Skin penetration underpins the design, efficacy and risk assessment of many high-value products including topical and transdermal drugs, functional personal care products, amongst others. Given the ethical concerns with animal tests, this area is moving towards ex vivo / in vitro experimental studies using excised human skin samples. Nevertheless, current in vitro tests have limited capability in predicting in vivo results. To this end, computer (in silico) modelling has been recognised as a promising approach for in vitro – in vivo extrapolation. However, existing models have limited accuracy due to paucity of reliable and quantitative information concerning penetration pathways and penetrant distribution at the site of action in the skin. In addition, in vivo animal studies are still widespread in the pre-clinical stage of drug development. In silico models, if sufficiently accurate, have great promise to help optimise such experiments with potentially substantial reduction of animal use.
To address this challenge, we propose to apply advanced spectroscopic imaging, stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, to in vitro assessment of skin penetration. SRS microscopy provides quantitative images with submicron spatial resolution. For the first time, direct measurement of penetration pathways and microscopic distribution of the chemical in the skin will be obtained, which we will use to improve existing in silico models. The integrated modelling-imaging toolkit will significantly improve the in vitro – in vivo extrapolation capability, delivering a more systematic approach for skin penetration assessment. Importantly, the toolkit will help better design and reduce in vivo animal experiments that cannot be completely replaced at present.
This studentship is open to all academically qualified candidates with no residence restrictions. The studentship will last for three years. It will cover the tuition fee and provide a PhD stipend at the standard UK Research Council rate (currently at about £15,000 per annum), as well as generous budget for training activities (workshops, conferences, etc.) -- training will provided to the successful candidate for this multi-disciplinary project. The student will be jointly supervised by Dr Tao Chen at University of Surrey and Dr Natalie Belsey at National Physical Laboratory.
A relevant degree (first or upper second) in engineering, physics, chemistry or mathematics. Experience in, or capability to learn, experimental methods using spectroscopy and computer modelling. A Master’s degree is not a pre-requisite but would be looked upon favourably.
Non-native speakers of English who did not study in an English speaking country will be required to have IELTS 6.5 or above.
How to apply:
Students should apply through the Chemical and Process Engineering Research PhD programme: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/chemical-and-process-engineering-research-phd
The application shall include:
Cover letter (max 1 page) explaining your interest and suitability for the project.
CV (max 2 pages).
Published work such as journals and conference articles (if any).
Copy of your academic transcripts.
Copy of your MSc dissertation (if appropriate).
Names and contact information of two referees.
If applicable, a copy of a valid IELTS certificate from the past two years.
Any enquiries should be emailed to Dr Tao Chen. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in early March.
PLEASE NOTE: This studentship will commence on the 1st October 2020 but also has the opportunity to start in July 2020.