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(BBSRC DTP CASE) Unlocking the potential of Cucurbiturils: a mechanistic investigation of a new class of supramolecular antiviral

Department of Materials

About the Project

The recent global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused over 28M infections and around 904K deaths globally, at an estimated cost to the global economy of around $8.8 trillion. SARS-CoV-2 is not the first viral outbreak in recent years, nor will it be the last. Alongside vaccine and drug development there is a pressing need for development of powerful and non-toxic “cleaning” solutions in order to allow normal activities to resume.

Typically bleach-based cleaning agents are used as virucides, yet these are only suitable for hard, chemically resistant surfaces and cannot be used where they would come in contact with skin or be inhaled. For the cleaning of textiles (such as bedding, clothes and facemasks) a cleaning agent that does not rely on bleach is needed. Such a non-toxic virucide could also be used in a spray or aerosol form that could be used for either intermittent cleaning or constant, very low-level spraying (e.g. retail outlets, restaurants or public transport). Such an approach would allow for transmission rates to be decreased, restoring confidence, reactivating the economy and preventing further outbreaks.

In collaboration with our industrial partners (Aqdot, Cambridge-based SME), we will develop and investigate novel antiviral agents that are non-toxic. Aqdot produces materials on the 100 tonne/annum scale These materials are not cytotoxic, have been shown to be non-irritant, shown no bioaccumulation, and are safe for aquatic life. These novel antivirals have potential to be the first commercially viable material to be both effective against viruses and kind to people, animals and the environment. Here, these biocompatible virucides will be explored for their mode of action against viruses in the form of fomites and bioaerosols. Even simple solution-based inactivation might have benefits, for example in enabling a safe, non-toxic inactivating Viral Transport Medium.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the project a range of candidates will be considered from different research backgrounds. The selected candidate will be expected to synthesise material and conduct in-vitro virology assays. A keen interest in working alongside, and establishing a good relationship with, industrial partners as well as a desire to learn new techniques will be essential. During placements at the industrial partner, the student will be encouraged to investigate approaches to the application of their findings for societal benefit.

Applications from highly motivated individuals, who are able to work independently as well as part of a larger team and with a strong research background are encouraged.

Entry Requirements:
Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

UK applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Primary Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. International applicants (including EU nationals) must ensure they meet the academic eligibility criteria (including English Language) as outlined before contacting potential supervisors to express an interest in their project. Eligibility can be checked via the University Country Specific information page (

If your country is not listed you must contact the Doctoral Academy Admissions Team providing a detailed CV (to include academic qualifications – stating degree classification(s) and dates awarded) and relevant transcripts.

Following the review of your qualifications and with support from potential supervisor(s), you will be informed whether you can submit a formal online application.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website

Funding Notes

This is a CASE studentship in partnership with Aqdot. Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

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