Welcome from the Program Director

Welcome to the i3DU PhD Programme!

The PhD Programme in Medicines and Pharmaceutical Innovation (i3DU) is a joint initiative of two reference universities in Portugal, the University of Lisbon (ULisboa) and the University of Porto (U.Porto), grouping competences and boosting quality in postgraduate training, in cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry. Both universities will award the PhD degrees (accredited by A3ES) that anchor the i3DU Programme. The consortium is led by iMed.ULisboa, Faculty of Pharmacy at ULisboa and involves the Faculty of Pharmacy at UPorto, and REQUIMTE and IBMC.INEB at UPorto, in close and effective collaboration with Hovione and Novartis as major industry partners. The i3DU represents a strong commitment of academia and pharma in Medicines and Pharmaceutical Innovation training that meets well-defined standards for high quality international PhD training and is in line with the preconized research-innovation-education triangle in Europe.

Students who thrive in our programmes are expected to be passionate about their subject. Many will be recognized nationally for their scholarship, research, and public engagement, and make original and substantial contributions to their disciplines. Our graduates become idea-leaders who drive our global future by advancing discoveries, broadening knowledge, fostering entrepreneurship, and developing new technologies.

At the i3DU, we believe that graduate students greatly enhance the intellectual life of the University, and we are dedicated to helping you succeed in your studies and your research.

Once again, welcome to the i3DU Programme, and I wish you success as you embark on your postgraduate education.


Cecília M. P. Rodrigues

i3DU PhD Programme Director

Fields of Study

The transversal nature of the i3DU Programme in Medicines and Pharmaceutical Innovation is centred in the i3DU paradigm, covering well-defined internationally competitive scientific areas, from target and lead discovery to drug design, development and usage (i3DU), including innovative therapeutics and technologies, safety and regulatory science.

The effective complementarity and synergies between the participant institutions creates an attractive, interdisciplinary and international environment for advanced high quality training in translational i3DU science. The unique organization into fields of study ensures that Programme Faculty and students across the host institutions can share ideas and work together freely and without undue administrative barriers. Faculty members are often involved in more than one field, further increasing mentorship options for students.

Postgraduate Degrees

Both the University of Lisbon (ULisboa) and the University of Porto (UPorto) will award the PhD degree.

Research and Scholarship

The i3DU Programme corresponds to the identification of groups of scientific excellence within the R&D Units, iMed.ULisboa, REQUIMTE and IBMC.INEB, supported by FCT, with competitive funding, relevant infrastructures, and highly qualified human resources. Participant institutions have fully installed capacity to attract and manage research and educational projects through the R&D Units.

A limited number of scholarships will be available from the i3DU Programme, funded by FCT. Additional scholarships will be supported through regular calls for individual fellowships open by FCT, and through the pharmaceutical industry.

Learning Assessment

Scheduled tutorials and regular student progress monitoring is in place to ensure successful completion of the doctoral degree. Particular attention is given to each student personal career development plan and permanent record.

In informal contacts and discussions, the i3DU Programme Faculty helps the first year student plan his/her initial part of the programme. Emphasis is on initial first year core courses, encouraging the student to diversify the courses in i3DU areas. Next, the supervisor and the Dissertation Committee customise the remaining coursework, specializing in one of each i3DU areas, to fit specific needs and objectives, according to the personal career development plan tailored for the individual student.


The truly synergistic and interactive environment envisioned by the i3DU Programme provides students with many competencies, including:

•    Systematic understanding of the i3DU scientific area;
•    Mastering of research methods;
•    Conceiving and implementing research, complying with quality and integrity requirements;
•    Performing original research and disseminating it, through international peer-reviewed publications;
•    Critical analysis of new and complex ideas;
•    Communicating with peers and the society at large;
•    Promoting technology, social, and cultural progress in a knowledge-based society.

Other expected benefits for student training are the effective links of participant institutions and individual research team members in large pharmaceutical companies and SMEs, with thorough knowledge of drug development sciences, and heavy involvement in regulatory science, at the highest national and international levels.


Job positions of former students are distributed mainly in academia (75%), universities and research centres, both national and international, in pharmaceutical and/or biotechnology industry (23%), and in regulatory affairs (2%).

