Infection, Immunity & Repair Projects


The details of the available projects for the Infection, Immunity & Repair theme are outlined on this page. You can find other projects on the Neuroscience & Mental Health and Population Health pages. A full list of our available projects can be downloaded below.

For full project descriptions, including contact details for the lead supervisor, click the download link by the project title.

Applications to the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP will be accepted via this online survey until 5 pm on 23rd November 2020. For guidance on the application criteria and decision timeline, please see the information here.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited life-limiting disease. Respiratory fungal infections, especially aspergillosis, contribute significantly to disease progression. Here, we will use clinical mycology, genomics and big data science to study how the genetic determinants of Aspergillus pathogenicity and CF patient treatments interact and impact on disease progression. This will deliver the knowledge of this complex disease required to improve future CF patient care.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Niel Brown 
Institution: Bath


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
Institution: Bath


Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to public health. Its first step is often through signaling pathways that trigger the bacterium’s resistance mechanisms in response to a drug. This project will apply biochemistry, molecular biology and protein modelling to find inhibitors that block signaling and thus prevent activation of resistance.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Susanne Gebhard
Institution: Bath


Biocides are used extensively in healthcare as antiseptics and disinfectants. Working with Public Health England, you will employ molecular, genomic, bioinformatic, and biochemical techniques to answer fundamental questions about the contribution of biocides to evolution of antibiotic resistance and virulence in bacterial pathogens.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Brian Jones
Institution: Bath


Skin cancers can be the side effect of anticancer therapies originally aimed at a different tumour. In this PhD project the student will investigate the role of fibroblasts and immune cells in skin cancer initiation and develop in-vitro/ex-vivo models to mimic the human situation. The project will also address how healthy cells change due to the anticancer therapy and counter-intuitively promote the growth of skin cancers.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Ute Jungwirth
Institution: Bath


Complement plays a major role in defence against infection. How major human pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus resists this element of host immunity is currently unclear. By employing phenotypic, transcriptomic and functional genomic techniques, this project will reveal important virulence factors and underlying gene regulatory networks that promote resistance to complement, offering new targets for future therapeutic intervention.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Maisem Laabei
Institution: Bath


Pregnancy imposes a risk of breast cancer in the mother. Paradoxically if a woman has a first full-term pregnancy before the age of 20, she is protected against some types of breast cancer. This PhD will model the impact of pregnancy on the maternal immune system and susceptibility to breast cancer, using 3D-organoids, quantitative imaging, epigenetic/genome editing and bioinformatics approaches.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Adele Murrell
Institution: Bath


Fungal pathogens threaten our health and kill over a million patients worldwide. In this project, we will deploy cutting-edge 3D chromatin genetics, fungal biology and bioinformatics to better understand how pathogenic fungi sense and adapt to the human host. Our goal is to open novel paths to interfere with fungal disease.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nützmann
Institution: Bath


Many serious diseases (e.g. meningitis, pneumonia, blood/wound infections) are caused by commensal bacteria that are common on the skin or in the guts of healthy people. But what makes good strains go bad? Trained by academics and clinicians (Bath/Bristol/Cardiff), you will use laboratory techniques and state-of-the-art genome analyses to identify pathogenicity genes, strains, and evolutionary forces that cause harmless bacteria to become opportunistic pathogens.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Samuel Sheppard
Institution: Bath


Strong anti-tumour immunity is thought to protect people from developing cancer and limit disease progression in patients. In a randomised clinical trial, and with other mechanistic work, this studentship will use cutting-edge immunological techniques, to examine how inflammation and lifestyle factors, including exercise, influence immune-competency in healthy people and men with prostate cancer.

Lead Supervisor: Dr James Turner
Institution: Bath


Drugs that block cytokine activity have revolutionised the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the ~40% of patients who develop ectopic lymphoid-like structures (ELS) within inflamed joints continue to display severe disease and an inadequate response to these current drugs. The PhD student will use in vivo arthritis models, imaging and cutting-edge next-generation sequencing methods to find new ways of targeting ELS to support precision medicine.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Gareth Jones
Institution: Bristol


Antibiotic resistance threatens human health. β-lactamases cause resistance to β-lactams, the most widely used antibiotics. Some, but not all, β-lactamases can be countered with inhibitors, of which some 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
Institution: Bristol


Chronic inflammatory lung conditions involve self-perpetuating cycles of airway damage, inflammation and infection and affect 400 million people worldwide. Innovative treatments are urgently required, particularly with rising antimicrobial resistance. Using state-of-the-art microscopy and transcriptomics in Drosophila, together with genetic epidemiology, we will explore disease progression in vivo, test novel therapeutic strategies and study links to human disease.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Helen Weavers
Institution: Bristol


B cells play a key role in type 1 diabetes (T1D). Using cutting edge imaging, single cell and NanoString technologies, human B cells from pancreas, lymph node and skin samples from patients will be interrogated and isolated, their transcriptome analysed and their immunoglobulin heavy and light chains expressed to allow autoantibody analysis at the single cell level for the first time.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Colin Dayan
Institution: Cardiff


