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Fully funded Bath/Swansea (BBSRC SWBio DTP) PhD Studentship: Development of a platform for tracking the stability of advanced BioTherapeutics

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Dr S Conlan , Dr L Francis No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This studentship is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

Start date: October 2021

Subject areas: Biophamaceuticals, antibodies, exosomes, biophysics, fluorescence


- Professor Steve Conlan (lead supervisor, Swansea University)
- Dr Lewis Francis (Swansea University)
- Dr Christopher Pudney (lead supervisor, Bath University)
- Professor Jody Mason (Bath University)

The project involves developing a new platform for detecting the stability of biopharmaceuticals. Biopharmaceuticals are some of the most successful drugs in the world. This success has largely been built on the use of monoclonal antibodies. More recently new developments in antibody drug conjugates have led to six+ new regulatory approvals and Exosomes (Exo), and Exosome Mimetics (self-assembled filter-fractionated nano-cellular products (ExoM)) are poised to deliver the next wave of major advances.

One of the major challenges in developing biopharamceuticals is their stability. Compared to small molecule drugs, biopharmaceuticals can suffer major stability issues and these can often prevent a promising candidate from being a usable drug.

We have developed novel approaches to detecting antibody stability (Knight et al. 2020. Biochem. J. In Press, BCJ20200580) and we now wish to explore applying this approach to more advanced biopharmaceuticals including ADCs and Exo(M)s. This platform would be a step change in how stability of biopharmaceuticals are assessed with direct and immediate industrial relevance and interest.

The student will apply a range of biophysical approaches including fluorescence spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy and nanovesicle flow cytometry. These data will then allow the student to develop and apply physical models to understand the data. The student will therefore gain a detailed education in advanced biophysics and biochemistry with direct industrial biopharma relevance. The project has been designed to be flexible, to suite changes in working patterns due to coronavirus and so we anticipate part of the project would not need to be lab based if the situation requires.

The supervisory team spans a range of disciplines from biopharmaceutical development, analytical biochemistry and biophysics. The student will have the opportunity to experience the research environments in both Bath and Swansea, leveraging the unique resources of both environments. We anticipate the student will have the opportunity to participate in national and international conference attendance as well as be involved with industrial partner interactions. Moreover, the project is very likely to generate new Intellectual Property, which we would actively seek to commercialise.

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments. We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status. We welcome applications from individuals who have previously studied at any recognised Higher Education Institute and from a range of career paths (please refer to the SWBio DTP academic criteria for eligibility), including individuals who have previously trained in the sciences and are wanting to return to scientific research.

Academic criteria
- Applicants for a 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 science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

- In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

- We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements (IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5 in each component) to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit –

Equivalent qualifications/experience
- Physics A-level (grade B and above). Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component (significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics).

- Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

Residence criteria
-Fully funded studentships are available for Home students.

Please visit our website for more information.

Funding Notes

A fully funded four-year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

- a stipend (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,285 per annum for 2020/21)
- research and training costs
- UK tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)
- additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

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