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MPhil studying technologies to prevent viral spread arising from bioaerosols - Evaluation of electrostatic precipitation to capture and inactivate viral particles from bioaerosols.

Cardiff School of Medicine

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Prof A Parker , Prof J Birchall , Dr Rebecca Bayliss No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
Cardiff United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Cancer Biology Virology

About the Project

Background: The 2019 SARS-CoV2 coronavirus pandemic continues to cause immense challenges globally. Although official statistics currently place the COVID-19 related death toll at ~2.5M and rising, the costs are considerably higher when one considers the volume of surgical procedures that have needed to be delayed or cancelled due to the pandemic. It is imperative therefore that procedures are put in place to enable surgery to continue to minimise excess deaths caused indirectly during the pandemic. An important consideration in this regard is the potential for viral spread to occur in hospitals from patients to healthcare professionals. This can arise, for example due to the release of Covid-containing bioaerosols in exhaled breath from an infected patient on a ventilator or anaesthetic machine. During surgery it may also occur due to the production of bioaerosols by energy-based surgical instruments which are used commonly during procedures. When released, these bioaerosols have the potential to spread SARS-CoV2 from infected patients widely into the hospital, increasing the likelihood of indirect person-to-person spread of SARS-CoV2, or indeed any other viral infection that may manifest within the abdominal cavity or even in contaminating bloods. Viruses, including CARS-CoV2, HIV, HPV and Hepatitis B have been isolated from surgical bioaerosols and therefore represent a viable risk of infection to healthcare professionals. Alesi Ltd specialise in the development of devices which can remove particulate patter from bioaerosols released during surgical procedures, and their Ultravision™ technology has been shown to be highly efficient at removing particulate matter from surgical smoke. Ultravision uses the highly characterised process of electrostatic precipitation. Although unproven in this product, electrostatic precipitation has been shown by others to have the potential to both capture AND inactivate viruses due to its unique mode of action.  In this project we will seek to develop this technology to establish how effectively Ultravision™ is able to capture and potentially also inactivate viral particles present within aerosol solution. Successful demonstration that Ultravision™ technology can be applied to limit the spread of virus will significantly improve the safe working environment for healthcare professional by minimising or eliminating the spread of potentially dangerous pathogens. This technology would therefore be likely to be rapidly and widely adopted as a key safety measure in operating theatres to enable lifesaving surgical procedures to continue even during a pandemic.

The project: The project proposes to evaluate the potential of electrostatic precipitation mediated by the Alesi Ultravision system to remove and inactivate viral particles from bioaerosols. Whilst this application is clearly geared in the short term towards making operating theatres safer during the coronavirus pandemic, in the longer term this will continue to improve safety by limiting transmission of other circulating viruses. Since the use of SARS-CoV2 in this system would require CL3 facilities, we will instead use a model viral vector based on adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5), which can be used under standard CL2 laboratory facilities. Like SARS-CoV2, Ad5 is a respiratory pathogen that infects airway epithelia, and is of a similar size to SARS-CoV2 (Ad5 is around 100nm diameter, SARS-CoV2 is around 120-200nm). Unlike SARS-CoV2, Ad5 is non-enveloped, utilises a well-defined cell entry receptor, Coxsackie and Adenovirus Receptor (CAR) to mediate cellular infection, and causes only mild, transient and self-limiting infections in the healthy host. The Parker lab specialise in the development adenovirus for translational applications. The laboratory use and have generated many replication deficient adenoviral vectors expressing reporter genes (e.g. GFP, Luciferase, β-Gal) which can safely be used under CL2 conditions and will be used in this study to monitor the virucidal activity of Ultravision.

The project will present several academic challenges. Most obviously, this project will be highly interdisciplinary in nature, requiring input and skills spanning biology and virology through to engineering. The recruited individual will therefore need to interact dynamically with academic supervisors to train in techniques related to the generation and propagation of viral vectors, and biological assays to assess their activity (e.g. reporter gene assays). At the same time, the recruited individual will require a flair in engineering to develop suitable set ups to assess the activity of Ultravision to inactivate viral particles, and will therefore need to work closely with the industrial partner, Alesi, to develop this further. Critical to facilitating this will be the involvement of the second academic supervisor, Prof James Birchall, who has significant experience in the development of medical devices for gene and drug delivery.

Lead Supervisors profile

Industrial Partner profile

Funding Notes

MPhil studentship generously funded by Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2), a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.
Open to all UK/EU students
Full UK/EU tuition fees 
Stipend rate of £11,819
Additional funding available for costs such as research consumables and training
To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in the Convergence Area of Wales on University registration.


Applicants should possess a minimum of an upper second class Honours degree, master's degree, or equivalent in a relevant subject. 
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS) 
This studentship has a start date of July 2021. In order to be considered you must submit a formal application via Cardiff University’s online application service. (To access the system click the 'Institution Website' button on this website or follow this link
There is a box at the top right of the page labelled ‘Apply’, please ensure you select the correct ‘Qualification’ (Doctor of Philosophy), the correct ‘Mode of Study’ (Full Time) and the correct ‘Start Date’ (July 2021). This will take you to the application portal. 
In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information: 

• Supporting statement 
• CV 
• Qualification certificates 
• Proof of English language (if applicable)
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