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Designing novel composite polysaccharide nanoparticles for combined diagnosis and treatment of cancers

Project Description

Cancer continues to impose a vast burden with regard to financial costs as well as human suffering but the progress in its treatment is hindered by the limited selectivity and significant side-effects that the current chemotherapy demonstrates, representing a major challenge for modern drug delivery.

Current research addressing systemic delivery of actives to cancer tissues focuses on non-invasive strategies, with the use of colloidal drug carriers (finely dispersed particulates such as liposomes and nanoparticles that offer the advantage of easy conjugation with various ligands) demonstrating to be a very promising approach. As colloidal systems play an increasingly important role in pharmacy and medicine, their design, manipulation and usage require an interdisciplinary approach that brings together fundamental concepts of chemistry, materials science, engineering, pharmacy and biology.

The proposed work programme aims to develop a range of novel core-shell nanoparticulate systems that will be investigated for their applicative potential in cancer therapy and biomedical imaging. A range of nanoparticulates based on biocompatible and biodegradable modified polysaccharides in combination with inorganic components (such as gold and/or super-paramagnetic metal oxides) will be prepared and fully characterized using a range of advanced techniques (detailed below). Their biological interaction with animal/human cells will be explored in vitro and the results will feed back into the design process before further possible testing in vivo.

The experimental work will be carried out mainly in the laboratories of the Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Research Group, Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences. The student will be trained in a number of lab techniques including synthetic/pharmaceutical chemistry, material characterisation and analytical techniques (such as IR/NIR, Raman, NMR spectroscopy; HPLC; SEC; GC-MS), thermal analysis (TGA; DSC), nanoparticle formulation and characterisation (DLS; NTA), microscopy (fluorescence; AFM/SEM/TEM), tissue/cell culture, live cell imaging and flow cytometry. The project is highly multidisciplinary and collaborative, and will offer the candidate exposure to expertise from different departments across the university.

In addition, the PhD student will have access to a skills development program run by the University of Portsmouth Graduate School. The expertise and skills developed are expected to effectively prepare the candidate for a successful future career in either academia or industry.

Portsmouth is a vibrant city on the south coast of England with excellent connections to London and continental Europe. Visit for details about student life in Portsmouth. For other research topics and techniques available within our research group please visit

This PhD project is suitable for self-funded international students with a very good degree in materials/pharmaceutical sciences, bioengineering, chemistry or pharmacy and with a keen interest in nanomaterials and their pharmaceutical and biomedical applications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 (with no component score below 6.0) is mandatory.

Potential candidates should contact directly the main supervisor () for any enquiries before applying. Please clearly state the project title and supervisor name on the online application and in any correspondence.

Funding Notes

Self-funded only, 3-4 years full-time. University fees (£15,900 for International students 2019/20) plus bench fees (£9,000 per annum).

How good is research at University of Portsmouth in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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