Birkbeck, University of London Featured PhD Programmes
Norwich Research Park Featured PhD Programmes
The University of Manchester Featured PhD Programmes
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Featured PhD Programmes
European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg) Featured PhD Programmes

GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Making Broken Bones Antimicrobial - Preventing Osteomyelitis Using a Targeted and Mineralising Liposomal Delivery System

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ‘GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership’ which is offering up to 18 studentships for entry in September/October 2019.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities.

Lead supervisor: Dr Wayne Nishio Ayre, School of Dentistry (Cardiff University)
Co-supervisors: Professor James Birchall (Cardiff University), Professor Alastair Sloan (Cardiff University), Dr Nicholas Evans (University of Southampton), Professor Ashley Blom (University of Bristol)

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection, caused mainly by Staphylococcus aureus. In the USA, approximately 50,000 cases occur annually, impacting on patient quality of life by increased morbidity, extended hospital stays and in severe cases amputation or death. Osteomyelitis is a major financial burden for health services, with a recent UK study showing average antibiotic costs and surgical costs of around £2,000 and £20,000 respectively per patient. Current treatments involve prolonged antibiotic therapy (4-6 weeks, associated with renal toxicity, antibiotic resistance and poor penetration into infected areas) and invasive surgical debridement of diseased bone. With recurrence as high as 30% there is a clear need for better technologies to prevent and treat osteomyelitis.

Liposomes, nano-sized vesicles composed of phospholipids, have shown promise in improving treatments by increasing antibiotic circulation time and reducing nephrotoxicity. Interestingly anionic phospholipids (phosphatidylserine, PS) have been shown to play a role in the nucleation of bone mineral (hydroxyapatite). Our pilot studies have confirmed this, showing PS-liposomes not only encourage mineralisation in human bone marrow stem cell cultures but also encourage osteogenic differentiation. Work by our collaborators and the co-supervisor for this PhD has shown liposomes can also accumulate at fracture sites in an in vivo murine model.

The aim of this studentship is to therefore develop and test a PS-liposome formulation that can entrap an antimicrobial within bone to prevent osteomyelitis during fracture healing. To achieve this, the student will work with an interdisciplinary team of supervisors consisting of engineers, biologist, pharmaceutical scientists and clinicians, using world-class facilities at the Universities of Cardiff, Bristol and Southampton and in collaboration with industry.

During the project, the PhD student will develop skills in publishing a literature review; developing and characterising liposomal formulations; microbiology and tissue culture techniques to test the in vitro efficacy of the formulation; and ex vivo and in vivo techniques to test the formulation in more physiologically relevant environments. Techniques likely to be used during the PhD include microfluidic liposomal preparation; dynamic light scattering; high performance liquid chromatography; quartz crystal microbalance; tissue culture; microbiology; ex vivo models; microCT; histology and in vivo models. The student will also have the opportunity to attend a 3-day external training course on formulation development and freeze-drying processes as well as a 1-week orthopaedic clinical placement. Additional training courses will be made available through the School of Dentistry Postgraduate Course in Biomedical Research and Cardiff University’s Doctoral Academy and there will be opportunity for public engagement activities and STEM ambassador training. Due to the translational nature of the project there is also potential for generation of novel IP and therefore engagement with technology transfer officers and patent attorneys.

We are looking for a motivated and enthusiastic applicant with a willingness to engage in interdisciplinary and translational research. The studentship is open to applicants from a range of backgrounds (e.g. biology, chemistry, engineering).

Funding Notes

The studentship consists of full UK/EU tuition fees and Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated yearly). Additional research and training funding is available over the course of the programme. This will covers costs such as courses, conferences and travel, and research consumables. Additional competitive funds are available for high-cost or exceptional training.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2016 will be eligible for a full award. More information on eligibility may be found on the DTP’s website: View Website


The DTP welcomes students from both biomedical and non-biomedical backgrounds (especially in areas of computing, mathematics and the physical sciences) and can fund additional training, including Masters, to assist discipline conversion. 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 degree subject. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will only be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

You will need to complete both an application to the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP for an ‘offer of funding’ and to Cardiff University for an ‘offer to study’:
1) Applying for an ‘offer of funding’
Please complete the online application form by 5pm, 25 November 2019.
The Research Theme Panels will complete the shortlisting and inform applicants by 19 December 2019.
If you are shortlisted you will need to;
• contact your chosen supervisor(s) to discuss your application between 3 and 15 January 2020
• submit two references and a copy of your academic transcript(s) by 17 January 2020
• attend an interview in Cardiff on 21 or 22 January 2020
Further details will be included in the shortlisting letter.
More information on the application process may be found here:

2) Applying for an ‘offer to study’
Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University Online Application Service.
Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy, with a start date of October 2020.
In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from GW4 BioMed MRC DTP.
If are applying for more than one Cardiff University project please note this in the research proposal section.

For DTP enquiries please contact the DTP Manager, Erica Lewis at [email protected]
For enquiries about your University application, please contact the Postgraduate Administrator [email protected]

How good is research at Cardiff University in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 74.95

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here
* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.