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Understanding the effects of lung disease and vaping to the lung through breath-based bioanalytics (Ref: SF20/APP/MOSCHOS4)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

About the Project

Your breath contains a vast amount of information about you: whether you’ve had a drink, damaged your liver, your blood blood glucose levels, even type of breast cancer treatment can be assessed through breath. Beyond analysing volatile compounds like ethanol, detection of DNA, RNA and proteins in breath is proving trickier. This is because most systems that collect exhaled breath condensates (EBC) are open to salivary or environmental contamination and are prone to sample loss, making results inconsistent. As a result, invasive, high-risk procedures might be necessary for patients suffering cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, asthma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Confirmation of the Wuhan coronavirus infection for example requires detection of viral nucleic acids in sputum, or invasively collected bronchial samples.

This project will use a novel EBC collection device which addresses these problems and separates breath arising from different parts of the airways. Preliminary work indicates it can generate microbiome data about the alveoli that resembles closely surgically collected samples, and can assess inhaled drug deposition across the airways. It is therefore anticipated that this work will enable clinicians and pharmaceutical scientists to research lung physiology and study inhaled drug delivery with greater frequency and accuracy, leading to future diagnostics that can be used by the patients themselves to monitor and manage their health.

The prospective student will have a background in biological or pharmaceutical sciences, preferably with relevant industry experience. Working under Associate Professor Sterghios A. Moschos, Dr Andrew Nelson, and Dr. William Cheung, they will engage in characterising the performance of the device under laboratory and simulated field conditions, leading towards the performance of a healthy volunteer study on the impact of vaping in lung physiology as measured through breath analysis. The student will have the opportunity to engage with external clinical collaborator research on breath analytics of cystic fibrosis and COPD, and to explore existence of exosomes in breath aerosols.

You will access our world-class third generation sequencing, proteomics and metabolomics facilities, recently upgraded through an 8 million UKRI grant on aerosol and air biomonitoring in the built environment. They will moreover join a highly energetic and committed team focusing on lung diagnostics and interventions, with close industrial and clinical collaborations of the on the paediatric use of the platform, potentially participating in the innovation to commercialisation journey of the technology.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Sterghios Moschos ( or @docmoschos)

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Canyelles-Pericas, P., & Moschos, S.A. xHALEscreen: An Exhaled Breath & Environment Aerosol Condensate Capture Platform for Molecular Bioanalytics in Biodefence. Cambridge Healthtech institute’s 5th Annual Biodefense World Summit 2019, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Heravi, F.M., Getting, S. & Moschos, S.A. Extracellular vesicles & their nucleic acids for biomarker discovery. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2018, 192: 170-187.

Shah K., Bentley, E., Tyler A., Richards K.S., Wright, E., Easterbrook, L., Lee, D., Cleaver, C., Usher, L.,1 Burton J.E., Pitman, J.K., Bruce C.B., Edge, D., Lee, M., Nazareth, N., Norwood, D.A., & Moschos S.A. Field-deployable, Quantitative, Rapid Identification of Active Ebola Virus Infection in Unprocessed Blood. Chemical Science, 2017, 8:7780 – 7797.

Patent: Moschos, S.A. & Kale I. Exhaled breath condensate collection device & a kit of parts thereof. Br. Patent GB2548122 (A), Filed 03/08/2016 application no. GB2016000401, published 13th September 2017.

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