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Development of nanomedicines for the treatment of eye diseases

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  • Full or part time
    Dr VR Kearns
    Dr T McDonald
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

The overall aim of this project is to develop new ways to deliver drugs to the back of the eye.
Diseases involving the back of the eye can lead to sight loss, significantly reducing quality of life and economic opportunities of those affected. These diseases, which include diabetes and age-related macular degeneration, affect millions of people. They are often treated by injection of drugs into the vitreous humour that fills the eye. Such injections represent a significant time burden to the patient and cost healthcare systems millions of pounds. These repeated injections can also result in severe complications, including injury to the lens, retinal detachment and infection. Using nanomedicines to treat such diseases could improve the action of drugs used to treat diseases of the back of the eye. Nanomedicines have huge potential to treat a number of chronic, sight-threatening eye diseases. Using nanomedicines, more drug could be delivered in a single dose and the drug might have a more powerful action, meaning that fewer injections into the eye would be needed, reducing patient pain and discomfort and the risk of complications. Combining nanomedicines with systems that could release drugs slowly could make them even more effective and therefore have significant benefits to patients.

The student will work on both the chemical synthesis and biological assessment of the nanomedicine drug delivery system, taking advantage of the expertise available in the laboratories of the two supervisors, and of clinical and industrial collaborators. This will ensure the drug delivery system is safe to use in the eye as well as effective at releasing drug. The student will also develop cutting-edge in vitro models, in parallel to the chemistry work, to study the drug release from the drug delivery system and reduce the need for future animal testing.

The specific objectives of the project are:
1. Design and synthesis of hydrogel-nanoparticle composites.
2. Investigation of the biological toxicity of the composites.
3. Assessment of therapeutic efficacy of the released nanoparticles in vitro

The student will be supervised by Dr Victoria Kearns, lecturer in ocular biomaterials with a focus on development on novel, biomaterial-based treatments for retinal diseases and models to test them, and Dr Tom McDonald, lecturer in nanomedicine with research interests in the synthesis of nanomaterials for drug delivery and the design of responsive hydrogels for biomedical applications. They will provide training and support in all relevant laboratory and analysis techniques.

The project will be hosted in the Department of Eye and Vision Science in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease and Department of Chemistry at the University of Liverpool. The University of Liverpool has invested in ophthalmic bioengineering across three departments. It provides excellent support to encourage cross-disciplinary research, including access to high specification equipment and extensive experience in collaborating across the interface between physical and biological
sciences and exploitation of this knowledge to drive clinical impact. It has a Research Eye Bank, giving access to human tissue and a radiochemistry lab that is crucial for drug delivery studies. The £68m Materials Innovation Factory is connected to the Department of Chemistry and is equipped with £10m of synthesis and analysis equipment. The host departments have good links with the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. Research is translational and includes strong links between clinical and non-clinical scientists across the university.

All postgraduate research students (PGRs) undertake formal, personalised training at the University of Liverpool, co-ordinated by the Liverpool Doctoral College. This creates a learning environment that allows all PGRs to enhance their skills for a successful research experience and career. Specific to this studentship opportunities to engage with clinical colleagues from St Paul’s Eye Unit and to gain industrial experience with a collaborator.

The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. We offer a supportive working environment with flexible family support for all our staff and students and applications for part-time study are encouraged. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

Informal enquiries regarding this project should be made to Dr Victoria Kearns [Email Address Removed]
To apply, send CV and covering letter to [Email Address Removed] and [Email Address Removed] with copy to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

You should have (or expect) an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Biomaterials or another relevant discipline. A Master’s degree or research experience in a relevant area (polymer synthesis, drug delivery, biomaterials, cell culture, in vitro modelling) would be an advantage. A IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent is required for non-native speakers.

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £7,000 per year. There is NO funding attached to this project. Details of costs can be found on the University website.

How good is research at University of Liverpool in Clinical Medicine?
(joint submission with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 143.50

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

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