sure what the future holds, but I am positive that this Master’s degree will help me turn it into a bright one!"

Dutch students

The Drug Discovery and Safety programme is open to both Dutch and International Students with a background in a related field. Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

In order to gain admission to the Drug Discovery and Safety Master’s programme, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at a (Dutch) applied university or higher vocational education in some cases also grants access to the programme.

Important: All prospective Drug Discovery and Safety students must have an intake interview to check eligibility for admission with the Master's coordinator. Without the approval of one of the Master’s coordinators you cannot be admitted to the master programme.
Apply for the master programme via Studlink and complete your application in VUnet. After we have received the requested documents, the admission board will decide whether you can be invited for the intake interview. Please note that you cannot have the intake interview, before your application is completed.


Specific Requirements for the Drug Discovery and Safety master’s programme:


•    Students with a Dutch preliminary education
The Master’s programme in Drug Discovery and Safety is open to students:
- with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences / Pharmacochemistry; 
- with a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry; 
- with a Bachelor's degree in Medical Natural Sciences; 
- who have followed a similar programme at another university*; 
- with a Bachelor's degree in a relevant Dutch HBO education*; 
- with sufficient knowledge of the English language (level of Dutch VWO-examination).
•    HLO students
Please visit our website for information on entering the Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety with a higher vocational degree in Laboratory Science (HLO). An English language test is required.  
•    Premaster assessment for HBO graduates
If you are an HBO graduate, you do not have to take a premaster assessment to get admission to the Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety. Instead, the Master's coordinator of the specialization you chose will hold an intake interview with you. If you fulfill all requirements, the Master's coordinator will give you a declaration stating that you do not need to take the premaster assessment. Send in this declaration with your application form. An English language test is required.  
•    Students with an international preliminary education
You can gain direct admission to the Master's programme Drug Discovery and Safety with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences or Chemistry. If you hold a Bachelor's degree in a related subject like Biomedical Sciences*, it is possible that you will first be required to first bring your knowledge up to standard in a number of areas, depending on both the specialization in your Bachelor's and the Drug Discovery and Satefy specialization you apply for. The decision on how you should compensate for any gaps in your knowledge will be taken in consultation with the Master's coordinator of your specialization.

*Similar relevant programmes need to cover the required knowledge stated below for students to be eligible in the Master Drug Discovery and Safety. Mastering of the material highlighted in the matrix is judged by grade(s) obtained for key courses in the respective field. The Master’s coordinator will determine if you meet these requirements.


1. Biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and pharmacology, including techniques such as protein expression, purification, mutagenesis. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbooks Essential Cell Biology (Alberts et al.), chapters 1-16, and Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry (Patrick), chapters 1-18.


2. Pharmacokinetics, enzyme kinetics and pharmaceutical toxicology. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Pharmacology (Rang & Dale), chapters 1-10 & 21-26.


3. Analytical chemistry, including techniques such as HPLC, spectrophotometry, fluorimetry, NMR, mass spectrometry. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Quantitative Chemical Analysis (Harris), chapters 1-10, 17-25.


4. Organic chemistry, including practical laboratory experience with organic chemical techniques. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Organic Chemistry (Clayden et al.), chapters 1-30. For Drug Discovery and Target Finding only chapters 1-4 are expected knowledge. 


5. Physical chemistry. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences. Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula, chapters 1-4.


For the different specializations there are different requirements for the amount of knowledge (+) in the above-mentioned fields, as indicated below. 

Track
1
2
3
4
5
Drug Discovery and Target Finding
++
++

+

Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment
+
++
++
+

Drug Design and Synthesis
+

+
++
+
Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology
+


+
++
Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis
+
+
++
+

General language proficiency requirements

VU Amsterdam requires international applicants and students with a HBO degree, to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.  


