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Novel Nanomaterials for Ocular Drug Delivery

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Fitzhenry
    Dr L Coffey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Post summary

Applications are invited for a 48 month PhD project focusing on the development of novel nanomaterials for the targeted and extended release of drugs used to treat diseases of the posterior segment of the eye. These conditions are typically treated by regular injections into the eye, with the potential for serious side effects. The development of novel nanomaterials that can be used in conjunction with contact lenses, ocular inserts, and other technologies could greatly improve patient comfort and outcomes by negating or reducing the need for such injections.

Diseases of the posterior segment of the eye are increasing considerably, in part due to an ageing population. One such disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the most common cause of blindness in patients over sixty. As such, there is an unmet clinical need for the development of both new and improved controlled release drug delivery techniques for the treatment of this and similar posterior segment diseases of the eye. These conditions are typically treated by regular injections into the eye, which is associated with significant patient discomfort and potentially serious side effects, such as retinal detachment. The aim of this project is to develop novel nanoparticles and nanomaterials for the targeted and extended release of drugs for treatment of these diseases. Novel nanomaterials that can be used in conjunction with drug delivery platforms (DDPs), such as eye-drops or contact lenses, could greatly improve patient comfort and outcomes by negating or reducing the need for ocular injections. The research and experimental work will involve the synthesis, characterization and evaluation of novel nanomaterials. The most successful nanomaterials will be coupled with the most efficient DDP. The work is transdisciplinary in nature, incorporating chemical, biomedical, polymeric, industrial and clinical expertise, as well as being highly relevant to patients and industry.

The main phases of the planned work packages to be undertaken by the scholar are summarised as follows:

• Preparation and characterisation of drug-loaded nanoparticles prepared from biocompatible polymers (e.g. chitosan and poly-(glycolic co-lactic) acid). The loaded drug will be formulated in such a way as to promote transport across the barriers of the eye.
o Characterisation will include particle sizing, zeta potential, mucoadhesion, cytoxicity and drug release
• Preparation and characterisation of novel nanomaterials prepared from biocompatible materials
o Nanomaterials investigated are to include micelles, etc.
o Characterisation will include particle sizing, zeta potential, mucoadhesion, cytoxicity and drug release
• Further characterisation of the most successful nanomaterial will be carried out by FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photo-bleaching) investigation of the diffusivity of NPs and optimisation of mathematical modelling. This experimental work is planned for completion in the University of Florida
• Incorporation of the most successful nanomaterial in a drug delivery platform (e.g. contact lens, eye-drop) and subsequent characterisation of materials
• A final investigation of the permeation of drug through these platforms across cornea and retina will be performed by in vitro maintained corneal (HCEC) and retinal (ARPE-19) cell layer barriers will be carried out.

Over the course of the scholarship, the student will gain approximately 300 hours of teaching experience. Coupled with this, the scholar will be involved in research commercialisation projects underway within the group and be involved with both industrial and clinical collaborators.


Knowledge & Experience

Essential

• Research project carried out in one of the above disciplines

Desirable

• Work placement undertaken in an industry related to the above disciplines

Funding Notes

Qualifications

• Applicants should hold or expect to attain, as a minimum, a 2.1 Honours degree , or equivalent, by the 1st of August 2017, in Chemistry, Materials Science, Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry or related area.

Skills & Competencies

Essential

• Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.
• Evidence of interest, aptitude and research experience in the above disciplines


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