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Microfluidics for cellular therapy manufacturing (EPS2020/07)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A key issue for the successful manufacture of cell therapies is high cell loss and damage during processing steps to exchange the solution around cells. We propose a microfluidic solution based on inertial focussing technology.

Cellular therapies are a very rapidly growing area of novel therapeutics to treat cancer and degenerative diseases. Central to all cellular manufacturing is a requirement to wash and re-formulate cultured cells through complex culture processes, without losing cell yield, or damaging the cells. This is a key issue whether for small autologous products made for one donor, or for large scale manufacturing of cells to make multiple doses from one allogeneic donation. Our focus is particularly on challenges associated with downstream processing, i.e. the manipulation of cells to effectively change media, concentrate and re-formulate cells without major loss or damage. This stage has been highlighted as the major bottleneck preventing large scale adoption of these therapies. The current state of the art, e.g. centrifugation or ligand-based sorting, are challenging at scale, expensive and can involve significant loss of product. Any solution must be completely compatible with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) manufacturing of cells.
Our solution is to develop a microfluidic based system where the layout of channel structures, through which the cells flow determine their switching into new media or buffers or the isolation of desired product from culture contaminants. This builds on initial academic research demonstrating proof-of-principle. Building on preliminary data, our aim is to develop a microfluidic-based system enabling medium exchange and concentration adjustment of monocytes/macrophages and T cells, with potential applications in cancer, liver disease and wound healing, with minimal loss and damage. In addition, we would consider this area to act as a pathfinder for other cell therapy products.


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). Some of our scholarships are only open to UK/EU applicants who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC. Some scholarships are available for exceptional overseas candidates

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 28th February 2020. All successful candidates should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply

Apply Online - https://hwacuk.elluciancrmrecruit.com/Admissions/Pages/Login.aspx

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:
(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Bio-engineering and Bio-sciences PhD and select September 2020 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’
You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be £15k and full fees will be paid for 3 years.

Related Subjects

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