Pharmacodynamics, Biomarkers and Personalised Therapy

Course summary

Pharmacodynamics, Biomarkers and Personalised Therapy


The Pharmacodynamics, Biomarkers and Personalised Therapy course is a one-week module of the MSc in Experimental and Translational Therapeutics. Offered by the Department of Oncology and the Department for Continuing Education’s CPD Centre, the week will be led by Dr Elaine Johnstone, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and will feature face-to-face lectures and tutorials from some of Oxford's leading clinicians and scientists.

The module can be taken as a stand-alone short course. It includes group work, discussions, guest lectures, and interaction and feedback with tutors and lecturers.

Please send me an email about future Pharmacodynamics, Biomarkers and Personalised Therapy courses.

The pharmacodynamic process of drug therapy provides the link between the pharmacokinetic profile and the therapeutic effect of a drug. It encompasses how the drug produces the required pharmacological effect by identifying how the drug is acting, how we can measure that effect and whether there is a dose response. Furthermore it helps us understand how the pharmacological effect is translated into therapeutic effect and identify modifiers of the therapeutic effects in populations.

This module will provide students with the opportunity to learn more about and discuss the following topics:

  • Receptor pharmacology and how drugs act
  • The relationship between pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK:PD) modelling
  • Monitoring and measuring drug effects
  • Biomarkers and surrogate endpoints in clinical trials
  • Biobanks and biopsies - relevance to pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacogenomics: history, utility and translation into clinical practice
  • Recent progress towards personalised medicine


What do students say about the course?


"I liked the diversity and the varied topics which left me wanting to hear more and stimulated more reading. I can say that this is one of the best courses I attended in the last 3 years and it made me consider doing more courses after finishing the Master’s."
Consultant Gynaecologist, Lead Colposcopist and Lead for Gynae Oncology Unit, UK

Programme details

This course can be taken:



We anticipate that this course will be held at the Department for Continuing Education premises in Oxford - either in Rewley House, Wellington Square, or at our Ewert House location in Summertown. The location will be confirmed later in the academic year.


Short course participants who do not wish to undertake the assessed work required for academic credit but who do satisfy the course attendance requirements will receive a certificate of attendance. The sample above is an illustration only, and the wording will reflect the course and dates attended.

Those successfully completing the course for credit can request a CATS point transcript.


Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme.

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system and online courseware. In order to participate in the course, and to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.


Stand-alone short course: £2240.00
Students on the MSc in Experimental & Translational Therapeutics: £1850.00


Potential sources of funding for courses in Experimental and Translational Therapeutics.

Details of funding opportunities including grants, bursaries and scholarships are available on our sources of funding page.


The course fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Course materials
  • Refreshments and a three course lunch on each day of the course
  • Access to the following University of Oxford libraries and services:
    • Radcliffe Science Library
    • Rewley House Continuing Education Library
    • Bodleian Libraries e-Resources
  • Access to facilities from the Department of Continuing Education, including:
    • The Graduate School
    • WebLearn virtual learning environment
    • Wi-fi access through Oxford Wireless LAN (OWL).


Dr Elaine Johnstone

Module Coordinator

Dr Elaine Johnstone is the Deputy Course Director and Research Fellow in the Department of Oncology. Following a BSc in Medicinal Chemistry and PhD in Molecular Pharmacology both from Newcastle University, she gained a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Bordeaux for 18 months. She then moved to Oxford University to continue studying her interests in pharmacogenetics (latterly pharmacogenomics), initially in cancer prevention through smoking cessation. She now leads the Translational Oncology Research Group in the Section of Clinical Pharmacology and her current research focuses on identifying individual differences in genes and proteins which affect response to chemotherapy in bowel cancer, with a view to tailoring treatments more effectively to each patient.

Course aims

The course has been designed to:

  • introduce the concept of pharmacodynamics and how it can be incorporated into modern clinical trial design to improve selection of drug dose and schedule
  • enable students to understand how drugs act and how the pharmacodynamic effect is translated into a therapeutic effect
  • equip students with knowledge of how to monitor pharmacodynamics and critically appraise use of biomarkers and surrogate endpoints
  • enable students to understand and apply pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modelling in early phase trials and dissect population variability in drug response


Teaching methods

The course will be taught by a range of scientists leading these areas of research, and there will be significant time programmed to discuss the scientific and sometimes ethical issues raised by this area of medical research. It will include group work, discussions, guest lectures, and interaction and feedback with tutors and lecturers.

A virtual learning environment (VLE) and access to some of the University of Oxford’s online resources will provide support for those taking the course for credit.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be based on submission of a set written assignment, not exceeding 4,000 words. The assessment is only undertaken by those taking the course for academic credit.

Academic credit

Those wishing to may apply to take the course with accreditation. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. Participants attending at least 75% of the taught course and successfully completing assessed assignments are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS-equivalent points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.


Application deadline: two weeks before the commencement of the course.

We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.

This course requires you to complete the application form and the additional information form below, and submit them alongside a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.

Level and demands

The course will appeal to health professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, including qualified doctors, especially specialist registrars in clinical pharmacology or in training for other medical sub-specialities; clinical research fellows; pharmacists; nurses; graduates working in the pharmaceutical industry or in academic clinical trials.

Selection criteria

To apply for this short course you should:

  • be a graduate or have successfully completed a professional training course
  • have experience in a health-related field
  • demonstrate a suitable level of English (if this is not your first language).