Step 1: Meet the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Dutch students or students with a Dutch University degree, please follow: Online application for students with a Dutch University degree

For Dutch degree holders, digital scans of the following documents are required:

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU residents)
  • A transcript of the marks obtained during the Bachelor's programme. 
  • HBO students need to upload and English language test.
  • All prospective Drug Discovery and Safety students must have an intake interview to check eligibility for admission with the Master's coordinator. After you have uploaded all the required documents, please contact the Master's coordinator of your specialization. You can find the contact information below, under the header Contact & Information Days.


Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU Amsterdamto withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option). Here you will find an explanation of the registration procedure and the relevant deadlines. When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

For general information about the Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety, you can contact the study advisor:

Dr. Stefan Dekker
T: +31 20 5987507 
E: s.j2.dekker@vu.nl      


For specific questions about one of the specializations in this Master's programme, please contact the related coordinator:

SpecializationContactPhoneEmail
Drug Discovery and Target FindingDr. Marco Siderius+31 20 59 87564m.siderius@vu.nl
Drug Disposition and Safety AssessmentDr. Jan Commandeur +31 20 59 87595j.n.m.commandeur@vu.nl
Drug Design and SynthesisDr. Maikel Wijtmans+31 20 59 87603m.wijtmans@vu.nl
Computational Medicinal Chemistry and ToxicologyDr. Daan Geerke +31 20 59 87606d.p.geerke@vu.nl
Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical AnalysisDr. Henk Lingeman +31 20 59 87539h.lingeman@vu.nl


Information days
Find out more about the Master's programme and visit our information days.

Click here for the presentation of the previous Master's Day.

Studenten tijdens practica

International students

The Drug Discovery and Safety programme is open to both Dutch and International Students with a background in a related field. Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

In order to gain admission to the Drug Discovery and Safety Master’s programme, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at a (Dutch) applied university or higher vocational education in some cases also grants access to the programme.

Important: All prospective Drug Discovery and Safety students must have an intake interview to check eligibility for admission with the Master's coordinator. Please contact the Master's coordinator of your specialization. Without the approval of one of the Master’s coordinators you cannot be admitted to the master programme.

Specific Requirements for the Drug Discovery and Safety master’s programme

•    Students with an international preliminary education
You can gain direct admission to the Master's programme Drug Discovery and Safety with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences or Chemistry. If you hold a Bachelor's degree in a related subject like Biomedical Sciences*, it is possible that you will first be required to first bring your knowledge up to standard in a number of areas, depending on both the specialization in your Bachelor's and the Drug Discovery and Satefy specialization you apply for. The decision on how you should compensate for any gaps in your knowledge will be taken in consultation with the Master's coordinator of your specialization.

* Similar relevant programmes need to cover the required knowledge stated below for students to be eligible in the Master Drug Discovery and Safety. Mastering of the material highlighted in the matrix is judged by grade(s) obtained for key courses in the respective field. The Master’s coordinator will determine if you meet these requirements.


1. Biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and pharmacology, including techniques such as protein expression, purification, mutagenesis. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbooks Essential Cell Biology (Alberts et al.), chapters 1-16, and Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry (Patrick), chapters 1-18.


2. Pharmacokinetics, enzyme kinetics and pharmaceutical toxicology. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Pharmacology (Rang & Dale), chapters 1-10 & 21-26.


3. Analytical chemistry, including techniques such as HPLC, spectrophotometry, fluorimetry, NMR, mass spectrometry. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Quantitative Chemical Analysis (Harris), chapters 1-10, 17-25.


4. Organic chemistry, including practical laboratory experience with organic chemical techniques. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Organic Chemistry (Clayden et al.), chapters 1-30. For Drug Discovery and Target Finding only chapters 1-4 are expected knowledge. 


5. Physical chemistry. An indication of the expected knowledge is given by textbook Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences. Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula, chapters 1-4.


For the different specializations there are different requirements for the amount of knowledge (+) in the above-mentioned fields, as indicated below. 

Track
1
2
3
4
5
Drug Discovery and Target Finding
++
++

+

Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment
+
++
++
+

Drug Design and Synthesis
+

+
++
+
Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology
+


+
++
Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis
+
+
++
+


General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.  


Step 1: Meet the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Students with an international degree, please follow: Online application for students with an International University degree.

