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Understanding the role of the lipid bilayer on receptor function

Project Description

Understanding how the binding of a single ligand influences the behaviour of a membrane protein target is of fundamental importance in drug discovery. The current focus of many research groups examines how individual residues affect the pharmacology of a receptor protein with conclusions drawn from static models or structures. However, many pharmaceutically relevant targets such as GPCRs, Ion Channels etc are embedded in a dynamic lipid bilayer, the composition of which is not only dictated by cell or organelle type but is also heavily influenced by age, disease state and dietary/metabolic changes. The changes in receptor environment can be either chemical (i.e. oxidation) or compositional (i.e. mole ratios of lipids) in nature but directly affects the membrane bound drug target and in turn its ability to activate/adapt in the presence of a therapeutic.

This is a multidisciplinary project and will combine molecular pharmacology, computational biology, biophysics and engineering principles such as microfluidics to understand the influence of lipids on conformational changes in membrane proteins. The proposed work will initially focus on the use of synthetic vesicles and droplet interface bilayers of defined lipid composition i.e. reflecting disease states but will possibly be extended to use lipids extracted from patient samples such as biopsies and thus bridging the gap between fundamental lab-based science and clinical relevance.


• The Centre has a vibrant post graduate student community and has accreditation from the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) for the training it gives to its science PhD students.
• You will benefit from access to a world-class, Olympic-grade fitness and sports science facilities and life sciences laboratory environment with industry standard research and teaching facilities. You will become a part of a multi-professional team of renowned academics, researchers and clinicians.
• The new Science and Health Building is home to the first education-based Super laboratory (Lab+) for biomedical, pharmacological and analytical sciences.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.
All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD

• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

For further details see:

• Candidates must possess knowledge and/or laboratory-based experience in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Chemistry or Molecular Biology.

It would be desirable if candidates can evidence their commitment to research in the form of publications of some kind (for example journal or conference papers).

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr John Simms Director of Studies or Professor Helen Maddock Executive Centre, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences (CSELS)

To apply on line please visit:

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Start date: September 2019

Enquiries may be addressed to:
Dr John Simms Director of Studies
or Professor Helen Maddock Executive Centre, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences (CSELS)

Funding Notes

Fully funded to UK/EU fee equivalence plus stipend
(please note that eligibility is restricted to UK/EU graduates only)

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