Proteomic biomarkers for disease progression in SARS-CoV-2 infections

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Prof C Mills, Prof A Simpson, Prof P Townsend, Dr Tim Felton  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus to which we apparently have no immunity and presents a challenge for humankind across the world. The proposed project is to identify molecular markers for Covid-19 disease progression. It is proposed to undertake a hypothesis-generating study to characterise proteomic markers of patients with differing severities of Covid-19 disease (mild illness, pneumonia, severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, septic shock). This will be achieved by undertaking a comprehensive proteomic profiling of serum samples taken prospectively from in-patients through the progression of their SARS-CoV-2 infection from hospital admission to recovery or non-resolution. Classic statistical methods (e.g. multivariate regression models) and machine learning approaches (e.g. random forest) will be used to develop molecular phenotypes linked to clinical phenotypes of disease. Outputs will include candidate biomarkers to identify those at risk of severe disease to support rapid clinical decision making and identify disease pathways which will help support identification of new treatments and management strategies. This research is aligned to the COVID-19 MS and is supported through collaboration with Waters Corporation. The successful student will have the opportunity to access the Waters platform technology at its Manchester base.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Chemistry or a related area / subject. Candidates with experience with an interest in multidisciplinary research, spanning the laboratory and the clinic are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Immunology.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website


Hands CM, Sayers RL, Nitride C, Gethings LA, Mills ENC. 2020. A multiple reaction monitoring method for determining peanut (Arachis hypogea) allergens in serum using quadrupole and time-of-flight mass spectrometry [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 3]. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2020;10.1007/s00216-020-02508-9. doi:10.1007/s00216-020-02508-9

Selby A, Munro A, Grimshaw KE, Cornelius V, Keil T, Grabenhenrich L, Clausen M, Dubakiene R, Fiocchi A, Kowalski ML, Papadopoulos NG, Reche M, Sigurdardottir ST, Sprikkelman AB, Xepapadaki P, Mills ENC, Beyer K, Roberts G. 2018 Prevalence estimates and risk factors for early childhood wheeze across Europe: the EuroPrevall birth cohort. Thorax. 73:1049-1061.

Fontanella S, Frainay C, Murray CS, Simpson A, Custovic A. Machine learning to identify pairwise interactions between specific IgE antibodies and their association with asthma: A cross-sectional analysis within a population-based birth cohort. PLoS Med. 2018 Nov 13;15(11):e1002691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002691.

Brinkman P, Ahmed WM, Gómez C, Knobel HH, Weda H, Vink TJ, Nijsen TM, Wheelock CE, Dahlen SE, Montuschi P, Knowles RG, Vijverberg SJ, Maitland-van der Zee AH, Sterk PJ, Fowler SJ; U-BIOPRED Study Group. Exhaled volatile organic compounds as markers for medication use in asthma. Eur Respir J. 2020 Feb 27;55(2):1900544. doi: 10.1183/13993003.00544-2019

Non-directed bronchial lavage is a safe method for sampling the respiratory tract in critically ill patient.
Bonvento BV, Rooney JA, Columb MO, McGrath BA, Bentley AM, Felton TW. J Intensive Care Soc. 2019 Aug;20(3):237-241. doi: 10.1177/1751143718811113