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HELMs: self-assembling cyclic lipopeptides for the efficient transport and delivery of drugs to the GI-tract

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Cutting
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We have discovered a unique class of molecule produced by environmental bacteria termed HELMs (heterogenous lipopeptide micelles). HELMs are comprised of 2-3 different cyclic lipopeptides that form stable micelles (<7nm). These micelles are able to encapsulate antibiotics and serve to enhance the activity of these molecules. Interestingly, HELMs are gastric stable enabling delivery by the oral route. The concept has been patented (currently at PCT stage) and we have submitted this work to Nature (05/12/2019). In preliminary studies we have shown that HELMS can encapsulate other molecules and this forms the basis of this project.

We propose to use HELMs as efficient drug delivery "vehicles" to encapsulate a variety of drugs (anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, etc), particularly those that have efficacy against unmet medical needs (e.g., colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease). Our project would apply to both human and animal health. The student will receive training in a range of biochemical and biophysical methods and will join a multidisciplinary research team to conduct in vitro and in vivo studies (mouse model) to optimize encapsulation parameters and to determine whether HELMs can be used for targeted delivery of drugs, for human cancer therapy, intestinal ailments and prevention of infectious disease.

This PhD project will be supervised jointly by:
1. Simon M Cutting, Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
2. Sunil Shaunak, Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London

Applicants are invited to contact supervisor(s) by email ahead of submitting their application. Further information about applying for a postgraduate course at Royal Holloway can be found here:

Applications should be submitted online:

Funding Notes

Shortlisted eligible studentship applicants, will be notified within two-three weeks of the application deadline. Formal studentship interviews will usually be held within three-four weeks of the application deadline.
The funding for the project will cover home/EU tuition fees and a yearly stipend.


Huang, J.M., Hong, H.A., Van Tong, H., Hoang, T.H., Brisson, A., Cutting, S.M., 2010. Mucosal delivery of antigens using adsorption to bacterial spores. Vaccine 28, 1021-1030.
Permpoonpattana, P., Hong, H.A., Khaneja, R., Cutting, S.M., 2012. Evaluation of Bacillus subtilis strains as probiotics and their potential as a food ingredient. Benef Microbes 3, 127-135.
Permpoonpattana, P., Hong, H.A., Phetcharaburanin, J., Huang, J.M., Cook, J., Fairweather, N.F., Cutting, S.M., 2011. Immunization with Bacillus spores expressing toxin A peptide repeats protects against infection with Clostridium difficile strains producing toxins A and B. Infection and immunity 79, 2295-2302.
Song, M., Hong, H.A., Huang, J.M., Colenutt, C., Khang, D.D., Nguyen, T.V., Park, S.M., Shim, B.S., Song, H.H., Cheon, I.S., Jang, J.E., Choi, J.A., Choi, Y.K., Stadler, K., Cutting, S.M., 2012. Killed Bacillus subtilis spores as a mucosal adjuvant for an H5N1 vaccine. Vaccine 30, 3266-3277.

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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