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Printed cell scaffolds for rapid, robust tox testing of new chemicals – beyond animal testing

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has now launched a new joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia. The Bath Monash Global PhD Programme will have its first intake in October this year.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: University of Bath
Supervisors at Bath: Professor Janet Scott (lead) and Dr Paul De Bank
Supervisor at Monash: Professor Bayden Wood

The introduction of new chemicals to the market must be preceded by a range of tests to ascertain whether or not these can cause deleterious effects on humans or other organisms. Regulations, such as REACH list a large number of endpoints that must be tested for and many of the requisite tests are (currently) animal based studies. These apply even for new compounds that may be greener or more sustainable replacements for current chemicals in wide use. This can be a barrier to entry to the market for replacement chemicals and this is even recognized by agencies such as the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, which “encourages industry to use reliable non-animal approaches to adequately comply with the information obligations of the regulations”.

In this PhD project, we propose to combine the expertise at Bath in production of materials for tissue scaffolds and cell growth (Scott and De Bank, Bath) with the exquisite imaging and spectroscopic tools being developed at the Monash Centre for Biospectroscopy, MCB (Wood, Monash), to generate easy-to-use rapid testing devices for the effect of new and known chemicals on cells. While cytotoxicity tests relying on live/dead assays are relatively simple to implement, detection of more subtle changes in cells, such as those that might indicate teratogenicity, is far more challenging.

Thus, these printed cell scaffolds for rapid, robust tox testing would be achieved by: a) immobilizing cells onto discrete sensing points on 2D printed scaffolds (capability already demonstrated at Bath, Fig. 1); b) to combine these “cell islands” into printed microchannel devices that will allow variable dosing of chemicals to be tested; and c) to use the advanced spectroscopic techniques demonstrated at the MCB for disease detection to probe subtle changes to cell chemistry, indicating endpoints that usually rely on animal models.

The expertise of the two centres is entirely complementary, yet not overlapping making this a very balanced partnership and providing a PhD student with access to knowledge and skills that could not be gained at a single institution. The technology developed could also be applied to drug testing, but we focus on tox testing as this will be a limiting factor in the introduction of new, safer chemicals in well regulated markets.


We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

You may express an interest in up to three projects in order of preference. See the CSCT website for more information:

Please submit your application to the Home institution of your preferred project. However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

If this is your preferred project, apply using Bath’s online application form:
Please quote ‘Bath Monash PhD studentship’ in the Finance section and the lead supervisor(s)’ name(s) and project title(s) in the ‘Your research interests’ section. More information on applying to Bath may be found here:

If the Home institution of your preferred project is Monash, apply here:

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to .

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.


1. C.F. Rediguieri, T. de Jesus Andreoli Pinto, N. A. Bou-Chacra, R. Galante, G. L. de Araújo, T. Do Nascimento Pedrosa, S. S. Maria-Engler, P. A. De Bank, Ozone Gas as a Benign Sterilization Treatment for PLGA Nanofibre Scaffolds. Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods, 2016, 22, 338-347; T.M.Fortunato, et al. Platelet lysate gel and endothelial progenitors stimulate microvascular network formation in vitro: tissue engineering implications. Scientific Reports, 2016, 6, 25326.

2. J. C. Courtenay, M. A. Johns, F. Galembeck, C. Deneke, E. M. Lanzoni, C. A. Costa, J. L. Scott, R. I. Sharma, Surface Modified Cellulose Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering, Cellulose, 2017, 24, 253-267; J. C. Courtenay, C. Deneke, E. M. Lanzoni, C. A. Costa, J. L. Scott, R I. Sharma, Modulating cell response on cellulose surfaces; tunable attachment and scaffold mechanics, Cellulose, 2017, 25, 925–940

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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