Faculty of Biological Sciences

What is an Infection, Immunity & Human Disease Masters?

The need to develop new strategies to combat both infectious and non-infectious diseases remains a major global challenge. This degree aims to enhance the employability of students wishing to work in these areas by providing training in the mechanisms underpinning a spectrum of infectious and non-infectious diseases, together with current and new diagnostic and treatment strategies. You will learn about the latest molecular, genetic and cellular approaches currently being used to understand, diagnose and treat human disease.

The course covers:

  • Mechanisms underpinning human diseases of global significance, including viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and chromosomal abnormalities
  • The role of the immune system in the response to infection and disease, covering topics such as innate and adaptive, immunity, allergy and immune evasion
  • Techniques used to diagnose disease including traditional methods such as PCR and ELISA and novel methods involving genome and proteome analysis
  • Approaches used to treat infections and cancer including drug and vaccine design, gene therapy and novel RNA-based therapy

This programme is suitable for students wishing to progress to a higher research degree (PhD) and for those who wish to enter employment in a higher capacity in industry or in the public sector.

Qualification Master of Science (MSc)
Duration 12 months full-time
Entry requirements Normally a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject, but relevant experience may be taken into account
English language requirements If English is not your first language, please check our minimum English language requirements.
Start date September annually (one intake only)
Admissions policy Download the University taught postgraduate admissions policy
Admissions enquiries Postgraduate Taught Admissions
Tel. +44 (0) 113 343 1418
Email: fbsgrad@leeds.ac.uk
Department Faculty of Biological Sciences
Programme leader Professor Mark Harris
Course brochure Download our Postgraduate Taught (Masters) brochure


The MSc Infection, Immunity & Human Disease programme consist of core research training modules designed to equip students with the expertise necessary to work at the cutting-edge of a modern bioscience sector. These include research planning exercises, methodologies underpinning contemporary bioscience, and an extended research project providing hands on practical experience in molecular biology techniques.

Added to this is an independent research project in an area of infection, immunity or human disease which provides substantial subject-specific training. Specialist taught modules make up the remaining part of the programme.

Note: Students who have previous experience of immunology could opt to study one of the "Other modules" below instead of Advanced Immunology

Taught modules

Specialist human disease and therapy taught modules make up the remaining part of the programme. Download the full module list.

Our teaching

The programme is full-time and lasts 12 months, with teaching activities broken down into three parts:

  • September-December (taught modules including a protein engineering laboratory project)
  • January-March (taught modules and research project proposal)
  • April-September (independent laboratory-based research project)

Students study a total of 180 credits worth of modules comprising of the following:

  • 55 credits of compulsory core research training modules
  • 85 credits of a compulsory research project modules
  • 40 credits of taught specialist human disease and therapy modules

Compulsory Modules

Research Planning and Scientific Communication

This module provides training on how to plan and structure a programme of research from an individual experiment to a programme of work and to communicate research findings in different formats including; literature review, scientific research papers and oral presentations. During the module students write and defend a grant proposal outlining a programme of research to solve a defined research problem and work through a series of interactive activities intended to develop sophisticated communication skills (written, oral and visual). This module is delivered through a series of formal lectures and interactive workshops.

Credits: 10

Advanced Biomolecular Technologies

This module provides an overview of a range of modern techniques and methodologies that underpin contemporary biomolecular l sciences. Five broad areas will be covered: molecular biology, structural biology, cell imaging and flow cytometry, high throughput techniques and transgenic organisms. Specific examples of techniques include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), site-directed mutagenesis and DNA sequencing, protein expression, chromatographic techniques, antibody technology, x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), microarrays, proteomics, bioimaging, flow cytometry and transgenic organisms. The techniques lectures are complemented with demonstrations of a range of research facilities and there are data analysis tutorials linked to some of these sessions. Statistics is also covered as part of this module. In addition, students attend the Faculty research seminars which are delivered by internationally-renowned speakers and attend the annual Faculty PhD symposium.

Credits: 20

Protein Engineering Laboratory Project

This module is an extended practical investigation in the form of a laboratory based project. It provides practical training in a range of modern molecular biology and protein engineering techniques including gene cloning, PCR, mutagenesis, protein expression, protein purification and analysis. Students are trained not only in experimental work but also in maintaining detailed and accurate laboratory notebooks, and presentation of the results obtained in the form of a short research paper.

