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  Microneedle biosensors for rapid and painless disease diagnosis

   Faculty of Medical Sciences Graduate School

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  Dr K W Ng, Dr W Lau  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This project aims to develop rapid disease diagnostics based on transdermal microneedle biosensors.

Disease diagnosis often relies on invasive tissue sampling techniques, such as blood sampling or skin biopsies, in order to extract biomarkers for analysis. We have engineered transdermal microneedles to capture specific protein biomarkers from the skin painlessly, without the need for invasive blood sampling or skin biopsies. Thus, it can provide a means to diagnose disease quickly in a patient-friendly manner and will benefit conditions where diagnosis currently involves invasive and time-consuming sampling techniques, such as skin cancer and infectious diseases. Coupled with an electrochemical analytics backend, it is possible to obtain real-time results by converting those captured biomarkers into electrical signals that can be interpreted immediately. This will drastically accelerate the diagnosis (which otherwise would have otherwise taken days or even weeks to complete) and, consequently, timely treatment to save lives.

There are clear clinical applications for the microneedle biosensor in the detection of skin cancer, infections, as well as autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The specific target disease and biomarkers are to be agreed with the supervisors to ensure a good fit with the current programme of work within the team.

We work closely with partners in the School of Engineering and the Translational and Clinical Research Institute in developing our microneedle biosensors, with access to state-of-the art research facilities across the university. You will join a friendly, diverse and multidisciplinary team to develop skills in material science, microfabrication, 3D printing, immunochemistry, electrochemistry, biosensing, and toxicology testing, among others. There may also be opportunities to partake in public engagement and commercialisation activities relating to bringing the technology to market.

You should hold or expect to hold a 2:1 or 1st class degree in a biomedical or pharmaceutical science or equivalent subject. A Masters degree or prior research experience would be advantageous.

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project; applicants will be expected to pay their own fees or have a suitable source of third-party funding. A bench fee may also apply to this project, in addition to the tuition fees. UK students may be able to apply for a Doctoral Loan from Student Finance for financial support.


Selected publications from our group:
• Dixon RV, et al. (2021) Microneedle-based devices for point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B 11(8):2344-2361
• Skaria E, et al. (2019) Poly(lactic) acid/carbon nanotube composite microneedle arrays for dermal biosensing. Analytical Chemistry 91(7):4436-4443
• Ng et al. (2015) Towards pain-free diagnosis of skin diseases through multiplexed microneedles: biomarker extraction and detection using a highly sensitive blotting method. Drug Delivery and Translational Research 5: 387–396