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Overcoming the barriers to brain delivery; bioengineering 3D printed microfluidic chips to continuous manufacture targeted nanoparticles and elucidate their nose to brain permeability


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2020.

This PhD studentship is1 of 6 PhD studentships funded by the University of Portsmouth in the area of biomaterials and bioengineering.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health and will be supervised by Dr Aikaterini Lalatsa in collaboration with Prof Arthur Butt (School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Portsmouth and Dr Andrea Bucchi (Faculty of Enginering, University of Portsmouth).

Project description
Treatment of brain diseases (neurodegenerative disorders, stroke, pain etc) and tumours is hampered by the inability of medicines to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in order to elicit a therapeutic response (Lalatsa, A et al (2014) Mol Pharm 11 (4): 1081-93). Development of brain therapeutics commonly involves testing of potential therapies in cell cultures and animal models (pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics studies). Nose-to-brain delivery has emerged as a viable pathway for transport of drugs/biomacromolecules across the BBB and remains the only non-invasive strategy for efficient delivery of therapeutics and biotherapeutics especially for chronic conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Stroke) [Uchegbu, IF, Schätzlein, AG, Lalatsa, A, Godfrey L, Ianitelli, A. Delivery of Drugs WO/2015/063510, Published].

This project aims to design and engineer microfluidic chips and mathematical models for brain targeted nanoparticles where ‘organs-on-chip’ models are able to determine nose-to-brain permeability replacing preclinical studies and accelerating the translation of brain therapeutics and nanomedicines.

The project presents an opportunity to work at the interface between bionanomaterial engineering, cellular and molecular medicine and drug delivery, to address permeation across the BBB for non-invasive targeted delivery strategies for brain diseases. The successful candidate will gain experience and receive training in the areas of additive manufacturing, 3D printing and bioprinting, computational flow dynamics, biomaterials, cell biology, neuroscience, an all human 3D in vitro BBB model, and permeability studies. In addition to state-of-the-art facilities (e.g. 3D printer and bioprinter, live cell imaging, TIRF microscopy, electron, scanning and atomic force microscopy, laser confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, electrical Cell Substrate Impedence Sensing system (ECIS) system and CellZscope) the student will have the opportunity to directly interact with our industrial partners.


The work on this project will involve:
-Continuous microfluidic fabrication of nano-in-micro loaded formulations optimised for targeted nose-to-brain delivery.
-Develop mathematical models for the continuous fabrication of nano-in-micro formulations and flow of nanoparticulate formulations within microfluidic organ-on-chips.
-Design and manufacture organs-on-chips models for the nasal epithelial cells and 3D blood-brain barrier validating the permeability of known transport markers and assessing the permeability of brain therapeutics and nanomedicines.

General admissions criteria
You will need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, materials science, nanotechnology, pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
The successful applicant will be a talented researcher with an enthusiasm for biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, biomaterials, materials science, nanotechnology, pharmacy/pharmaceutics

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Aikaterini Lalatsa () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code/title.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Bioengineering and Biomaterials’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PHBM4841020 when applying.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,009 for 2019/2020).Bursary recipients will also receive a £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables.

How good is research at University of Portsmouth in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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