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  Developing 3D models to understand how interactions between bacterial biofilm and the host environment impact antimicrobial efficacy in a chronic infected wound

   Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

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  Dr Sarah Maddocks, Dr Michael Beeton, Dr Rebecca Aicheler, Prof Lori Robins  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

2.8 million people in the UK have a chronic wound which persist for months or years, causing pain, isolation, odour, and decreased mobility; patients with chronic wounds regularly report a deterioration in quality of life. Polymicrobial biofilms are present in greater than 70% of chronic wounds, making effective treatment incredibly challenging. This is in part due to the inherent resistance of biofilm organisms to antimicrobial treatment, coupled with poor translatability of in vitro antimicrobial development from bench to clinic. Consequently, chronic wound management costs the NHS over £5 billion per year.

This urgently requires the development of robust, reproducible, clinically applicable 3D models of chronic wound infection to improve our understanding of the fundamental microbiology of chronic wound biofilms and enable the development of effective treatment strategies.

The aims of this PhD will be to understand how interactions between polymicrobial biofilms and host cells impacts the effectiveness of topical antimicrobial treatments. A key part of the project will be to advance our current polymicrobial in vitro chronic wound biofilm model using state-of-the art 3D printing and biologically relevant host cells. This project benefits from a multidisciplinary approach combining microbiology, 3D printing and bioorganic chemistry providing a unique opportunity to progress our understanding of the challenges associated with treating chronic wound infections.

The successful candidate will join a dynamic research group focussed on deciphering mechanisms of biofilm development and novel approaches for their management. You will develop skills in microbiology, cell culture, 3D-printing, microscopy, biochemical assay, and antimicrobial testing. The Microbiology and Infection Research Group is part of the School of Sport and Health Sciences with access to suitably equipped laboratory facilities for the study of bacteria and mammalian cells, at the cellular and molecular level.

Home applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • 1st or 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Microbiology, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, or a closely related discipline.
  • International applicants must meet the following academic criteria:
  • IELTS (or equivalent) of 6.5, a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject.

For informal enquiries please contact: Dr Sarah Maddocks ([Email Address Removed])

Biological Sciences (4)


Khalid, A., Cookson, A.R., Whitworth, D.E., Beeton, M.L., Robins, L.I., and Maddocks, S.E. A Synthetic Polymicrobial Community Biofilm Model Demonstrates Spatial Partitioning, Tolerance to Antimicrobial Treatment, Reduced Metabolism, and Small Colony Variants Typical of Chronic Wound Biofilms. Pathogens. 2023; 12(1):118.
Nedelea, A-G., Plant, R. L., Robins, L. I and Maddocks, S. E. (2021) Testing the efficacy of topical antimicrobial treatments using a two- and five-species chronic wound biofilm model. Journal of Applied Microbiology doi.10.1111/jam15239
Duckworth, P. F., Rowlands, R. S., Barbour, M. E. and Maddocks S. E. (2018) A novel flow system to establish experimental biofilms for modelling chronic wound infection and testing the efficacy of wound dressings. Microbiological Research. 215: 141-147.
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 About the Project