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  NUAcT PhD Studentship: Drug discovery in Motor Neuron Disease

   Translational and Clinical Research Institute

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  Dr Helen E Devine  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Award summary 

An annual stipend equivalent to UKRI doctoral stipend (23/24 rate at £18,622).  Full fees at the UK home rate.   International candidates will need to pay the difference between home and international fees. 


Project: This project will study the effect of repurposed and newly developed drugs as treatments in a novel model using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from patients with motor neuron disease (MND).  

MND is a devastating neurodegenerative disease characterised by the progressive loss of motor neurons leading to paralysis and respiratory failure with half of patients dying within two years of diagnosis. There is currently no cure for this disease and so there is an urgent need for disease-modifying therapies in MND.  

 Use an iPSC-derived MN model to conduct high quality preclinical drug discovery studies to determine the effectiveness of potential therapeutic drugs in MND and to improve confidence that the drug will show efficacy in human trials.  

The PhD student will learn to use a protocol for iPSC-MN differentiation. This is an ideal system to explore the potential benefits of drugs, either repurposed from other conditions targeting specific mechanisms, or from drugs developed in our dedicated drug discovery platform. The student will also develop skills in utilising functional assays to perform compound screening to improve motor neuron health in MND.  

Dr Helen Devine is a consultant neurologist with eight years experience working on human iPSC models. Her work focuses on understanding the pathogenesis and developing treatments in MND. Dr Oliver Russell is a Lecturer at Newcastle University. His research is primarily focussed on the development of assays to discover new compounds to improve mitochondrial function in patients with mitochondrial disease.  

Number of awards 

Start date  

16th September 2024 

Award duration 


Application closing date 

26th April 2024  


Newcastle University 

Name of supervisor/s 

Dr Helen Devine  

Dr Oliver Russell 

Eligibility Criteria 

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree, or a Masters at grade Merit or above, or international equivalent in an appropriate subject, including: biomedical sciences, biochemistry, cell biology, neuroscience. 

Experience of cell culture especially induced pluripotent stem cell culture (desirable) 

Experience of drug screening (desirable) 

Applicants whose first language is not English require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in all sub-skills. 

How to apply 

You must apply through the University’s Application Portal:  

In ‘Course choice’ tab, put ‘Postgraduate Research’ in 'Type of Study', ‘Full Time’ in ‘Mode of Study’, ‘2024’ in ‘Year of Entry’, code ‘8440F’ in ‘Course Title’, blank in ‘Research Area’. Press ‘Search’, select ‘PhD Translational and Clinical Research (FT)’, and save selection.  

Either upload a document or write into ‘Personal Statement’. Put code ‘TC095’ in ‘Studentship/Partnership Reference’.  

When prompted for research proposal, select ‘Write Proposal’. Type in the title of the research project from this advert. A research proposal is not required. 

You can also upload a covering letter and CV, stating how your interests and experience relate to the project.   

Degree transcripts/certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualification if completed must be uploaded.   

Contact Details 

Dr Helen E Devine 

Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University [Email Address Removed]  

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

 About the Project