Development of Nanomaterials for Targeting the Bacteria–Host Interface in Cystic Fibrosis Airways


   School of Pharmacy

  Prof Michael Tunney  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The attachment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) to the airway mucus in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) represents an important step in airway colonization and the subsequent development of lung infection. Mucin glycoproteins are key components of respiratory mucus known to serve as receptors for bacteria. Therefore, blocking the binding of PA to mucins may serve as an adjunctive therapy against colonization and infection within the CF airways.

The goal of this PhD project is to generate nanomaterials that can prevent pathogen-host interactions in the CF airways. We will use concepts and tools from lipid membrane biophysics and molecular imprinting to produce lipid-based nanoparticles targeting mucin glycans. A range of bioassays and model systems will be developed to evaluate the influence of nanoparticles on PA adherence, motility and biofilm production. The research will involve close collaboration with biologists and will make use of the unique combination of experimental equipment that is available in the Schools of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Pharmacy, as well as the advanced imaging facilities in the Faculty of Medicine, Health, and Life Sciences.

The successful applicant will be integrated into QUB research groups of experienced researchers with access to world-leading facilities. A wide range of techniques will be used during the project including: chemical synthesis, nanoparticle characterisation, advanced imaging and extensive training in conventional aerobic and anaerobic culture methods, molecular microbiology, tissue culture and protein biochemistry as part of inter-disciplinary and internationally renowned research teams.

Expected impact activities include the development of novel antimicrobials that prevent bacterial colonization in the airways has the potential to ultimately improve clinical care of people with CF and other respiratory diseases characterised by chronic infection such as bronchiectasis and COPD. The PhD student will be encouraged to engage in a variety of impact activities such as oral & poster presentations (at local, national and international conferences), and publication of scientific papers in peer reviewed journals.

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) Medicine (26)

Register your interest for this project


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