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Using the immune system to attack virus-associated cancer

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Wilson
    Prof R Jarrett
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

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.

"Investigating the treatment of EBV-associated diseases with ex vivo expanded, genetically modified gamma delta T cells" to be delivered by the University of Glasgow [Supervisors: Dr Joanna Wilson (School of Life Sciences) and Professor Ruth Jarrett (Centre for Virus Research)] and TC BioPharm Ltd (http://www.tcbiopharm.com/) [Company supervisor: Dr Agapitos Patakas].

Epstein-Barr virus is a common human virus with a very dark side – it has an association with cancer. Under certain situations, it can contribute to cancer development. However, the very fact that the cancer cells carry a virus, make them a possible target for new immune related therapies. Gamma delta T-cells (GDT cells) are a subset of white blood cells that act as part of the body’s defence mechanism against disease. These cells are thought to be involved in the immune response to infection by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and the surveillance of EBV-positive tumour cells. The primary objective of this project is to investigate the use of modified GDT cells in the treatment of EBV-associated diseases. TC BioPharm Ltd are experts in the manufacture of GDT cells for cancer treatment and in this collaborative project with the University of Glasgow, it is aimed to expand this therapy to the treatment of viral infections.

GDT cells act by recognising a factor on the surface of virally-infected and cancer cells and from there initiate the death of these target cells. To enhance and direct this action, it is planned to modify the GDT cells so that they will recognise EBV-specific proteins and, therefore, specifically target EBV infected cells. The project plan will be to design these EBV-specific recognition factors at the molecular level, generate the modified GDT cells and test their efficacy. The hypothesis is that these modified GDT cells will be superior in their ability to recognise and kill EBV-infected cells. The outcome of the proposed project will be directly applicable to EBV-infection and numerous EBV-associated cancers. More generally, the results of this project and the use of modified GDT cells, may be extrapolated to the treatment of other viral infections and virus-associated cancers (which account for ~15% of all cancers).


Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr Joanna Wilson:
[email protected]


Candidates must have obtained a first or 2.1 UK BSc Honours degree or Masters degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in a relevant biological subject.

Applications must be submitted through the online application system available at:
Paper or emailed applications will not be accepted.

Interviews are expected to take place approximately 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications.

The PhD Studentship will start by the end of January 2017, at the latest.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £17,500, increasing to £18,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and contribution to travel expenses. International fees are not covered.



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