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Mechanistic evaluation of amino acids as adjuvants in modulating buccal transport of biologicals

College of Health and Life Sciences

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Prof AR Mohammed No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a four year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), to be undertaken within the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Clinical Pharmacy Research Group at Aston University. The studentship is offered in collaboration with Aston Particle Technologies Ltd.

The position is available to start October 2021.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of at least £15,285 (subject to eligibility). This application is only available to Home-fee paying students.

Background to CASE Studentships

CASE studentships are designed to provide students with a first-rate challenging research training experience within the context of a mutually-beneficial research collaboration between academic and non-academic partner organisations. Full details on CASE studentships can be found here.

Project Outline

Biologics, such as proteins and peptides, have massive therapeutic potential, with many proteins being developed for clinical use since first approval of recombinant insulin in 1982. Although a non-invasive route of delivery would be much preferred, parenteral administration remains the predominant delivery route for the majority of therapeutic proteins, e.g. use of subcutaneous insulin in diabetes mellitus. Very few therapeutic proteins have progressed to Phase III clinical trials via the oral route because of its hostile environment, designed for the catabolism of nutrients, completely incompatible with the physiochemical nature of biologics, properties which in turn create difficulties in transportation from the alimentary canal to the systemic circulation.

For this reason, research at Aston has focussed on buccal delivery of biologics and it has recently been demonstrated that the transport of insulin across buccal mucosa can be modulated through use of amino acids as adjuvants1. It is now proposed to extend this work to study the use of engineered composite microparticles of biologics coated with amino acids to assist transport across an immortalised buccal cell-line1. It is hypothesized that these coatings will not only conserve biological activity, as has been demonstrated in the laboratory with other functional excipients, but will also modulate uptake through the buccal mucosa. The purpose of the proposed project is to study amino-acid protected composite particles carrying various representative biologics (insulin, lysozyme and bovine serum albumin representing low, medium and high molecular weight respectively) in buccal absorption. In this way, the factors and mechanisms involved in modulating the buccal transport of a range of biologics will be elucidated with the ultimate aim of informing better formulation of such agents and enabling more confident use of this non-invasive delivery route in future biopharmaceutical medicines.

The student will gain a unique interdisciplinary opportunity to study the mechanistic modulation of buccal transport of adjuvant coated biologic formulations by combining cell based assays (temporal and active/passive movement of biologics, confocal microscopy assisted trans / paracellular pathways) with complementary biophysical measurements (surface energy, surface area) using inverse gas chromatography. The research group at Aston will provide a challenging research training experience within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration with Aston Particle Technologies (APT). At APT, the student will have open access to isothermal dry particle coating technology2,3 and inverse gas chromatography.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in a relevant subject. Full entry requirements for Aston University can be found on our website


Evidence of quantitative training is required. For example, AS or A level Maths, IB Standard or Higher Maths, or university level maths/statistics course. Full entry and eligibility requirements for MIBTP can be found on their website

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Prof Afzal Mohammed by email at [Email Address Removed].

Submitting an application

Details of to apply for this MIBTP CASE studentship and the required documents can be found here.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at [Email Address Removed]

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