The city of Basel has long been considered the hub of pharmaceutical research in Switzerland. But Geneva is gaining ground in the field of life sciences, with more than 600 enterprises involved in research, development, and manufacturing. To capitalize on this growing centre of excellence, the University of Geneva now offers two postgraduate programmes in clinical research.
New in 2016, the Master of Advanced Studies in Drug Discovery and Clinical Development (60 credits, 12 modules) will join the Diploma of Advanced Studies in Management of Clinical Trials (33 credits, 8 modules), introduced in 2011. Both programmes, proposed by the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Medicine, can be completed in one year, with courses offered between August and June, followed by work on a dissertation.
According to Dr. Emilie Alirol, coordinator of both programmes, the DAS is aimed at people who are interested in a career in clinical research and an entry-level position in a pharmaceutical company or research organisation. It is very much centred on how to plan and conduct clinical trials, which involve testing of drugs and products in humans. The MAS, on the other hand, offers a ‘strategic view,’ for people who want a career in drug development, says Alirol. It is designed for “people who will be leaders in their field.”
The new programme
The MAS in Drug Discovery and Clinical Development is aimed at professionals from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology sector, and international organisations, including medical doctors, pharmacists, scientists, and other professionals wishing to increase their skills and knowledge in the field of drug discovery and development.
In addition to addressing all the important aspects of running clinical trials, the MAS also covers pre-clinical development (laboratory tests before clinical development) and marketing authorisation applications. The programme offers an in-depth understanding of drug and medical devices research and development (R&D). As described on the programme website (http://drugdevelopment.unige.ch), it “covers the entire medical product lifecycle – from molecule to the marketplace – and addresses the scientific, regulatory, and market requirements of successful product development.”
In Alirol’s words, students in the new programme learn how medicines are developed and brought to market: “What are the challenges, who are the players, what is the big picture?”
Building on the DAS
Meanwhile, the Diploma of Advanced Studies in Management of Clinical Trials has produced more than 100 graduates since its introduction in 2011. A student survey conducted in 2014 and 2015 showed that 70 percent of the respondees have improved their professional situation as a result of their diploma. “Maybe they find a new job after a period of unemployment, or they’re promoted, or they have a new job in clinical trials,” says Alirol. “It’s very positive! It shows that the programme really is achieving its objective of boosting people’s careers.”
The MAS and the DAS have eight modules in common. Bioethics, regulatory affairs, clinical trials methodology, project management, and safety, are among the topics taught by more than 40 speakers from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, international organisations, and academia.
For both the Diploma of Advanced Studies and the Master of Advanced Studies it is necessary to have a command of English at the Cambridge First Certificate level.
About 40 applications have been received for the current year – beginning in August 2016 – says Alirol. There is room for a maximum of 25 students in total. Several alumni of the DAS programme are now returning to follow up with the MAS, and it is possible to register for individual lectures on an à la carte basis.
Competition for Basel
Up until now there have only been a few options for studying pharmaceutical medicine in Switzerland, mainly in the German-speaking part of the country, says Emilie Alirol. With its new MAS in Drug Discovery and Clinical Development, the University of Geneva would like to change that.
The Geneva programme has a number of advantages, she says. The first is its small class size. “We favour small groups, where students can interact with their peers. There’s a lot of evidence that this is the best way to learn.” The second advantage is that Geneva’s classes will be hands-on. “We want to limit top-down lectures and favour discussions of real-life case studies.” More than one third of the courses will be practical.
Most of all, according to Alirol, Geneva aims to “create a network of people – alumni, students, teachers – who can actually help those who are looking for jobs, those who wish to change their professional situation. We already post job openings on our network, and we try to facilitate contacts with employers as much as we can. We want to maximize our students’ chances of finding a job.”
Not only do the University of Geneva’s programmes teach students about clinical research, but they also give students a wide range of new contacts. As Alirol points out: “Networking is extremely important these days.”
For further information:
Article by Jeannie Wurz