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Establishment and Discovery of Novel Ophthalmic Biomarkers in neurodegenerative conditions, Diabetes and Vascular Medicine – PhD (Funded)


   Medical School

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  Prof M Tavakoli, Prof A Shore  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Exeter’s College of Medicine and Health is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2023. For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £17,668 for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in the Medical School at the Wonford site (Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital) in Exeter.

Biomarkers are recognized as critical tools for developing new therapeutics, allowing improved and better informed clinical trial design through indicators of target engagement and those that enable patient stratification. In addition, biomarkers can facilitate the evaluation of therapeutic intervention on disease progression or recurrence.

Eyes as a window to the brain provide this unique opportunity for investigating neurodegenerative conditions. New technologies such as Corneal Confocal Microscopy (CCM), Optical Coherence Topography (OCT) and angiography (OCT-A) allow us the possibility of using novel ophthalmic markers as biomarkers of disease severity in hereditary neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington’s disease (HD), Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Ophthalmic findings are common features of neurodegenerative disorders and, in addition to being clinically important, have emerged as potentially useful biomarkers of disease progression in several conditions. Given the clinical ease of techniques such as CCM, OCT we seek to establish novel ophthalmic markers in patients with neurodegenerative disorders as a potential biomarker for disease stratification.

Clinical evaluation, neuroimaging, and biochemical biomarkers have been extensively investigated at our target neurodegenerative conditions, particularly Huntington’s disease (HD), Parkinson Disease, Fabry Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, but none has been established. At the moment, there is no specific treatment exists for this devastating disease. There is an urgent need to discover non-invasive, accurate surrogate biomarkers for disease progression and classification. Accurate classification is essential to identifying which tools are appropriate markers for particular individuals.

This PhD proposal will focus on the discovery and establishment of these novel biomarkers in these neurological conditions. The results of this PhD study will allow us to address these by applying these novel ophthalmic biomarkers as potential endpoints and may present the opportunity to initiate disease-modifying treatment.

Many resources are available to enable the student to make excellent progress in their studies. The project will offer the student opportunities to train in experimental medicine (clinical) research, emphasising eye physiology and pathophysiology, protocol development, working with complex datasets, and engaging with research patients and participants.

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £17,688 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

Entry Requirements

We are seeking an individual who can demonstrate a passion for clinical research, who has some clinical experience and is keen to forge a career in the eye-research field.

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of medical science or clinical science or have a medical qualification. Background knowledge in Medicine, Optometry and Ophthalmology is desirable.

If English is not your first language, you will need to have achieved at least 7.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/).

How to Apply

In order to apply for the PhD Project you will need to go to the following web page.

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/study/funding/award/?id=4155

The closing date for applications is midnight Sunday 20th November 2022

Interviews will be held (probably virtually) w/c 5th December 2022

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed] or phone: 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) or +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers). Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Funding Notes

The University of Exeter’s College of Medicine and Health is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2023. For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £17,668 for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in the Medical School at the Wonford site (Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital) in Exeter.
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