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Nano and Bioengineering for Cancer Immunotherapy

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J C Mareque-Rivas
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Development of vaccines and strategies to use our own immune system to prevent and treat cancer remains an urgent public health priority and challenge. Over the past few years we have sought to build the cancer vaccine upon a biocompatible nanoparticle which simultaneously acts as accurate delivery vehicle and imaging agent for cancer diagnosis and ultrasensitive and quantitative tracking of drug delivery to target receptor, tissues and organs. With this goal in mind we have developed nanovehicles that can be detected in vitro and in vivo using complementary imaging techniques [1-7]. Using these nanovehicles we have been able to deliver immune modulating payloads and cisplatin prodrugs at specific tissues, cells, and cellular compartments, to activate their biological activity in response to external stimuli, and to co-deliver two or more biologically active compounds in therapeutic nanoformulations [2-7].

This PhD research builds upon our recent work and some results documented in 2013 that marked a turning point in the use of antibodies to unleash the immune system against tumors [8]. The goal is to develop a conceptually unique class of compounds for cancer immunotherapy which combine antibodies and nanoengineering. Despite recent advances in antibody engineering major hurdles still remain including manufacturing efficiency, costs, suitable pharmacokinetics and drug safety and efficacy. In this project nano- and bio-engineering will be applied to overcome the above deficiencies and limitations by generation of targeted and multispecific constructs which will be: 1) created by self-assembly processes, 2) transported to the tumor and tumor draining lymph nodes and 3) teach antibodies and simpler/more cost effective antibody-like molecules to more effectively engage specific cells of the immune system for tumour cell killing. Another key aspect will be to incorporate a molecular “on switch” that allows tight control over the cancer and immune cell reprogramming actions of these new immunotherapeutic constructs. This project will enable you to gain cutting edge skills in nano and bioengineering, microbiology, biotechnology and cancer drug testing.

The successful candidate will be joining an interdisciplinary team and work in dynamic and collaborative environment with access to unique research support infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment at the University of Aberdeen and CIC biomaGUNE (Spain). You will also develop part of your PhD research in close collaboration with a leading biotechnology company.

Applicants should have or expect to obtain a First or 2.1 BSc in engineering, biology, chemistry, immunology or related disciplines. Previous laboratory based experience in a relevant area will be advantageous. Overseas applicants should fulfil the University of Aberdeen English Language Requirements

The position will be removed if a suitable candidate is found before 1 March 2015. The start date of the project is to be agreed with the supervisor but will be before September 2016.

Funding Notes

Tuition Fees will be paid at the UK/EU rate which for 2015/2016 is £3,600. A stipend will also be supplied to the successful candidate, for 2015/2016 this is £14,057. The position is open to International students providing they can meet the difference in fees for the 3 years of study. If they cannot, please do NOT submit an application.


1] Gomez Blanco et al. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 4211 – 13. [2] Maldonado et al. Chem. Commun. 2013, 49, 3985 – 87. [3] Maldonado et al. Coord. Chem. Rev. 2013, 257, 2668 – 88. [4] Garaikoetxea Arguinzoniz et al. Part. Part. Sys. Charact. 2014, 1, 46 – 75. [5] Ruggieri et al. Chem. Commun. 2015, 51, 2091 – 94. [6] Cobaleda-Siles et al. Small 2014, 10, 5054 – 67. [7] Hernández-Gil et al. Adv. Healthc. Mater. 2015, 4, 1034 – 42. [8] Couzin-Frankel, J. Breakthrough of the year 2013. Cancer immunotherapy. Science. 2013, 342, 1432 - 3.

Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr Juan Mareque-Rivas ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

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