Applications for studentships for our 2019/20 intake have now closed. The below information refers to the 2019/20 recruitment round.
Please find the details of the available projects for the Infection, Immunity and Repair theme outlined below. A full list of our available projects can be downloaded here.
Full project descriptions, including contact details for the lead supervisor, can be downloaded by clicking on the link in the project title.
The effectiveness of prostate cancer therapy varies between patients. This highly interdisciplinary project will examine whether lifestyle factors such as exercise predict prostate cancer outcomes. Specifically, the project will assess the interplay between exercise, immunity, metabolomics and genetics in men with prostate cancer.
Lead Supervisor: Dr John Campbell.
This project will develop a state-of-the-art computational model of cardiac perfusion and tissue remodelling following a myocardial infarction, using data acquired by PET/CT imaging of a novel mouse experimental protocol. The model will form a key part of an in silico tool for developing the next generation of therapies for heart failure.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Andrew Cookson.
Chagas’ Disease, caused by T. cruzi, lacks effective treatment and results in major morbidity in Latin America. A newly-identified allosteric site on a surface enzyme may be a breakthrough. Inhibitor synthesis will be combined with laboratory characterisation, protein structure and computer simulation to target this neglected tropical disease.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Susan Crennell.
Sepsis kills one person every few seconds. Clinical symptoms and current laboratory diagnostics do not allow definitive early diagnosis. This collaborative project aims to address this shortcoming through the development of a novel sensing platform, capable of detecting both pathogen associated and host immune markers of sepsis at point-of-care.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Pedro Estrela.
Biofilms are a major cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and undermine treatment of infections. Working with Public Health England, the student will employ genetic, transcriptomic, and infection-modelling techniques to understand the role of efflux systems in biofilm formation. This will support the development of new anti-biofilm agents.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Brian Jones.
Investigation of a novel polyethylene suture with radiopaque (X-ray visible) marks along its length, intended for direct measurement of strain after suture augmented ligament repair using X-ray imaging methods. The project would be experimental, focused on materials and imaging, but also involve collaboration with orthopaedic surgeons and industry.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Elise Pegg.
Advanced cell-based therapeutics will shift toward personalised solutions where patients are treated as individuals rather than receiving one-size-fits all treatment. To enable this, we propose a highly interdisciplinary project that will lead to an innovative real-time monitoring and control platform for automated stem cell culturing.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo.
The project will describe immune responses to Group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis in children. Quantitative sequencing of T-cell receptors will be established in healthy (GAS-immune) adults and applied to acute & convalescent blood from throat swab GAS-positive children and negative controls. The results will inform the design of GAS vaccines.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Adam Finn.
B cells play a key role in type 1 diabetes (T1D). Using the latest advances in single cell analysis, human B cells from pancreas, lymph node or skin samples of patients with T1D will be isolated, their transcriptome analysed and their immunoglobulin heavy and light chains expressed to allowed autoantibody analysis at the monoclonal level.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Kathleen Gillespie.
10.8 million people in the UK have a chronic skeletal condition; age is a major risk factor. Using live imaging we will test how the cells of the skeletal and immune systems interact in young, mature and aged zebrafish. Using mutants that age prematurely we will test whether manipulation of key signalling pathways can restore regenerative capacity.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Chrissy Hammond.
This project will utilise live in vivo imaging in translucent fruitflies combined with cutting-edge biophysical mathematical modelling, to investigate how epithelial tissues heal wounds and how events might be modulated to improve healing. For translational relevance, these studies will integrate with clinical studies using patient wound samples.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Paul Martin.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen. We have recently discovered that S. aureus membrane protein MasA facilitates expression of toxins that exacerbate disease and protects the bacterium from immune attack. This PhD will characterise this dual MasA function with a view to developing novel therapeutic approaches.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Ruth Massey.
Cytokines play a crucial role in controlling inflammation. The cytokine IL-27 interacts with immune cells and with retinal photoreceptors to protect the eye from damage. This project will use mice deficient in IL-27 signalling to investigate the cytokine’s role in acute autoimmune inflammation (uveitis) and choroidal neovascularisation.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Lindsay Nicholson.
Cancer growth is kept under control by immune cells such as T-cells. New T-cell-based immunotherapies successfully eliminate melanoma in some patients, but the majority of patients show no response. This project aims to determine whether Eph receptor tyrosine kinases enhance T-cell recruitment to melanoma, which could improve patient outcome.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Anne Ridley.
