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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology


Pharmacology lies at a cross-road between natural sciences and medicine. To understand how a given drug acts in the body (pharmacodynamics) and how it is absorbed, distributed and disposed (pharmacokinetics), a detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of the target organ(s) is required in addition to the chemical and physical properties of the drug. Appropriate drug therapy is based on correct diagnosis, insight in pathology, and integration of all biological, psychological, and social factors that influence the course of the disease and the response of patients to the treatment. Toxicology focuses, in addition, on long-term adverse effects and on interactions with the environment.

Teaching of Pharmacology and Toxicology is based on close collaborations with the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University Hospital Zurich, the Science Faculty (Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät) of the University of Zurich, the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (D-CHAB) of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), the Center for Neuroscience Zurich (ZNZ), the Center of Integrative Human Physiology Zurich (ZHIP), and the Center for Xenobiotic and Environmental Risk Research Zurich (XERR).

Overview of lectures and courses in Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy

Given the importance of pharmacotherapy in everyday clinical practice, the teaching of Pharmacology is directed primarily to students of human medicine and dentistry. However, it is addressed also to students of life sciences, including biology, biochemistry, chemistry, pharmacy, psychology, etc.

Human Medicine

Following the new curriculum, Pharmacology and Toxicology is taught during the 3rd and 4th year. A major contribution, focusing on general pharmacology and mechanisms of drug action is given in the Introductory module (“Grundlagenblock). Pharmacology is also taught in each of the modules devoted to major organ systems (Heart, Lung, Kidney, Digestive Tract, Nervous System, Endocrine System, Blood, Infectious Diseases, Oncology, etc.), as well as in the accompanying "Mantelstudium Klinische Medizin" and "Biomedizinische Wissenschaften". Pharmacotherapy is taught to 6th year Medical Students in close collaboration with clinicians of the University Hospital Zurich.


A 28 hour course in Pharmacology and Toxicology is offered to 3rd year students of Dentistry, covering the entire field of general and applied pharmacology, with a major focus on the mechanism of action of drugs relevant for the practice of dentistry (Organisation: PD Dr. Wyss).

Master in Human Biology (Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)

  • BME 305: Experimentelle und Klinische Pharmakologie (in collaboration with the Clinic of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology; organisation Prof. Weber)
  • BME 325: Toxikologie (organisation: Prof. Arand)
  • BME 302: Structure and Function of the Nervous System I (organisation: Prof. Weber)
  • BME 322: Structure and Function of the Nervous System II (Organisation: Prof. Weber)
  • BME 306: Experimentelle Humanstudien in Pharmakologie und Physiologie (Organisation: Prof. Landolt).
  • BIO 333: Vergleichende Physiologie und Pharmakologie des Schlafs (Organisation: Prof. Landolt).

Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Sciences (ETHZ)

Contact: Prof. Ursula Quitterer, ETHZ

Master in Pharmaceutical Sciences (ETHZ)

The Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology contributes to a lecture in Pharmacogenomics and Pharmacotherapy (Organisation: Prof. Detmar, ETH, Prof. Zeilhofer). Projects for Master Theses are available.
Contact: Prof. Zeilhofer

Center for Neuroscience Zurich (ZNZ) 

The following research groups of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology are affiliated to the ZNZ:
PD Dr. Benke, Prof. Landolt, Dr. Patriarchi, Prof. Saab, Prof. Weber, Prof. Zeilhofer

These group leaders contribute to the teaching program of the Center (Introductory course in Neuroscience, Advanced course in Neurobiology, and various seminars and practical courses).