γδ T cells are ‘unconventional’ lymphocytes that regulate immune responses to infection and promote mucosal protection. This PhD will use gene expression profiling, functional studies on cells from human blood and intestine, and in vivo models to define how microbe-responsive γδ T cells control CD4+ T cell immunity in health and inflammation.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Matthias Eberl
Institution: Cardiff


Immunotherapy of colorectal cancer (CRC) is in its early stages, as the more commonly used checkpoint inhibitors usually do not work. This project will build on the observation that very low doses of cyclophosphamide can act as an immunotherapy controlling advanced CRC in approximately a third of cases. Mechanisms of success and failure will be explored, also employing a unique mouse model.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Andrew Godkin
Institution: Cardiff


The generation of protective antibodies against virus infections is critically dependent on help from CD4+ T follicular helper (TFH) cells which are elicited in response to viruses, such as influenza and SARS CoV-2. However, these cells notably decline when immune responses are over-exaggerated (sepsis). The PhD student will combine core immunological, virological and innovative gene profiling techniques to examine how and why CD4+ TFH cells decline during sepsis.

Lead Supervisor: Dr James McLaren
Institution: Cardiff


The mission of this project is to define the use of nucleic acids as synthetic platforms to unlock the potential of early cancer diagnostics and precision genetic medicines, to expedite clinical advances in cancer treatment. PNA constructs are synthetic DNA/RNA mimics with nucleobases connected via a peptide backbone. This multidisciplinary project will develop new multimodal radiolabelled/fluorescent PNA constructs to image hypoxia specific mRNA expression in vivo.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stephen Paisey
Institution: Cardiff


The host lab studies the adenovirus (Ad), and the basic interactions that underpin infection of host cells. This project focuses on novel Ads and their development as virotherapies for delivery immunotherapies in vivo. Cross-cutting methodologies spanning molecular, proteomic, structural and immunological studies will be employed to define how viruses infect cells, interact with host proteins and can be refined to optimise delivery of immunotherapies in vivo.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Alan Parker
Institution: Cardiff


Disruptive mutations in TBK1 occur in the devastating neurodegenerative disorders Motor Neuron Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia. Despite defined roles in immunity, our understanding of glial functions of TBK1 are limited. To better define glial activity of TBK1 in inflammation, phagocytosis and neurodegeneration this interdisciplinary project will combine high-throughput confocal microscopy of mammalian glia with in vivo disease modelling in Drosophila.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Owen Peters
Institution: Cardiff


HCMV is one of the most promising vaccine vectors for inducing immune responses against pathogens and cancer. However, it’s unclear how these responses are induced. We will combine cutting-edge proteomics with functional immunology to determine how HCMV induces such strong responses, enabling us to generate optimised vaccine vectors.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Richard Stanton
Institution: Cardiff


E. coli is the most important bacterial pathogen in Europe. Sepsis and antibiotic resistance rates caused by E. coli are soaring. We hypothesize that the cause of this is high gut carriage of virulent and resistant E. coli strains. Using the principle of my enemy’s enemy is my friend we will research the use of bacterial viruses to engineer the human microbiome towards non-virulent/antibiotic sensitive strains.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Mark Toleman
Institution: Cardiff


Natural killer cells (NK) and CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) protect us by killing cells infected with intracellular pathogens and cancers. This project aims to determine pathways that drive the growth of types of NK and CTL that are optimised to provide better protection from these diseases. We will use state-of-the-art technologies, unique libraries of viruses (adenovirus and cytomegalovirus) and clinical samples (leukaemias) as systems of analysis.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Eddie Wang
Institution: Cardiff


The fungus Cryptococcus neoformans kills approximately 200, 000 people yearly. Clinicians desperately need better therapies to treat fungal infections. To cause disease, a pathogen requires energy, scavenged from host nutrients. We will study how fungi scavenge food from the host, in a pathway that uses a new gene family that exists in all the major human fungal pathogens. The insights from this project have the potential to uncover a new antifungal target.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Carolina Coelho
Institution: Exeter


This project integrates data science, prediction modelling, genomics and autoantibody measurement to better predict type 1 diabetes. There are emerging interventions that are able to delay onset of type 1 diabetes and this project aims to optimise a prediction model integrating genetic and autoantibody data for a large UK study (the BOX study) to develop a UK type 1 diabetes prediction model.

Lead Supervisor: Professor Richard Oram
Institution: Exeter


This PhD will investigate, using a unique combination of experiments and simulations, how old red blood cells are cleared by our immune systems via phagocytosis. This has implications for a variety of conditions such as sickle-cell anaemia and thrombosis. Unlike most PhDs, this is an excellent opportunity to learn both the experimental and modelling sides of modern research. Full training in both these areas will form an important part of this project.

Lead Supervisor: Dr David Richards
Institution: Exeter


Our expert team of respiratory scientists/clinicians will support and nurture you to become an independent researcher with a broad range of lab skills. We need your help to test novel drugs to re-program the immune system to reduce progression of deadly lung diseases (including COVID-19, which needs no introduction!). You will work with clinical samples, in vitro/vivo models including the use of induced pluripotent stem cells, bioinformatics and advanced imaging.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Chris Scotton
Institution: Exeter

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