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Unit Overview


This unit chooses examples of disease where the origins and pathogenesis have now been well revealed by research. It concentrates on drugs and diseases affecting the cardiovascular system, the hormonal systems and the central nervous system (CNS). The unit uses these to develop in students an understanding of the reasoning processes that underlie the discipline of Pathology and which guide drug development. Students learn how understanding pathogenesis reveals targets for developing curative or preventative drugs and how an understanding of established disease allows development of drugs that counter the suffering it brings. Instruction includes examples where the first clue to pathogenesis comes from serendipitous discovery of a chemical, that is a drug, that treats it.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) develop skills in reasoning in pathology and pharmacology, calling on pre-existing knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology and new knowledge in pathology and pharmacology. Specifically, describe, by use of examples, how an understanding of disease reveals targets for drug action at molecular, cellular and tissue levels; (2) by reference to specific examples, describe how disease processes influence the magnitude, direction and duration of drug actions in the body, both beneficial and adverse; (3) by reference to specific examples, describe how disease not only creates targets for beneficial drug intervention but also lays open physiological processes for disruption, leading to adverse drug effects; (4) describe specific examples where disease itself, as well as the genetic and environmental factors that lead to it, dictates drug choice by creating specific drug responsiveness or toxicity; (5) describe the main stages in the process whereby molecules turn into medicines for the specific disease examples studied in the unit; (6) develop skills in the acquisition and communication (both written and verbal) of scientifically robust information on the interplay of pathology and pharmacology in a particular disease process; and (7) further develop skills needed in the execution of simple laboratory procedures relevant to assessing the actions of drugs in disease.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) mid-semester and laboratory assessments; (2) end-of-semester examination; and (3) pharmaceutical innovation workshops. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Philip Burcham
Unit rules
SCOM1101 Introduction to Scientific Practices, ANHB2212 Human Structure and Development, PHAR2210 Foundations of Pharmacology, PHYL2001 Physiology of Human Body Systems, MICR2209 Introduction to Infectious Diseases and Immunology, BIOC2203 Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the Cell, PATH2201 Introduction to Human Disease
PHAR2220 Systems Pharmacology, PHAR2230 Systems Pharmacology, PHAR3310 Molecular Pharmacology, PHAR3311 Molecular Pharmacology Methods, PHAR3320 Systems Pharmacology, PATH3303 Advanced Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, PATH3306 Integrated and Applied Pathology, PATH3302 Pathology: Human Oncobiology, PATH3305 Medical Genetics, PATH3311 Biotherapeutics and Regenerative Medicine, PATH3354 Immunology and Immunopathology
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
practical sessions or pharmaceutical innovation workshops: 2 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.