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Innovative Nanoformulations to Prevent Sight Loss Progression -NanoSight

   Research Support Unit

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  Dr L Fitzhenry, Dr S Rani, Dr P McLoughlin  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Post summary

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in patients over sixty, accounts for almost 10% of blindness worldwide. Its predicted global incidence for 2020 was 196M, rising to 288M in 2040. Typical treatment involves regular injections into the eye, which can be associated with significant patient discomfort and potentially serious side effects, including infection and retinal detachment. As such, there is an unmet clinical need for the development of new drug delivery techniques to treat diseases of the posterior segment of the eye. This project will address this challenge through the development of innovative nanomaterials designed for targeted delivery of novel therapeutic combinations for AMD treatment. Such delivery platforms could greatly improve patient comfort and outcomes by negating or reducing the need for ocular injections.

Research will involve investigation of the efficacy new therapeutic combinations, as well as the development and evaluation of bespoke nanomaterials, capable of attenuating the release of these drugs. This is a transdisciplinary project that incorporates chemical, biomedical, and clinical expertise, and will be a collaboration between the international partner, Colorado School of Mines, the clinical partners, The Institute of Eye Surgery, UPMC Whitfield Hospital, and SETU.

The developed technologies will have greatly improved capabilities for the controlled release of compounds relevant to the treatment and management of diseases of the posterior segment of the eye, given that once the nanomaterial has traversed the multiple barriers of the eye; it will be designed to then act as a controlled release depot at the target site. Extending the release of these compounds could decrease the frequency or need for intravitreal injections, thereby reducing the harmful effects, which can result from this procedure.

The main phases of the research can be summarised as follows:

1.           Baseline physicochemical properties will be measured to determine the nanomaterial with the most suitable properties and ability to encapsulate the drug combination. This will involve development of the nanomaterials, and a detailed study of the drug encapsulation (HPLC, LC-MS), as well as particle size and zeta potential of the materials (DLS and SEM).

2.           With baseline formulation properties established, work will begin on cytotoxicity studies, as well as cell-based release and permeation studies using the most suitable nanomaterials. A key element of this phase will be to determine the resultant transport behaviour through lab-grown ocular cell monolayers, to better understand the potential transport through the physiological layers of the eye. Advanced ELISA-based biomarker studies and in vitro disease models will be investigated to determine the impact of the different formulations on the efficacy of the novel drug combination.

3.           The final stage of the project will focus on significant ex vivo models. Here, the researcher will investigate the most up to date models, as well as develop a whole porcine-eye ex vivo model to study the transport, permeation and release of the most successful formulations. 

Person specification



Applicants should hold or expect to attain, as a minimum a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Chemistry, Materials Science, Pharmaceutical Science, Pharmacy, Biomedical Science, Nanotechnology or related area.


A first class honours or Masters degree in the above areas

 Knowledge & Experience


·       Research project carried out in one of the above disciplines

·       A demonstrated knowledge of at least three of the following: pharmaceutical formulation development, drug delivery, nanotechnology, materials characterisation, cell culture, ex vivo analysis


·       Work placement/internship undertaken in an industry or research lab related to the above disciplines

·       Ability to work in an aseptic environment

 Skills & Competencies


·       Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.


·      Evidence of interest, aptitude and research experience in the above disciplines

·      If applicable, an IELTS score of 7 or equivalent

Funding Notes

Research Group: Ocular Therapeutics Research Group (OTRG), Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC)
Department / School: Department of Laboratory Science, School of Science and Computing
Duration: 48 months PhD
Status: Full Time
Funding information: WIT PhD Scholarship 2022 (WSCH)
Value of the Scholarship per year for four years : €15,000 Fees: €4,500 and Research costs: €2,000
Teaching requirement : 168 hours of academic development activities over the 4-year term of the PhD programme in line with scholarship requirements
Closing date: 23rd May 2022 at4pm Irish time.
Interview date: From 06/06/22
Commencement date: September 2022


Supervisors Dr Laurence Fitzhenry (South East Technological University)
Dr Sweta Rani (South East Technological University)
Dr Gautam Behl (South East Technological University)
Prof Peter McLoughlin (South East Technological University)
Prof Anuj Chauhan (Colorado School of Mines)
Further information
For any informal queries, please contact Dr Laurence Fitzhenry at Laurence.Fitzhenry@setu.ie
For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email rpgadmissions@wit.ie or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.
Website: https://www.setu.ie
Application procedure
Download the Research Postgraduate Application Form and return completed applications to rpgadmissions@wit.ie, quoting WD_2022_22_WSCH in the email subject line.
Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.
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