Green Tick: ABPI's New Horizons in Medicine Resources

ASE Green Tick review of ABPI’s updated series – New Horizons in Medicine 

Resource type: online module series

Publisher: Association for British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)

Price: Free

Ages: 5-19



The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has long produced high quality resources to support the teaching of science. Their topics have a focus on biology and medicine, but also cover wider areas of science, as well as PSHE, citizenship and the history of medicine. Topics are allocated to one or more age groups (5- 7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-16, 16+), with most of their resources aimed at older students. For a full list of resources for each age group, please see Table 1 at the end of this review. 

Six resources have recently been updated for the 14-16 and 16+ age groups, which focus on recent developments in biotechnology and medicine. It is this series of six resources that is the main subject of this review. A sample of other resources is also described.

“A recommended site for student research or project work. The ease of navigation, quality of content and standard of presentation encourages students to explore topics in depth.”

New Horizons in Medicine series 

The series consists of six revised modules, each consisting of a poster, and a set of teaching materials that include information, classroom activities and quizzes. The modules are:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cloning
  • Genetic engineering
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Stem cells
  • Unravelling the genome 


Each resource is well matched to published specifications for GCSE Biology (if labelled 14-16) or A-level Biology, but not AS level biology in England. In Wales, the WJEC GCSE Biology specification has sections on cloning and genetic engineering, whilst in Northern Ireland the CCEA GCSE Biology specification has sections on stem cells and genetic engineering.

Although not specified content for the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (, these resources would support Scottish science students required to consider the moral and ethical implications of controversial biological procedures. 

Overseas students studying iGCSE Biology would also benefit from using some of these modules (biotechnology and genetic engineering – Cambridge iGCSE Biology; cloning and genetic engineering – Edexcel iGCSE Biology).  

Content of each resource provides a full introduction to the topic, as well as sufficient additional information and links to enable the subject matter to be studied in greater depth for those interested, or looking for additional background information. 

Style and presentation

  “…this resource provides a richness and depth that is not possible in a modern course textbook.”

Each page of information is well written and easy to access – subject matter is presented in short paragraphs, making good use of side headings, images, animations and spaces to break up the text. The language used is accessible to GCSE students, yet contains information that will help teachers maintain their subject knowledge in this rapidly developing field. The site is easy to navigate, with good use being made of tabs, tags and links. Navigation could be further improved by labelling page tabs with page content rather than page number. 

How can the resource support teaching and learning? 

There is a variety of ways that teachers may choose to use the resource:

  1. A ‘teach yourself’ guide to recent developments in genomics and associated developments in biology, with a specific focus on human health. The end of chapter ‘test your knowledge’ multiple choice quizzes are most useful for individual users working at their own pace through the resource.
  2. A reference resource for teachers to use to update their knowledge of current developments in biology and medicine. Most pages contain links to external sources of further information.
  3. A source of materials and ideas for teaching challenging areas of the curriculum, focusing on benefits and risks of new technology. Good examples include:

These resource ideas could easily be adapted for different contexts.

  1. A recommended site for student research or project work. The ease of navigation, quality of content and standard of presentation encourages students to explore topics in depth. There are links to other topics in the side bar that could easily stimulate further exploration.  The search facility provided is effective – searching for ‘sickle cell’ pulled up 154 hits on the site – top hit was the case study, but other hits were displayed clearly making it easy to identify the most useful references.

Free Posters 

Poster available for download or in print from the Biotechnology module (

Each module provides a poster that can be downloaded from the web page introducing the module, or ordered free of charge from ABPI (postage charged for overseas orders). Animations and diagrams can be downloaded free for non-commercial educational use, subject to usual terms and conditions. 

Biotechnology (14-16 and 16-19)

This poster gives a brief overview of recent biotechnology developments, with a focus on medicine and our understanding of the causes of disease. It would be useful for introducing these ideas at GCSE. It provides a good match to OCR Gateway learning outcomes that cover the medical use of stem cells, use of gene technology and the importance of studying the human genome.   

Cloning (14-16 and 16-19)

Different types of cloning that can be used in medicine, explained clearly through a series of diagrams. 

Genetic engineering (14-16 and 16-19)

The poster provides a simple explanation of the steps involved in genetically modifying a bacterium cell and then outlines different possible uses of the technique in medicine, including the use of CRISPR-Cas9 as a gene editing tool. 

PCR (16-19)

An outline of the basic principles involved in the polymerase chain reaction and a brief overview of five uses of this technology in medicine and forensics. It would be particularly useful to those teaching AQA A-level biology. 

