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Development of RNA-loaded lipid nanomedicines for therapeutic and vaccines applications


   School of Chemical Engineering

  Prof Chun-Xia Zhao  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project - Recent mRNA vaccine success has heralded a new era of RNA nanomedicines. A few challenges remain to realise the full potential of RNA nanomedicines for therapeutic or therapeutic vaccine applications, including translation efficiency, targeted delivery and stability. This project aims to develop RNA-loaded lipid nanomedicines using microfluidic devices for potential therapeutic and vaccine applications, focusing on their property control using microfluidic devices, fundamental understanding of structure-function correlations and nanoparticle composition-RNA delivery efficiency correlations. Based on these fundamental studies, next generation of RNA lipid nanoparticles will be developed for therapeutic and vaccine applications.

The project is a collaboration with the company Biocina based on Adelaide. They are a CDMO supplying RNA and RNA-LNP active ingredients for clinical trials. The student will be expected to spend some time working with Biocina to assist in technology transfer to their benefit.

Facilities - The University of Adelaide has invested over $3 million in new Biomanufacturing and Nanoparticle Fabrication laboratories. The facility has plasmid DNA fermentation, purification (batch and continuous), lyophilisation, transcription, microfluidic lipid nanoparticle fabrication, in vitro and in vivo study capabilities. Analytical instruments include dynamic light scattering, differential scanning calorimetry, isothermal titration calorimetry, HPLCs, and GC-MS along with standard spectroscopy, high resolution fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, plate reader.

Supervisors - The project will be supervised by Prof. Chun-Xia Zhao (nanomedicine and microfluidics expert), Prof. Robert Falconer (biopharmaceutical manufacturing), and Dr Richard van Wegen (biopharmaceutical engineer at Biocina). Prof. Chun-Xia Zhao is the principal supervisor. She is currently an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Leadership Fellow, has supervised more than 30 RHD students in University of Queensland and University of Adelaide. She leads a research group (15-25 researchers) focusing on bioinspired engineering, biomimetic nanomaterials and microfluidics for drug delivery and controlled release. Her research has attracted more than $10 M funding plus big research centre project (Node leader and Program Leader in ARC Centre of Excellence project $35 million for 7 years). Prof. Zhao has published more than 100 journal articles in top journals such as Nature Comm, Science Advances, ACS Nano, Small, etc. She has collaborated extensively with researchers in top universities such as Harvard University, Cornell University, Brown University, etc.

Student requirements – We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with at least a B.Sc. or B. Eng. in Biotechnology, Chemical engineering or related fields. The candidate will preferably have a Master degree or work experience in a related field.

Scholarship - The University of Adelaide offers Research Scholarships of $AU 28,854 p.a. fully funded as part of a CRCP grant “mRNA Manufacturing and Formulation Service for Late-Stage Clinical Trials”.


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