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  Development of carbohydrate-functionalised materials for detection and prevention of medical device-associated infections


   School of Pharmacy

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  Dr Matthew Wylie, Prof Colin McCoy  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing problem in the 21st century, causing longer and more serious infections, and resulting in poor outcomes for vulnerable patients. For many bacteria, biofilm formation is a key part of their pathogenic behaviour, and is especially important in the development of medical device-associated infection. To facilitate adhesion to surfaces, bacteria can express carbohydrate-binding proteins, known as lectins. Targeting these proteins with multivalent glycosides can inhibit biofilm-formation by crosslinking these lectins.

This project aims to develop new carbohydrate-functionalised polymeric surfaces which will inhibit bacterial adhesion. Additionally, these materials will be further modified to possess sensing capabilities, such that binding of bacterial lectins to their surface will produce a visual colourimetric change. It is envisaged that these dual-functional materials will be capable of inhibiting biofilm formation when deployed as a coating on medical devices, protecting patients from bacterial infections, while simultaneously providing visual feedback to healthcare professionals if the material has reached the end of its anti-infective lifespan.

The candidate will benefit from broad training in materials science, organic chemistry, microscopic techniques (SEM, AFM, fluorescence microscopy), and surface fouling assay techniques e.g. microbiology, tissue culture, and protein adsorption studies. Presentation, writing and interpersonal skills will be developed. The student will also have access to a wide range of training opportunities provided by the university's graduate school programme.

Our research has attracted interest from several leading medical device companies with several ongoing industrial collaborations related to this project. This project will further this research and it is envisaged findings from the project may lead to further opportunities to engage with our industrial partners. The successful candidate will present the findings at local, national and international conferences and in scientific papers in peer reviewed journals. Overall, the project will develop antimicrobial coatings which can reduce the risk of medical device-related infections. Findings from this project will lay the groundwork towards potential optimisation for future clinical translation.

Home applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

1st or 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline.

International applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

IELTS (or equivalent) of 7.0, a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject.


Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24) Medicine (26)

 About the Project