For International degree holders, digital scans of the following documents are required:

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • 2 Letters of recommendation
  • Letter of Motivation (important: the motivation letter should clearly state the chosen specialization)
  • Diploma(s) / statement of expected graduation
  • A transcript of the marks obtained during the Bachelor's programme.
  • Bachelor's or Master's thesis (written in English)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education 
  • English language test 
  • All prospective Drug Discovery and Safety students must have an intake interview to check eligibility for admission with the Master's coordinator. After you have uploaded all the required documents, please contact the Master's coordinator of your specialization. You can find the contact information below, under the header Contact & Information Days. 

Detailed descriptions of the required documents can be found here

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma and submitting the results of your English language test. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU Amsterdam to withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option). Here you will find an explanation of the registration procedure and the relevant deadlines. When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about

Accommodation
emptyVisa
emptyTuition fees
Scholarships

Contact for International Degree Students

For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:

Central International Office
International Student Advisor:
E masters.fs@vu.nl

Important: All prospective Drug Discovery and Safety students must have an intake interview to check eligibility for admission with the Master's coordinator. Please contact the Master's coordinator of your specialization.

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. Among them are:

  • VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP)
  • Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP)
  • Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS)
  • Fulbright scholarship
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Indonesia Endowment Fund of Education (LPDP)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP)
  • Direct Loan Programme 

Information about scholarships, fellowships and grants

For general information about the Master's programme in Drug Discovery and Safety, you can contact the study advisor:

Dr. Stefan Dekker
T: +31 20 5987507 
E: s.j2.dekker@vu.nl      


For specific questions about one of the specializations in this Master's programme, please contact the related coordinator:

SpecializationContactPhoneEmail
Drug Discovery and Target FindingDr. Marco Siderius+31 20 59 87564m.siderius@vu.nl
Drug Disposition and Safety AssessmentDr. Jan Commandeur +31 20 59 87595j.n.m.commandeur@vu.nl
Drug Design and SynthesisDr. Maikel Wijtmans+31 20 59 87603m.wijtmans@vu.nl
Computational Medicinal Chemistry and ToxicologyDr. Daan Geerke +31 20 59 87606d.p.geerke@vu.nl
Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical AnalysisDr. Henk Lingeman +31 20 59 87539h.lingeman@vu.nl


Information days
Find out more about the Master's programme and visit our information days.

Click here for the presentation of the previous master day.

Rosan Kuin

Student Drug Discovery and Safety

Rosan-Kuin
‘I am currently following the track Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology. I chose this master program because of its multidisciplinary character and the many possibilities it offers. In the beginning of the year you will become familiar with the different disciplines of the master with a couple of theoretical courses. Later on, you will focus on your own specialization with advanced courses and you internship(s). I almost finished all of my courses and I am doing a minor internship at a small company. During this internship I am going to investigate whether structural water molecules in the binding pocket have influence on the docking pose of various ligand-protein complexes. I really like this internship and I can put a lot of theory into practice. After graduation I hope to pursue a career in research and investigate the mode of action of new drugs on molecular level.’

Umit Gögcebulak

Student Drug Discovery and Safety

Umit Gögcebulak

'Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by science and the human body. Throughout my bachelor Farmaceutische wetenschappen (Pharmaceutical Sciences) I learned that the human body is something that I still cannot comprehend. Cascades of reactions happening in a cell because a molecule binds to the receptor. So, I wanted to expand my knowledge on this and the master Drug Discovery and Safety was an easy choice for me. However, choosing a specialization was difficult because I liked the whole drug discovery process. Luckily, the compulsory courses in the master contains aspects of all specializations and gives insights in all disciplines of drug discovery; from the computational designing of a molecule to the molecule giving a response in the cell to eventually the toxicology of the molecule in the human body. Not only does the program give you courses in being an all-round medicinal chemist, it also gives you room to do internships and putting knowledge into practice. During the internships, you really get a chance to specialize in a particular subject. After my Master's degree I hope to find a job where I can both practice and teach science.'