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ctFRAC - Microfluidic devices to enrich tumour DNA biomarkers

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas
    Dr Nick Leslie
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Medical Research Scotland
PhD Studentship Award

This project is one of 15 PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland (http://www.medicalresearchscotland.org.uk) to be delivered jointly by the named University and Company. The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and commercial training needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"ctFRAC - Development of microfluidic sample preparation devices for the rapid enrichment and purification of specific circulating tumor DNA fractions" to be delivered by Heriot-Watt University and Multiplicom NV (www.multiplicom.com) [Company supervisor: Professor Jurgen Del Favero].

Liquid biopsies allow DNA shed from tumours to be detected using blood tests without invasive and expensive surgery associated with traditional tissue biopsies. However, a barrier to the deployment of such liquid biopsies as a major cancer diagnostic or screening tool is that tumour DNA is present in small amounts and not always detectable using standard approaches. This lack of sensitivity is largely due to the presence of a large amount of genomic “background” DNA which masks the tumour DNA signal. In addition, the tumour DNA is often more fragmented than the genomic DNA found in all healthy subjects, making it more difficult to detect. We have already developed a microfluidic chip which enables the rapid extraction of plasma from maternal blood and also enriches the smaller more fragmented fractions of fetal circulating DNA. In this project we will apply these findings to develop an efficient preparation approach for liquid cancer biopsy in a microfluidic format, which can then be used with current diagnostic assays. By enabling rapid and sensitive detection of circulating tumour DNA, and fitting in with existing diagnostic workflows, this novel sample preparation technique has the potential to transform early detection and characterisation of cancer using a simple blood sample.


Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas:
[Email Address Removed]


Candidates must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK BSc Honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in an appropriate discipline (relevant subjects range from bioengineering through to molecular biology).

Applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email addresses) and a covering letter, explaining why the applicant wishes to carry out this project, by email to Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas:
[Email Address Removed]

Interviews are expected to take place on 4 May or 5 May 2016.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start in September 2016.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £16,500, increasing to £17,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and contribution to travel expenses. International fees are not covered.



How good is research at Heriot-Watt University in General Engineering?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 108.84

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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