The medical industry, as well as the relevant health system authorities, are aware of emerging and growing problems, such as unmet medical needs, insufficient patient access to valuable innovative therapeutic agents, and unsustainable or high costs of innovative therapies, which are the cause of inequality in health care. An area that requires a new approach is also the presence of drug residues in the environment. This is because they disrupt the functioning of the ecosystem, including through the development of antimicrobial resistance, while solvents and raw materials used in the production of drugs pollute the soil, water, and air, ultimately leading to a decline in biodiversity. These worldwide problems can be attempted to be solved by emphasizing sustainable drug research and developing innovative therapies that are safe and sustainable by design. To meet these challenges, future leaders in the pharmaceutical industry must be educated in an interdisciplinary manner. The Sustainable Drug Discovery degree program is designed to address such defined needs.
The International master S-DISCO is a 2-year study programme (120 ECTS) in English: 90 ECTS (semesters 1-2-3) consist of face-to-face and online learning and 30 ECTS (semester 4) are dedicated to a master thesis.
The programme is preceded by a one-week summer school at Ghent University, starting with a half-day assessment of the selected candidates (compulsory), in order to help them identify sub-optimal starting competencies. While one unit (i.e. Scientific communication) will be compulsory for all students, 2 additional units will be assigned to each student based on the results of the assessment.nWork on the preparation of the competition application and the opening of the direction was carried out by a project team consisting of Dr. Habil. Anita Kornicka; Dr. Habil. Danuta Siluk, Assoc. Prof.; Dr. Habil. Bartosz Wielgomas, Assoc. Prof. and Izabela Zdrojewska, Ph.D., and the Head of the team is Prof. Michał Markuszewski.
– This is a significant success for the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Medical University of Gdańsk, which is pursuing a unique master’s degree program in sustainable approaches to drug discovery and research in a matched partnership. The universities of Ghent, Groningen, and Lille are world-leading academic centers. The MUG has created an innovative didactic program together with them, providing the most talented students not only with broad paths for modern development but also with financial support for tuition, travel, and living expenses. I am glad that our position as both an excellent research and teaching university has been recognized and appreciated internationally – noted Prof. Marcin Gruchała, Rector of the MUG.
The first semester follows immediately after the summer school at Ghent University and will introduce the students to the broad perspectives and basics of sustainable drug discovery. At the end of the first semester, students will go to Lille for the S-DISCO day, organized at the University of Lille. During this day, students will be exposed to the research activities of doctoral, postdoctoral, and senior researchers.
The programme continues with the second semester when students move together to the Medical University of Gdańsk, where more in-depth courses on e.g. molecular modeling, omics, and green analytics are given.
– It should be emphasized that the creation of the Sustainable Drug Discovery faculty is the realization of MUG’s mission and development strategy both in the area of improving the quality of didactics and developing international cooperation. It also confirms the high scientific and didactic competence of our University’s staff, which is recognized among the academic community of prestigious universities in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. The uniqueness of this field of study on a national scale is evidence of MUG’s leading role in adapting its didactic offer to the current needs of the economic environment, and above all to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The MUG is the only Polish medical university to be included in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2022, ranking in the top 100 global universities (92nd) for Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is good health and quality of life – added Prof. Michał Markuszewszki, Vice-Rector for Science.
The third semester takes place at the University of Lille or the University of Groningen. The different stages in the drug discovery process up to drug development are discussed, i.e. screening, target identification and validation, hit-to-lead, preclinical studies up to first-in-human trials. By selecting the appropriate mobility track, students will be able to become more proficient in certain aspects of drug discovery by benefitting from the specific expertise of the selected partner university.
The final semester is dedicated to the execution and writing of the master thesis. The thesis is performed under the supervision of a lecturer of one of the four consortium universities and will preferentially take place at an international (incl. non-academic) partner worldwide.
The major educational objectives of the S-DISCO programme are to:
– Given the global standing of the universities with which we form the S-DISCO consortium, I see the opportunity to implement a very ambitious program of studies as a great chance to gain experience and establish cooperation in the teaching and scientific fields. The studies themselves are so unique and tailored to current social and market needs that they should attract the attention of many candidates in future intakes. We highly encourage students from Poland to apply. The EMJDM program assumes that a geographical balance is maintained in the distribution of scholarships, so that each year during the period of EC funding for the program (until 2026), two people from Poland can obtain a scholarship from the EC, i.e., take these studies almost free of charge – explained Prof. Bartosz Wielgomas, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy.
The graduates will be trained to find creative and innovative solutions for the various challenges in the pharmaceutical field. Emphasis is on the crucially important discovery phase, taking into account environmental, ecological, and socio-financial sustainability aspects. Workforce shortages exist for almost every position within the pharmaceutical and related industries, and scientists with the skills offered by our master’s program are extremely in-demand by the industry. Moreover, both national medicine-competent authorities as well as international agencies, such as EMA, FDA, or WHO, will look for our high-level graduates. The same is true for civil society organizations, such as NGOs, working in this field. Finally, our graduates will have acquired useful competencies for further academic studies, i.e. Ph.D., thereby deepening the drug discovery field while propagating the sustainability viewpoint in pharmaceutical research and education.
photo: Paweł Sudara/MUG