Stem cells (14-16 and 16-19)

The poster distinguishes different types of stem cells, outlining possible uses, but also mentions technical and ethical issues that have slowed their progress as a medical tool. 

Unravelling the genome (16-19)

A summary diagram outlines key stages in eliciting the sequence of bases in a strand of DNA, and an overview of some of the big data-gathering projects associated with the human genome is provided. Of all the posters in this series, this one needs most support from the additional resources provided. 

Other sources of posters that may be of use for use in teaching biology at this level include:

The modules 

Each module has a consistent layout, although the number and variety of pages in each module varies. In the summary of the modules that follows, the page titles are listed and key features of the module are described.

Page layout of the New Horizons in Medicine resource 


        Module pages

What is biotechnology?

        Biotechnology timeline

        Innocent or guilty?

        Gene therapy - hope for the future?

        SCID and sickle cell disease – case studies in gene editing

        Muscular dystrophy – the importance of animal models

        Gene silencing

        Germ cell therapy


The ‘What is Biotechnology’ page introduces many of the ideas that are covered in subsequent modules (genetic engineering, DNA sequencing, cloning, stem cell use, the diagnosis and treatment of disease). Key words are highlighted and they link to a useful glossary that uses current terminology that may not be familiar to some teachers. An example is gene editing - A relatively new alternative term for genetic engineering, also known as genome editing’.

Further pages cover case studies of diseases such as sickle cell, muscular dystrophy, and use of animal models, all of which are relevant especially to GCSE biology, but also GCSE combined science.  


        Module pages

        What is cloning?

        Adult cell or reproductive cloning

        Artificial twinning

        Therapeutic cloning

        Cloning case studies

        Cloning problems

        Cloning ethics

        Cloning summary

        Activity: Cloning – what do you know?

        Activity: Should artificial twinning remain banned?

Different types of cloning are covered in some detail, with good use of diagrams being used to distinguish key features. The resources are not shy of raising ethical and political concerns. I particularly liked the link to a parliamentary briefing paper on mitochondrial disease, which will help reinforce the contemporary and controversial nature of this science. Much of the content is accessible to 14-16 year-old pupils, but some (such as the page on technical problems, which introduces epigenetics and the importance of telomeres) are more appropriate to post-16 classes. The resource provides a balanced view of the implications and uses of cloning, including a useful table of the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques. 

Genetic engineering           

        Module pages

        What is genetic engineering?

        How does genetic engineering work?

        Ways of moving genes

        CRISPR-Cas9: a game-changer

        Genetic engineering: hopes and fears

        Transgenic plants – food for the future

        Gene therapy – case studies

        Gene silencing

        Recombinant hormones

Minimising the risks of genetic engineering

        Ethics, laws and religion

Activity: genetic engineering in the media

Activity: genetic engineering in commercial agriculture

The first few pages provide a clear and informative guide on genetic modification that would be a useful resource for teaching GCSE biology and combined science. Other content (such as CRISPR-Cas9) is more appropriate for post-16 studies, although it is also a useful primer for teachers. The resource contains several detailed case studies that could be modified for different audiences if necessary. A strength of this resource is the highlighting of ethical and religious considerations in the application of new technologies. There are classroom activities provided around this aspect, but I preferred the activities in other resources that involved evaluating statements, as they will be more engaging for most students. The resource includes several Flash animations. 

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) 

Module pages

What is the polymerase chain reaction?

PCR in forensic science

Infection detection

Real time PCR (RT-PCR)

Fighting 'flu

Impact of PCR on medicine

DNA on trial


This resource is appropriate for post-16 study. It outlines the process of PCR and gives details of historical and current cases (such as Ebola) where the technique has contributed to the fight against disease or to the solving of crime. Current developments are explained that allow the rapid diagnosis of disease, including cases of avian flu that affected parts of the UK in 2017. Classroom activities are provided around the impact of PCR in medicine, the development of flu vaccines and whether there should be a national DNA database. These activities challenge students to write opinion pieces for an imaginary audience. I would also like to see activities promoting debate within a class, perhaps by providing some video stimulus material.   

Stem cells                           

        Module pages

        What are stem cells?

        What is differentiation?

