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Development of long-acting injectable (LAI) drug delivery systems to treat ocular diseases


   School of Pharmacy

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Delivery of drug molecules to treat visually impairing ocular diseases that originate in the posterior segment of the eye, has been the most challenging task to the pharmaceutical scientists and retinal specialists. This is due to the unique structure of the eye, which restricts the entry of drug molecules at the required site of action and, therefore, necessities careful selection of method of drug delivery. For example, drug delivery through topical (e.g., eye drops) and systemic (e.g. oral tablets) routes result in low or sub-therapeutic drug levels due to multiple ocular barriers. Currently, the effective method of administering drugs in conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, which account for most of the blindness worldwide, is by either frequent eye drops or intravitreal injections (i.e., direct injection into the eye). However, injections cause significant tissue trauma, rise in intraocular pressure, uncomfortable and painful to patients, requires professional training, can cause severe injection-related infections (e.g., endophthalmitis, hemorrhage, and cataract). Every year nearly 23,000 and 100,000 people lose their vision due to AMD in the UK and the USA, respectively. In the UK, AMD affects more than 600,000 individuals but with ageing population it is predicted that this figure could rise by a quarter to nearly 756,000 by 2020. On the other hand, eye drops have shown low bioavailability and the chief problem is patients forgetting to take them on time and for long-term. 

Our proposed solution is to formulate novel polymers-based injectable drug delivery system that enable long-term drug delivery to the eye, which aims to prevent frequent injections/eyedrops into the eye. In this regard, during the 3-years of this PhD project; the student will (i) design, development and characterize drug-loaded injectable depot forming gels, (ii) engineer in situ forming gels (ii) develop analytical techniques for polymer and drug analysis, (iii) investigate in vitro/ex vivo release of drugs from the implants, (iv) examine the biodegradation and biocompatibility in cell-cultures, and (v) conduct preliminary ex vivo examinations to determine the suitability of these delivery system for human application.

The student will receive sufficient training in the experimental design and techniques for the development of novel long-acting depot forming formulations.

The student will work with one of the leading Ocular Drug Delivery Research group in the UK, where he/she will be exposed to a range of novel formulations, techniques, and characterization. This project will also provide ample opportunity for the PhD student to gain exceptional knowledge in various aspects of pharmaceutical product development and ophthalmological techniques. It will also provide opportunity for the PhD student to work along experienced team members from both industry and academia and present their research at national and international conferences.

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.


Funding Notes

Department for the Economy studentships are open for applications to Home and International applicants for October 2023 entry. Eligibility and funding information is available here: View Website

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