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  Identification of novel immunopathological biomarkers of perianal fistulizing Crohn’s disease for improved patient outcomes - Powell Labs

   Department of Metabolism, Digestion & Reproduction

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  Prof Nick Powell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A 3-year PhD studentship to advance the understanding of the immunopathology of perianal fistulizing Crohn’s disease. This exciting opportunity is generously funded by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Crohn’s disease (CD) is the most severe form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Approximately 25% of patients exhibit fistulas – abnormal “tunnels” penetrating the anorectal lining and connecting to other tissues, causing pain and affecting severely mental and physical health. Despite the availability of treatments for perianal CD (pCD), including anti-TNF therapy, most patients do not achieve resolution: many cycle through different medications and develop persistent symptoms and long-term complications. A major roadblock to improved outcomes is our poor understanding of the underlying immunopathology.

The PhD proposal aims at defining targetable cellular and molecular interactions driving hallmark features of fistula pathology using advanced computational biology methods to analyse single-cell and spatial transcriptomics data. The goal is to inform novel therapeutics leveraging the growing multi-omic data generated in the Powell lab as well as publicly available datasets. Previous research in the group has identified IL22-producing T-cells and iNKT-cells as key players of the immune compartment in fistula tissue. This project will investigate further fistula tissue lymphocytes, with an eye on IL22-producing T-cells and iNKT-cells, by:

1.      defining their intracellular gene regulatory networks and inter-cellular communication networks;

2.      mapping their transcriptional landscape along the fistula tract;

3.      probing their biological activity and their upstream regulators.

Project activities will involve the analysis and interpretation of transcriptomic data from bulk, single-cell and bleeding-edge spatially resolved experiments. They will offer opportunities to develop advanced data science skills, ranging from data wrangling and visualization to statistics and machine learning. The student will join the multidisciplinary group led by Prof. Nick Powell, which combines expertise in gastroenterology, immunology, bioinformatics and data science.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

An opportunity has arisen for three 3-year PhD studentships, located within the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction at Imperial College London, funded by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.
Funding: 36 months (full time), includes course fees at the UK-Home rate of £7,030.00 per year (Faculty of Medicine | Imperial students | Imperial College London) and a tax‐free stipend of £20,622. Funding for overseas fees is not provided.
Starting date: 01 April 2024


All Imperial College London PhD entry requirements must be met and the successful applicant will subsequently need to apply online.
Applicants should hold (or obtain by January 2024) a first or upper-second-class honours degree. Applicants must also meet Imperial College’s English language requirements – further details can be found at
We look forward to receiving applications from all candidates and will select those who display the potential to become world-leading researchers of the future based on their application and performance at an interview.
For queries about the application process please contact Alison Scoggins, (
Applicants for this studentship should submit their CV and a cover letter, including full contact details of two referees, to Alison Scoggins (
We regret that due to the large volume of applications received, we are only able to notify those shortlisted for interview.