        Embryonic stem cells

        Adult stem cells

        Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)

        Therapeutic stem cell cloning

        Using stem cells: the cardiovascular system

        Using stem cells: repairing the nervous system

        Using stem cells: repairing skeletal tissues

        Using stem cells: replacement tissues and organs

        Stem cells and the law

        Stem cells summary

The resource provides a very useful reminder of cell differentiation and protein synthesis before going on to explain the different types of stem cell. Good use is made of diagrams to distinguish the development of stem cells from different sources. The second part of the resource looks at different uses of stem cells in medicine, before going on to look at legal and ethical aspects of obtaining stem cells from embryos in the UK, Europe and US. The resource would be entirely appropriate for use with a GCSE combined science class, either as presented, or for use as a source of information for a teacher producing their own teaching resources. 

Unravelling the genome 

        Module pages

        The secrets of the genome

        Sequencing the DNA

        Try sequencing DNA yourself

        Progress in DNA sequencing

        Genomics and the pharmaceutical industry

        Ethical issues arising from genome sequencing

        Who should know about your genes?

        Quiz – unravelling the genome

The material in this resource is intended for post-16 students, as it involves a complex simulation activity to identify the sequence of bases on a strand of DNA from electrophoresis results. A sense of the speed of developments in this field is made clear as new technologies are described, giving rise to increasing numbers of applications, and new sciences such as computational biology and bioinformatics. Several classroom activities are provided that address different ethical concerns about the use and potential misuse of genomics data.  The quiz is a good check on whether the information provided has been assimilated and provides user feedback on their responses.   


The New Horizons in Medicine series from ABPI is a very useful resource for secondary science teachers – whether subject specialists teaching 16-19 biology, or non-specialists teaching 14-16 combined science and biology. 

The content covers the medical use of new technologies in biology, providing useful updates for teachers, resource material for student research and ideas for classroom activities. Information is current, well presented and easy to navigate. Classroom activities are provided that address difficult-to-teach topics such as ethical, societal or legal concerns. A glossary provides support for technical terms, and good use is made of diagrams, illustrations and animations. 

Each module includes a poster summarising key aspects of the content, useful both as an introduction to the topic and as a revision aid. 

Current textbooks such as Twenty First Century Science GCSE Biology (Oxford) do an admirable job of introducing genomics and biotechnology (including ethical concerns), but this resource provides a richness and depth that is not possible in a modern course textbook. The resource is highly recommended, and well worth any investment made in exploring the range of content in each module. 

Examples of other ABPI resources 

The New Horizons in Medicine modules form part of a large bank of resources that have been published over several years. The following review looks at a sample of those resources targeting different age groups. Other resource materials on the ABPI site cover topics such as virtual tours of industrial laboratories and the history of medicine. A full list of the ABPI modules is provided in Table 1 after this section.

Example of a Flash animation used in an existing resource (Body Builder) 

Where do medicines come from (5-7)

This is a PowerPoint activity for whole class use, telling the story of Ellie who goes on a voyage of discovery to find out about the development of new medicines. It is accompanied by a sequencing activity (with or without text) and is also available in the Welsh language. There is an accompanying poster and teacher notes.

The activity is age-appropriate and would be a useful resource when the need arises to teach the class where their medicines come from, and about the range of individuals employed in this field.  

Solids, liquids and gases (5-7, 7-11, 11-14)

The activity includes a Flash animation, with 12 pages explaining the particulate nature of matter, changes of state and dissolving, reversible and irreversible changes. These can be downloaded, shown full-screen and have multiple controls to allow specific parts of the animation to be played. The intended audience covers three age ranges, but has some content relevant to each of these groups. The teacher’s information page contains links to further pupil activity sheets and teacher guidance, which has been produced in collaboration with RSC. There is an interactive quiz provided. 

Animal habitats (5-7, 7-11)

This is an interactive quiz to encourage pupils to find out more about animals and their habitats. On-screen questions and answers are read aloud, but the introduction and information are quite text-heavy and challenging for children with developing reading skills. A series of worksheets are available in different formats involving anagrams, and cloze sentences. 

Periodic table (11-14, 14-16, 16-19)

The main activity is another Flash animation that appears a little dated in terms of technology and the approach to learning. ABPI are aware of issues with the use of Flash and are taking steps to address them. It is an interactive game format that is relevant to the curriculum, and could be used as extension of revision material which students may find useful in preparation for a test or exam. The worksheets (finding missing names or symbols) support students to interact with the Flash animation and may help them to memorise key elements and symbols.   

Balanced diet (11-14, 14-16)

A brief introductory page describes seven essential food types and introduces the main activity.  This is an interactive animation using Flash technology. Students choose meals for a selected character, and find out the contribution of each meal to an ideal daily amount for a range of nutrients. The animation allows the user to explore the effect of changes in lifestyle and diet.  