Credits: 15

Practical Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is an essential tool that is used extensively in academia and in industry to solve a variety of biological problems. This module will provide training in a range of bioinformatic tools including gene sequence analysis and protein structure analysis. The module will emphasise the practical application of the tools in academia and industry and provide hands-on training in using these tools. The module will be taught through a series of lectures, problem-based learning groups and computational practicals.

Credits: 10

Research Project Proposal and Research Project

The research component of the programme comprises approximately half of the degree programme and allows you to undertake a high quality laboratory-based experimental project on a topic related to your course options. This will be original, innovative work that is currently being undertaken in the Faculty and there may be opportunities for projects to be taken outside of the Faculty, with employers in Industry. You will be assigned a research project supervisor who will support and guide you through your project. Overall, you will receive extensive training in experimental design, the practical use of advanced techniques and technologies, data analysis and interpretation as well as substantial subject-specific knowledge through this project. You will communicate your research findings through a written dissertation, orally and in poster format presented at the annual MSc poster session.

Credits: 85

Specialist Modules

Infectious & Non-Infectious Disease

This module will cover the molecular mechanisms underpinning a variety of diseases of global significance including infectious disease (bacteria/viruses/fungi), cancer and hereditary diseases. General themes will be illustrated by specific exemplars - for example diseases associated with infection by specific pathogens, deregulation of signalling pathways leading to cancer, ion channel dysfunction, metabolic disorders, neurodegeneration and chromosomal abnormalities.

Credits: 10

Advanced Immunology

This module provides state of the art research-led teaching focusing on three fundamental topics: Innate Immunity, Adaptive Immunity and Immune Evasion. These are central to understanding the host's interaction with an environment containing a wide range of potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Tutorials will complement this teaching by examining two examples of immune deviation, immunopathology resulting from Allergy, and sophisticated strategies adopted by pathogens to survive in the face of the immune system (Immune Evasion).

Credits: 10

Medical Diagnostics

This module will cover techniques used to diagnose disease and decide which therapies will work best for individuals. Three major areas of human disease will be covered including infectious disease, hereditary disease and oncology. Both traditional and novel methods of diagnosis will be discussed including PCR, immunological testing, FISH, microarrays, sequencing and the use of medical biosensors. In addition the potential of genome and proteome scale analysis, particularly in relation to biomarker discovery and their role in disease diagnostics will be covered. Some of these sessions will be delivered by external speakers and hence will also provide an understanding of how a (industrial) career can be built in diagnostics or pharmaceutical development.

Credits: 10

Treatment of Infectious Diseases and Cancer

This module will expose students to current and emerging approaches to treating human diseases caused by infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi) and cancer. In particular, this module will describe the mode of action and use of therapeutic agents, discuss their successes and limitations, and explore the process by which novel therapeutics are identified and developed. Some examples of therapeutic modalities that will be covered include, drug therapy, gene therapy, immune therapy and RNA therapy.

Credits: 10

Students who have previous experience of immunology could opt to study one of the modules below instead of Advanced Immunology

Drugs, Processes, Products and People

This module covers the structure of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, drug discovery strategies, timeline in the development of a new pharmaceutical product, regulatory framework of the pharmaceutical sector, mechanisms of selected disease and interaction of drugs with the body, routes of drug administration, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics and drug modifications.

Credits: 10

Drug and Chemical Toxicology

This module will introduce students to some important areas of human toxicology. These will include: the actions of some important toxicants on the cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, kidneys, liver and lungs; genetic toxicology and chemical carcinogenesis, and the effects of chemicals on foetal development. At the end of the lecture course there will be an opportunity for students to study either a) environmental toxicology, through discussion of case studies, or b) toxicological methods, including the use of computers to predict chemical biotransformation and toxicity.

Credits: 10

Is the course mainly practical or theoretical?

The course combines theoretical modules with practical skills training. 100 credits out of the total 180 credits that you study will be practical based modules and therefore the programme will provide you with substantial training in practical methods and technologies currently being used to advance the biological sciences. This is through a 15 credit laboratory-based mini-project and an 85 credit laboratory-based independent research project on a cutting edge topic related to an area of human disease and therapy. Our teaching and assessment methods are designed to develop scientists who are able to think independently, solve problems, communicate effectively and demonstrate a high level of practical ability.

