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Remote biomarkers for the earliest phases of Parkinson’s disease

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 02, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited from graduates with a BSc (First or Upper Second) or MSc (Distinction), or equivalent, to work within the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. This 3 year studentship will commence in Spring 2020 and will be based at the Charterhouse Square Campus. This is an exciting opportunity for a graduate from disciplines related to epidemiology, statistics, and behavioural sciences.

Project description

1. Background to the project

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative disease of the brain. The number of people diagnosed is growing faster than any other neurological condition and is expected to affect 14 million people worldwide by 2040.

PREDICT-PD is a ground-breaking project using simple tests to identify people at higher risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD) before the symptoms appear. In a collaboration between QMUL and UCL, 10,000 participants are being recruited via the internet ( and are being risk stratified to determine those that are most likely to develop PD. Alongside earlier identification, it is crucial to develop better ways to track early disease progression through biomarkers.

2. Proposed research and techniques

In line with the methods of remote assessment used in the PREDICT-PD study, we wish to develop novel biomarkers that can be self-collected and returned for analysis via the postal service. These markers will include DNA collected from saliva and blood samples collected using blood spots on a Guthrie card, which is a method that has already been successfully employed in the Preventive Neurology Unit by Dr Dobson’s team. Biomarkers for neurodegeneration, in general, and PD, more-specifically, will be identified first in patients with PD who are being recruited through a large case-control study in East London. Candidate biomarkers that are most suited to remote, self-collection will then be explored in the higher risk participants from the PREDICT-PD study.
The successful PhD candidate will coordinate the collection of samples, perform laboratory experiments and undertake data analysis to identify biomarkers for the earliest phases of PD.

3. Anticipated project timeline

Months 0-3 – Literature review of biomarkers for PD.
Months 3-12 – Case-control study to select optimum blood-based biomarkers for remote collection.
Months 12-18 – Dispatch and collection of blood and other media from PREDICT-PD participants.
Months 18-30 – Laboratory analysis of samples.
Months 30-36 – Thesis write-up.

4. Eligibility

This project requires a highly skilled student with excellent communication skills and laboratory experience at a pre-doctoral level.

Informal enquiries can be made to via email: Dr Alastair Noyce

Your application should consist of a CV and contact details of two academic referees. You must also include a personal statement (1,000 words maximum) describing your suitability for the selected project including how your research experience and interests relate to the project.

Please submit your application to: Patrick Mullan ().

Funding Notes

This 3 year PhD studentship is funded by the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and comes with a tax-free stipend of £21,000. It is open to UK Nationals, EEA/Swiss migrant workers and non-UK nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK who will have three years ordinary residence in the EU prior to the start of the studentship. University tuition fees (at UK/EU levels) will be met by the Institute.

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