Curricular Structure

By focusing on top quality research, the modular structure of the i3DU Programme is built on a versatile platform of core courses and laboratory rotations, which conforms to the i3DU areas and fits the student’s profile. The design of individual pathways provides doctoral students with knowledge and skills in i3DU, according to their interest and profile. A thoroughly designed Career Development Plan will be tailored to each student background training, career goals, and expectations. The Mentorship Advisory Committee will identify and balance the student’s needs.

The training model proposed alternates advanced training with laboratory doctoral research from the first year. Each student will select 4 advanced training core courses (24 ECTS) and 2 laboratory rotations (18 ECTS). The presentation and discussion of the doctoral proposal (12 ECTS) will be held at the end of the first year. Students’ seminars (6 ECTS) and research leading to the dissertation (180 ECTS) will evolve for the following 3 years, and will include secondments in international institutions or pharma/biotech partners, for periods no longer than 1 year in total

The PhD student and the supervisors, together with the Mentorship Advisory Committee, will identify the best Career Development Plan, including core and complementary training, research, and mobility. Students will be integrated and focused in one of the i3DU areas, but interdisciplinary training options and projects will be strongly encouraged. Complementary courses covering transferable skills are already available at the host institutions or third parties.

PhD students will be officially enrolled in one of the universities associated with the Programme, complying with the specific regulations and policies of each partner. Nevertheless, students will be eligible to all training activities and research facilities, and granted access to job placement platforms, in all participant institutions.

Core Courses

Elective advanced core courses will mostly be newly developed, with emphasis on the integrative and translational aspects of target discovery, drug design, drug development, and drug safety. The courses involve training and complementary self-study, through academy and industry-supplied case studies (existing e-platform), in the following themes:

•    Advanced Drug Delivery;

•    Molecular Biomarkers and Technologies;

•    Biopharmaceuticals and Advanced Therapies;

•    Medicinal Chemistry;

•    Non-clinical Efficacy and Safety;

•    Pharmaceutical Biophysics;

•    Epidemiology Research in Drug LifeCycle;

The modular arrangement allows a particular subset of courses to be followed, within one of the key areas. Core courses will feature researchers from host institutions and industry, together with world-class collaborators. The modular set up of the courses is consistent with focusing in research training.

Laboratory Rotations

Participating institutions and companies will offer projects annually for elective laboratory rotations, with well-defined competencies to be achieved. Students will be stimulated to spend at least one laboratory rotation in another institution of the consortium or abroad, in academia or industry. Laboratory rotations will introduce the student to research through a project developed and presented at the end of the rotation, and will promote interaction with potential supervisors.

Research Project

Research projects proposed by partners will focus on one of the 4 areas of the i3DU, although interdisciplinary projects are commendable. In close interaction with the Mentorship Advisory Committee, the student selects the project and supervisors. At the end of the first year, he/she presents the overall research project and any results before an evaluation panel.


Students will present one seminar/year to promote active student participation, and update on research progress.

i3DU in Numbers

The research team of the i3DU consortium has a strong track record with respect to advanced training in the themes of the Programme including, at international level, the Marie Curie training programmes. This is a distinctive feature of the i3DU, further strengthened by young team members, which are being fully supported to progress as the next generation of leaders in Medicines and Pharmaceutical Innovation.

In the last 5 years, FF/ ULisboa and FF/UPorto awarded over 160 PhD and 230 Master degrees in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, under the supervision of researchers at the host institutions. Currently, ca. 220 PhD students pursue their diploma at FF/ULisboa and FF/UPorto. This number strongly depends on expertise areas of the supervisors and on their ability to draw individual fellowships awarded by FCT (ca. 85%), fellowships in industry setting (e.g. Hovione, Atral-Cipan, Lusomedicamenta, Edol, LEF), under inter-sectorial transfer of knowledge programs, and research projects granted in competitive calls from national and European agencies.

Consortium members have also organized over 200 short advanced training courses in the past 5 years. These have brought together many top universities/institutes and the pharmaceutical industry, and include the pan-European Education and Training Programmes SafeSciMET  in safety sciences for medicines, and PharmaTrain in medicines development. Other examples include the Paul Ehrich Medicinal Chemistry European PhD Network; Cooperative European Medicines Development Course; European Diploma in Pharmaceutical Medicine (EUDIPHARM); DIA Non-Clinical Safety Sciences and their Regulatory Aspects; European Science Foundation Summer Schools (Nanomedicine), among others.