Further information is provided for teachers about the animation and there are a number of worksheets in editable and presentation format. The worksheets involve word searches, anagrams of words and word matching. 

The animation was easy to use, but rather text- and graph-heavy. Teachers could use it as a short exploration activity for students in presentation mode or use it in a project-based activity to do some extended work on diets for different population groups. The animation was detailed and factual, and one of the better digital resources that have been produced for schools on this topic. The worksheets are rather basic and undemanding and, although entertaining, would not contribute greatly to the understanding of the importance of diet on human wellbeing.  

Diabetes (14-16)

Eight pages of information, ranging from types, causes and treatment of diabetes to the ethical implications of using gene therapy. Explanations are interspersed with animations, quizzes and voice recordings. This is a useful resource for anyone teaching GCSE. It is well matched to examination specifications and, thanks to the range of interactive features, should be engaging for most students. 

Infectious diseases - immunity (14-16)

Well matched to current English examination specifications, this series of six pages explains immunity, how vaccination programmes can be used to prevent disease in individuals and populations and about the use of monoclonal antibodies in diagnosis and treatment. Explanations are illustrated by animations and there are several graphs provided to develop skills of analysis. 

Nervous system (14-16, 16-19)

Some very useful GCSE content (neurones, reflexes and eye), plus content suitable for more advanced study (impulse transmission, synapses, brain disorders), presented in a concise and clear text, and illustrated by photos, animations and diagrams. There are useful quizzes to check understanding at different points in the resource. 

History of medicine (14-16, 16-19)

The period 8000 BC – 21st century is covered in a series of 14 pages of detailed information on landmark events in medicine, including the contribution of Arabic medicine. Each page includes relevant images and comprehension quizzes. There is a useful page of biographies that includes several women and non-Europeans. This is a valuable research resource and parts (such as vaccination) would be appropriate for younger audiences or their teachers. 

Laboratory and pilot plant tours (14-16, 16-19)

This collection of five virtual tours (using Flash animation) could be used to supplement science teaching in several different areas:

  • Synthetic chemistry laboratory tour – explaining safe working practices
  • Analytic chemistry laboratory tour – explaining the use of complex techniques such as NMR and gas chromatography
  • Chemistry pilot plant tour – the challenges of developing products from initial laboratory findings
  • Automated chemistry laboratory tour – automating the production of new compounds
  • Safety signs tour – finding out more about the hazard signs used in industrial laboratories

Each tour is supported by teacher notes, and some have accompanying presentations and hand outs for students 

Enzymes 16+ (16-19)

A relatively recent module that has good coverage of A level biology specification content including properties, structure, inhibition, sensitivity and uses of enzymes in medicine. Fewer animations or teacher resources are provided than in other modules, making this more appropriate either for student self-study or as a source of material for a teacher to adapt for use in a lesson. 

Table 1

Age group

Module title


 Where do medicines come from?

5-7, 7-11

 Animal habitats

5-7, 7-11

 Animals including humans

5-7, 7-11, 11-14

 Solids, liquids and gases

5-7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-16

 Body builder




 Medicines to treat disease

7-11, 11-14

 Energy challenge

11-14, 14-16

 Balanced diet

11-14, 14-16

 Breathing and asthma

11-14, 14-16

 Diet and digestion

11-14, 14-16, 16-19

 Periodic table


 Beating bacteria


 Cell division and cancer




 Enzymes and their uses


 Homeostasis - blood sugar and temperature


 Infectious diseases - diseases


 Infectious diseases - immunity


 Infectious diseases - medicines


 Infectious diseases - pathogens


 Population growth


 Skin structure and function


 Safety at work

14-16, 16-19


14-16, 16-19


14-16, 16-19

 Genes and inheritance

14-16, 16-19

 Genetic engineering

14-16, 16-19

 Heart and circulation

14-16, 16-19

 Homeostasis - kidneys and water balance

14-16, 16-19

 Hormones and their effects

14-16, 16-19

 Infectious diseases - timeline

14-16, 16-19

 Nervous system

14-16, 16-19

 Stem cells

14-16, 16-19

 Laboratory and pilot plant tours

14-16, 16-19

 History of medicine


Antimicrobial resistance


 Cell biology


 Cell division


 Chemistry of life


 Diabetes 16+


 Enzymes 16+


 How medicines work


 Making medicines


 Pathogens and the immune system


 Polymerase chain reaction


 Unravelling the genome


Green Tick