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  Endogenous immune modulators in the pathophysiology of blood cancer

   Hull York Medical School

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  Dr I Kourtzelis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This fully-funded PhD project is ideal for candidates who have interest in immunology and blood malignancies. The focus will be on B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), the most common subtype of ALL in adults. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) represent a main stromal component in B-ALL and macrophages play essential role in disease progression. Despite the advances in the study of immune-mediated responses to blood cancer, our understanding of the mechanisms shaping immune regulation in B-ALL remains limited. We have already demonstrated that endogenous immune regulators regulate macrophage-mediated disease pathophysiology (Kourtzelis et al, Nat.Immunol 2019).

Successful applicant will have access to a world-leading research environment and will be supervised by a team of immunologists (Kourtzelis) and clinicians (Fielding). They have significant basic and clinical science expertise and track record in blood cancer (Burt et al, Blood 2019; Moorman et al, Leukemia 2022) and the study of endogenous immuno-modulators in stromal cell and macrophage functions (Kourtzelis et al, Nat.Immunol 2019; Mitroulis et al, JCI 2017; Wang et al, JCI 2021).

Using advanced cell co-culture models, organoids, cutting-edge real time imaging, immunological techniques and by analysing clinical samples, you will first explore how endogenous immune modulators shape multicellular interactions between stromal cells, immune cells, and cancer cells in order to harness malignancy development. Training will also be provided in mouse disease models including in vivo imaging. Importantly, the mechanisms explored here may be relevant to blood malignancies beyond the context of B-ALL. This project builds on and extends the existing critical mass in immunology and haematology in the York Biomedical Research Institute and Centre of Blood Research.

We anticipate that you will graduate with strong laboratory and transferrable skills and clear understanding of how these can be applied to develop the discovery of advanced therapeutics for blood cancer.


For informal inquiries, please contact Dr Ioannis Kourtzelis ([Email Address Removed]) or Professor Adelle Fielding ([Email Address Removed]).

Location and Research Culture

The project will take place within the Experimental Medicine and Biomedicine group at Hull York Medical School at the University of York, including the HYMS Skin Research Centre.

Hull York Medical School is a unique partnership bringing together the expertise of both the Universities of Hull and York and offering a thriving environment in which to conduct world-leading research. Strong partnerships with NHS Trusts and community health organisations offer a wide clinical base that fosters translation of biomedical research to improve health. Our research is a key component of the York Biomedical Research Institute.

You will be part of a vibrant post-graduate community within the medical school but also interacting with students from other PhD Programmes at the University of York. You will have access to the University of York Biosciences Technology Facility, allowing the use of cutting-edge equipment to support the research as needed for the project (e.g. imaging, bioinformatics etc.) You will be supported by a thesis advisory panel, and will follow a training programme on transferable and research skills.

Start Date

1st October 2024

Qualification Required

In order to qualify for this scholarship you will require an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.1, or equivalent, in a relevant subject. English Language IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.

How to Apply

All applications MUST BE submitted to Hull York Medical School via the online application method choosing option PhD in Medical Sciences October, full time or part time:

The deadline for applications is the 28th March.

In order for the Panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a research proposal/outline of academic interest. Research proposals and personal statements may be used in selecting applicants for interview. If you have any queries on how to apply please email [Email Address Removed].

Please note that this is a student scholarship. If you will be employed by HYMS (e.g. on a fixed or short-term contract) for the duration of your study, you will not be eligible to receive the student scholarship as a member of HYMS staff. 


Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be contacted via email. If you are not invited for the interview, it means that your application has not been successful. Please note that we do not offer feedback to applicants who are not invited to the interview.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This 4-year full-time studentship will be funded by the Hull York Medical School. The funding will include:
- Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£TBC for 2024/25 academic year)
- UK tuition fees.
- Research support and training charges, covering laboratory consumables and training costs.
- International and EU students will need to have sufficient funds to cover the difference in fee costs (see laboratory-based degrees here) and the costs of their student visa, NHS health surcharge, travel insurance and transport to the UK as these will not be covered by the studentship.

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