The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (‘NIBRT’) is a global centre of excellence, headquartered in Dublin that provides training and research solutions to the global biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector. NIBRT arose from an innovative collaboration between University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University and the Institute of Technology, Sligo, with core funding by the Government of Ireland through Ireland’s inward investment agency, IDA Ireland. NIBRT’s 6,500 M² facility has 80 employees currently and houses fully operational pilot plants for biologics manufacturing training to industry and education as well as multiple research laboratories focussed on biopharmaceuticals manufacturing research.
mRNA vaccines are a promising approach to preventing infectious diseases and treating some forms of cancer, but they are remarkably unstable, requiring ultracold temperatures for shipping and storage. The broad goal of this research program is to develop innovative stabilization strategies for mRNA vaccines, grounded in a thorough understanding of mRNA degradation mechanisms and enabled by novel manufacturing methods.
Over the last 30 years, the development of recombinant protein drugs has been supported by a vast literature that addresses the kinetics and mechanisms of protein degradation reactions. In contrast, very little is known about the factors controlling the chemical and physical stability of mRNA and mRNA lipid nanoparticles (mRNA LNP). This project will explore the mechanisms of mRNA degradation under formulation relevant conditions. This project will probe the mechanisms of chemical degradation of mRNA in aqueous solution, in mRNA LNP suspensions, and in dried solids. The effects of temperature, composition, pH, buffer and/or metal ion catalysis, will be among the factors explored. The physical stability of mRNA LNP will also be investigated by monitoring changes in particle size, particle size distribution, mRNA integrity, and encapsulation efficiency across a range of conditions. The results will begin to create a knowledge framework to support the rational design of mRNA LNP formulations and processes.
· This position is ideally suited to a PhD Candidate (a beginning graduate student researcher) with a background in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, pharmaceutical chemistry, or related field. An understanding of basic biochemistry, particularly protein chemistry, would be highly advantageous.
· An honours degree (NFQ Level 8) is required, with enrolment requirements as per standard University College Dublin requirements.. The project is supported by a grant from Science Foundation Ireland.
· The PhD student will enrol and receive a PhD degree on successful completion of their program from University College Dublin. The PhD student will report to the PI (Prof. Elizabeth Topp) and will be assisted by postdoctoral scientists and others in the lab in collaboration with the research group of Prof. Elizabeth Topp.
KEY DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES
· Conducting doctoral level research under the leadership of the Principal Investigator and/or senior postdoc;
· Maintaining detailed and orderly records of the work performed, making them available to the Principal Investigator and/or senior postdoc upon request;
· Disseminating the outcomes of this research in poster and/or podium presentations at regional, national, and international meetings and conferences;
· With collaborators and co-authors, generating manuscripts for publication in top-tier journals;
· Fulfilling all requirements of the host department;
· Participating fully in the wider research and scholarly activities of the group within the remit and restrictions of the appointed position;
· Carrying out any other duties within the scope, spirit and purpose of the job as requested by the Principal Investigator and/or senior postdoc;
· Complying with all NIBRT policies and regulations, including those in relation to Research Ethics and Health and Safety.
ESSENTIAL AND DESIRABLE CRITERIA
· A BSc in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, pharmaceutical chemistry, or a relevant related discipline from an approved degree awarding institution (essential).
· Commitment to research excellence (essential).
· Effective oral and written communication skills: report writing, knowledge transfer and communication skills with the ability to present complex information effectively to a range of audiences (essential).
· Self-motivated and able to work collaboratively and as part of a team to an agreed work plan (essential).
· Prior experience in an industrial or academic research laboratory (desirable).
· Experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and/or as an analytical chemist, e.g. quality control laboratories, industry, research (desirable).
· Experience working in multidisciplinary research teams (desirable).
Please forward your application to firstname.lastname@example.org without delay. Please note that the successful candidate may be required to supply parchments of degrees/qualifications.
We are happy to support research candidates requiring visa or permit assistance.
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