Example Research Projects

A selection of project titles offered previously:

  • Structural studies of the Ebola virus nucleocapsid protein
  • How do RNA-switches control Dengue virus replication?
  • Malaria drug target identification
  • Investigating the source of antibiotic resistance genes in MRSA
  • Evaluating the effect of membrane phospholipid composition on the antimicrobial activity of the antibiotic daptomycin
  • Investigating the ability of HIV Nef to modulate cellular Ion channels
  • Mechanism of manipulation of host brains by Toxoplasma parasites
  • The role of human papillomaviruses in head and neck squamous cell cancer
  • Understanding how Haemophilus influenzae evades the immune system
  • The effects of dietary aflatoxins on the immune status of West African children
  • Targeting the functions of the HPV 16 oncoproteins with RNA aptamers
  • SCN1A sodium channel and epilepsy
  • Prevention of neuronal cell death with a novel channel inhibitor
  • Plant polyphenols as antihypertensive inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)
  • Novel molecules for that induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells
  • Oxidation of CaMKII in health & disease
  • Identification of melatonin polymorphisms In relation to vascular disease
  • Ionic signals in cancer cell invasion during hyperglycaemia

Visit the Why Leeds pages for an overview of the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

Please be aware that course details do change from time to time...

... If in doubt, please contact us to verify course content and availability. Whilst the University endeavours to ensure that the information on this website is accurate at the date of publication it does not accept liability for any inaccuracies. The University reserves the right to change or cancel its courses or services at any time without liability even after students have registered at the University. The University's contract with its students does not confer third party benefits for the purposes of Contracts (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Teaching - An outstanding scientific education

We provide students with the very best learning resources and academic support possible, and our teaching draws on the world class research base of the University of Leeds and highly-qualified professionals from industry, non-government organisations and charities.

All our Masters programmes contain core skills courses, specialised subject-specific courses and research projects. Plus our more ecological Masters programmes contain field courses. Very few of our courses contain unseen examinations, and most are assessed entirely by continual assessment exercises.

Core Skills

Our core skills courses include topics that enable you to learn efficiently, to improve your study and research skills and to perform well in the world of work after graduation (e.g. communication skills, professional development, enterprise, experimental planning). They also give you the skills needed to cope with the subject-specific courses and your independent research project (e.g. practical techniques in molecular biology in the MSc Bioscience programmes, use of statistics in ecological research in the MSc/MRes Biodiversity and Conservation programmes). They are all taught in a very practical way, with exercises carried out in our modern, well-equipped laboratories, in the field or on computer, and with additional teaching in workshops and seminars.

Specialist Modules

These cover the entire range of subjects within the programmes that we offer. We teach across a range of areas, from molecular biology and microbiology to whole systems biology and ecology. Specialist modules range from " Topics in Cancer Biology" in MSc Human Disease and Therapy and "Computational Biology of Genomic Systems" in MSc Bioinformatics and Genomics to "Habitat Restoration" on our Biodiversity and Conservation programmes. Module information appears under the "course structure" tab for each individual programme.


All our Masters students carry out at least one original research project. The entire period from May to September is devoted to project work, and students are able to work with professional research groups within the faculty, many of them internationally renowned. The projects are carried out within our superbly equipped research laboratories, in industrial research laboratories or in the field.

Field research projects are undertaken by students on the Biodiversity and Conservation programmes and are often in association with conservation bodies and government agencies. Approximately half the projects are carried out in the UK, the rest overseas - from Ecuador to Indonesia and New Zealand to the Azores.

Independently reviewed teaching standards

The standard of our teaching is very high, as is expected of a leading “Russell Group” university. UK universities operate a system of external examiners to ensure standards are maintained, and all of our Masters programmes have an external examiner from another university. We are subjected to regular audit of our teaching standards called the Student Academic Experience Review. There are also regular meetings of a Student:Staff Forum, where student representatives from each of the degree programmes can raise issues with staff, and our modules are assessed by student feedback.

Student Support

All our students are assigned a personal tutor to guide them during their time at Leeds. The programme leader is also responsible for helping students achieve their academic goals. The staff in the Student Education Office give a friendly welcome to all our new students, and help them feel at home when they arrive here.