Antibiotic resistance threatens human health. β-lactamases give resistance to β-lactam antibiotics. Some can be countered with inhibitors, which may also halt bacterial growth. We will investigate these differences by simulation and experiment, develop simulation protocols to predict inhibitor activity, and use these to guide inhibitor design.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Marc van der Kamp.
This multidisciplinary project integrates live-imaging and genetics in Drosophila with cutting-edge human genetic epidemiology, to explore the diverse repair mechanisms used by developing and physiologically-active body tissues to resist or recover from ‘stress’ (metabolic, inflammatory and environmental) and explore their links to human disease.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Helen Weavers.
Tuberculosis infects one third of the worlds population. This project will advance the development of a real time (15 min), portable, low cost, simple to use assay capable of diagnosing the disease in remote locations in Africa. This is a unique opportunity to work with engineers, biologists and clinicians to reduce human suffering.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Les Baillie.
γδ T-cells are ‘unconventional’ lymphocytes that regulate immune responses to infection and promote mucosal protection. The PhD student will use gene expression profiling and functional studies using cells from human blood and intestine and in vivo models to define how microbe-responsive γδ T-cells control CD4+ T-cells in health and inflammation.
Lead Supervisor: Prof Matthias Eberl.
Some malignancies can be controlled by immunotherapy, but most colorectal cancers (CRC) remain unresponsive. We have evidence that the immune checkpoint, LAG3, is important in CRC. Using in vivo models and patient derived organoids, the hypothesis that removing LAG3+ T cells will unleash effective anti-CRC immune responses will be tested.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Andrew Godkin.
A novel treatment for haemophilia patients has been associated with thrombosis in small blood vessels in the kidney. This is also found in a rare kidney disorder caused by impaired immune function of blood proteins. This project will determine the mechanisms of this treatment on coagulation and immune system by in vitro tests and clinical samples.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Meike Heurich.
HCMV is one of the most promising vaccine vectors for inducing T-cell responses against pathogens and cancer. However it’s unclear how these responses are induced. We will combine cutting-edge proteomics with molecular virology and immunology to determine how HCMV induces such strong responses, enabling us to generate optimised vaccine vectors.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Richard Stanton.
Natural killer cells (NK) and CD8+ T cells protect us against intracellular pathogens and cancers. This project aims to determine pathways that can drive the growth of particular types of NK and T cells that are optimised to provide better protection from disease. We will use cytomegalovirus and leukaemic cells as systems of analysis.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Eddie Wang.
With the rapid increase antibiotic resistance, alternative antimicrobials are desperately needed. Viruses that kill bacteria (phages) may be useful, but we know little about how these organisms interact during treatment. The project will involve population and genomic analysis of bacteria and phages from patients that have undergone phage therapy.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Angus Buckling.
Misdiagnosis of adult Type 1 diabetes is common, leading to poor treatment. Current available laboratory tests do not allow definitive diagnosis. This clinical research project will improve islet autoantibody testing and inform the best way to use these tests in the NHS, to help patients with Type 1 diabetes get the right diagnosis and treatment.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Angus Jones.
This PhD will investigate, using a combination of experiments and simulations, how old red blood cells are cleared by our immune systems. This has implications for a variety of conditions such as sickle-cell anaemia and thrombosis. Unlike most PhDs, this is a unique opportunity to learn both the modelling and experimental sides of modern research.
Lead Supervisor: Dr David Richards.
Wnt signalling regulates a broad variety of processes during embryonic development and disease. In vertebrates, Wnt proteins are distributed along signalling filopodia – called cytonemes – between cells. The aim of this project is to quantitatively describe Wnt ligand-receptor interactions at cytoneme contact points in vivo.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Steffen Scholpp.
Heart failure currently lacks effective therapies to restore heart function. We will evaluate a new approach to boost heart cell function by modulating the molecular clustering of receptors critical for forceful contraction. We will combine quantitative super-resolution microscopy and stem cell technology to address this important health problem.
Lead Supervisor: Professor Christian Soeller.
Inflammation is common in diabetes and contributes to disease by increasing risk for heart attacks and strokes. In this project, the student will use novel drugs targeting the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway. We will work with Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to determine whether drugs targeting AMPK reduce inflammation caused by diabetes.
Lead Supervisor: Dr Craig Beall.