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(EPSRC DTP) Understanding drug diffusion to tailor release kinetics from gels for sub-cutaneous injection

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

, Dr A Tirella Friday, May 21, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Manchester United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Materials Science Physics Pharmacy Physical Chemistry

About the Project

The quest for novel drug-delivery vehicles is as important as the development of novel treatments. For emerging therapies, such as PROTACs and RNA derivatives, classical oral administration is not possible. Alternative routes, such as parenteral injections are viable but long-term drug delivery is non-trivial. One promising class of materials for this purpose is gels, both classical macromolecular and novel supramolecular or physical gels. While the existence, preparation and stability of these materials for drug delivery has been investigated in great detail, our understanding of the diffusion of drug molecules within gels is currently limited. However, the diffusion behaviour is essential to understand drug release and an in-depth understanding of this fundamental characteristic will enable us to tailor gel materials to the pharmaceutical indication and necessary release kinetics. In this project, we will concentrate of gauging the diffusion behaviour of drug molecules in both macromolecular and physical gels. Pharmaceutically relevant molecules ranging in size from small drug compounds to peptides and nucleic acids to nanoparticles will be investigated. We will develop an understanding of the major influences on diffusion depending on time scale, concentration and solute size probed informing the development of new depot applications for long-term drug delivery. By applying fluorescence correlation spectroscopy with confocal and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, we will be able to investigate diffusion at low solute concentrations and intermediate diffusion timescales, while diffusion ordered nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy will allow us to gauge higher concentrations and slower timescales. The aim of this project is to connect the two major influences of diffusion in gels (fibre surface interaction and confinement effects) with solute concentration, solute size and diffusion time scale to generate a framework allowing for the tailoring of diffusion characteristics. This will further be linked with macroscopic diffusion and drug release if time allows. The successful candidate will be trained in a variety of methods and topics ranging from microscopy and spectroscopy to pharmaceutical materials and drug release. Furthermore, the possibility to work at central facilities to perform experiments and engagement with the wide network of industrial partners provided by the supervisory team will ensure best possible employability both in industry as well as academia.

Entry Requirements:

Applications are invited from UK nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP studentship with funding for a duration of 3.5 years to commence in September 2021. The studentship covers UK tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend £15,609 per annum. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK applicants only.
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