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Safer, scalable, and modifiable polymer-based lipid nanocapsules for drug delivery


   School of Pharmacy


About the Project

Lipid nanocapsules (LNCs) are very interesting nanoformulations as they can be made by phase inversion technique (PIT), a scalable method with predictable particle size at the beginning of the preparation process. LNCs are made of an oily core surrounded by surfactants (Ss) and phospholipids. The ability to change the oil core and the phospholipids makes these formulations very promising in terms of optimization of lipophilic drugs loading and being stimuli responsive. However, the surfactant shell, which is very important for hydrophilic drug loading including macromolecules, has been associated with in vitro cellular toxicity. Commercially available Ss are polyethylene glycol (PEG) based and present significant in vitro cellular toxicity. Furthermore, PEG use requires trial and error depending on cell line and application. Researchers have attempted to replace the Ss of LNCs with safer options, however none have been suitable for the phase inversion process, rendered LNC less industrially feasible. In this project, polymer-based surfactants, with a known safer profile, capable of temperature-dependent solubility will be used to support a scalable and sustainable phase inversion manufacturing process for the development of next generation LNCs.

Once successful, this project will allow LNCs to be explored as a safe and scalable a platform for drug delivery applications. Distinct from elegant delivery systems, such as microneedles, LNCs have the potential to overcome limitations associated with complex scalability and broaden the scope of applications. LNCs can used topically or parenterally to deliver variety of lipophilic and hydrophilic agents. This project will bring a safe, versatile version of LNC to R&D that will exploit green chemistry in the synthesis of novel polymers for a scalable and sustainable manufacturing process of LNC.

The successful applicant will work as part of a research group with widely reputed expertise in nanotechnology drug delivery. The applicant will be expertly trained in key skills pertaining to drug delivery, pharmaceutical formulation, and analytical testing of drug products. We anticipate that the project will lead to new lipid based nano system capable of delivering variety of drugs with improved bioavailability and safety.

The successful PhD student will be equipped with wide range of experimental training in multidisciplinary areas. This project will train student(s) on

1. Synthetic and polymer chemistry, alongside analytical techniques such as NMR, mass spectrometry, and FT-IR. Synthetic development can also be explored for green chemistry in polmyers synthesis.

2. Organic solvent free, scalable manufacturing of lipid based nanoformulations: student will learn how to use PIT method for the manufacturing of LNCs. The use of DLS, TEM and PCS in the analysis of particle size, PDI, surface charge of particles. Particles stability testing in wet and dry state after lyophilisation.

3. In vitro cell culture: student will be trained to grow, maintain, and use cells in designing of cellular toxicity experiments using MTT and resazurin assays. Develop the skills for more advanced cellular testing like antioxidant, Photothermal activity and flow cytometry.

4. Drug loaded LNCs: the PhD project will train student on analytical tools such UV-Vis, HPLC for drug loading and encapsulation efficiency analysis of drug loaded LNCs. In vitro drug release experiments and finally drug stability testing.

5. Literature and office-based skills: analysis of literature, academic writing of reports and articles, meeting deadlines, communication skills and problem-solving ability will be all developed during PhD. The most important learning skills are lifelong, self-learning skills besides to effective independent thinking.

Home applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

1st or 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline.

International applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

IELTS (or equivalent) of 7.0, a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants should apply through the University's Direct Application Portal: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php


Funding Notes

Department for the Economy studentships are open for applications to Home and International applicants for October 2023 entry. Eligibility and funding information is available here: View Website

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