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Genes in Cages. Design of Smart Capsules for the Delivery of Macromolecules


This is a 3-year PhD project studentship to start October 2018. The financial support comprises approved College and University fees and maintenance at the standard EPSRC rate: a student stipend of ca. £15k pa and PhD fees for UK/EU nationals. Note that non-UK/non-EU citizens PhD fees are considerably higher. Non-UK and non-EU applicants who wish to be considered for this studentship will either need to demonstrate that they have the funds to meet the shortfall between the Home/EU fee rate and that of the Overseas fee rate, or they will need to submit an application for admission to be considered by the Cambridge Trust for the funds by their deadline. More information regarding applying for admission and the Cambridge Trust is available at the University's Graduate Prospectus: https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/

We are currently recruiting an outstanding PhD candidate for a scholarship from the British Lung Foundation (BLF). The project involves in vitro and possibly in vivo studies of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) as drug delivery systems for cancer therapy, and in particular mesothelioma, in collaborative research between the Departments of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology (Dr. David Fairen-Jimenez), Chemistry (Dr. Andrew Wheatley) and Medicine (Prof. Stefan Marciniak), University of Cambridge.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer that urgently requires the development of new treatments. The aims of this project are twofold. Firstly, to develop more effective drug delivery systems (DDSs) capable of recognizing mesothelioma cells specifically and transporting therapeutic molecules that are toxic to those cells. Secondly, to use macromolecules that can stop mesothelioma cell growth by interfering with the genetic characteristics of the cells whilst not attacking nearby healthy cells.

Recently, nanocapsules made from metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), one of the most exciting developments in recent porous materials science, have been proposed as DDSs. They offer a host of benefits over existing systems. Firstly, their properties can be precisely tuned, making it possible to control their ability to host and release therapeutic agents on demand. Secondly, they can store exceptionally high levels of drug payloads. Thirdly, their exteriors can be coated with antibodies that specifically target mesothelioma cells. Fourthly, they can pass through cell walls and so enter targeted cells, offering unparalleled treatment opportunities. Our objective is to develop a new generation of bio-compatible DDSs with controlled drug release capabilities and excellent mesothelioma affinities.

The ideal candidate should have (or expect to be awarded):

-- A first class UK honours degree at the level of MSci, MEng (or overseas equivalent) please visit: http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk//international-students/international-qualifications to determine if your final grade/mark equates to a UK First) in a relevant science subject (Chemistry, Materials Science, Pharmacy, Biotechnology or a related scientific or medical discipline).

--Experience in cross-disciplinary work, excellent laboratory skills and a hands-on approach to problem solving is also required.

The ideal candidate will have either A) a strong background in the area of drug delivery, microscopy, in vitro studies, etc. or B) a strong background in the area of MOF and organic synthesis as well as characterisation techniques.

This is a multidisciplinary project and the successful candidate will benefit from an extensive peer-group of researchers, as well as acquiring skills at the interface between chemistry, biotechnology and life sciences, that are in high demand in both industry and academia. The successful candidate will be working closely with co-researchers supported by the ERC Consolidator Grant NanoMOFdeli: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/210035_en.html

Sponsor: Financial support for this project is provided by the British Lung Foundation. The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance.

Informal enquiries may be made by email to Dr David Fairen-Jimenez (df334@cam.ac.uk).

To apply for this position, please send the following to at481@cam.ac.uk by Sunday 31 December 2017:

  • Include the vacancy reference number, NQ14229, in the subject line of your email
  • Cover letter (1-2 pages)
  • A detailed curriculum vitae
  • Transcripts and/or degree certificates that include numerical details of grades obtained in relevant examinations/courses.

Late or incomplete applications will not be considered; please ensure you submit your documents in good time.

The successful candidate will be expected to formally apply for admission to the University of Cambridge as a PhD student and meet any conditions of admission set by the University. More information can be found at: http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/

Please quote reference NQ14229 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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