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Exploration of TMS as a potential early biomarker for ALS and application to novel drug discovery

Project Description

We have been engaged in developing reliable neurophysiological biomarkers that can track disease progression and monitor the effects of new therapeutics in clinical trials. Specific potassium channels might be implicated in neuronal degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and they represent a target for new drug development by Autifony Therapeutics.

Non-invasive brain stimulation methods, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), can provide a window into these observations. High-density surface muscle recordings provide a more enriched dataset than conventional techniques. By combining this with TMS and brain recordings, we hope to develop more sensitive markers of neuronal degeneration in ALS. We hypothesise that progressive changes in motor function will be detected by TMS measures, allowing correlation with measures of neurological decline and therapeutic effect. Importantly, if earlier cortical abnormalities could be reliably identified, institution of neuroprotective agents at that stage may result in a slower disease progression and prolonged survival.

In a longitudinal study, we will explore TMS output measures to identify early deficits in ALS patients.

YR1: Training in methodology and analysis; ethical applications; attachment at Autifony laboratory

YR2/3: Data collection and analysis, including a pilot study to assess the short-term effects of a potential novel therapy

YR4: Write up scientific papers and thesis.

This project will give a strong training in brain stimulation technique, analysis methodology and its application to ALS clinical population. There will be opportunity to present the results at international ALS conferences. Thanks to the industrial collaboration it also will provide an introduction to preclinical work related to drug development.

How to Apply

To apply to the MRC DTP iCASE Studentships visit our webpages ( to submit an online application via King’s Apply. Further information can be found on our ‘Frequently asked Questions’ pages (

Industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (iCASE) Studentships
This PhD project is fully-funded PhD 4 year position available to start in October 2019, with the successful candidate joining the MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. They will start immediately on their PhD project in October 2019 and will participate in all other training and cohort activities of the MRC DTP.

About Us

The objective of our Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP - is to select motivated and curiosity-driven students and provide them with outstanding training, tailored flexibly to their individual needs and interests. We will equip them with the intellectual and technical skills that are needed for undertaking cutting-edge biomedical research and complement this with key transferable skills (including public engagement, business development and entrepreneurship) to ensure that they emerge as well-rounded scientists, prepared for their next career stage (whether in research or outside). Our excellent clinical setting will ensure all students benefit from an understanding of the context of medical research, helping develop scientists with a strong translational ethos.

The MRC funding available supports Home/EU students within standard research council restrictions ( EU students are only eligible for a full studentship if they have lived, worked or studied within the UK for 3 years prior to the funding commencing. Unfortunately, we cannot accept applications from non-EU candidates.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with .

Applications Open: Monday 4th March
Application Deadline: Friday 5th April

Funding Notes

This studentship is fully funded for 4 years, including tuition fees, stipend, research consumables and conference travel:

Stipend: Students will receive a tax-free stipend for each year of study; for 2019/2020 this will be £19,509 per annum.

Bench fees: A generous allowance (£6,700) is provided for research consumables and for attending UK and international conferences. MRC DTP iCASE Students will also be eligible to apply for the Flexible Supplement Fund.

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