Investigating, targeting and ultimately limiting antimicrobial resistance is a key research priority for health organisations and funding bodies worldwide. Molecular analysis of exhaled breath and pathogen culture headspace is a new frontier in medical testing with enormous potential for rapid and accurate characterisation of infectious respiratory disease. There is a clear need for fast, reliable methods that can indicate whether a bacterial infection is present or not, both in vitro (patient samples such as blood and sputum) and in vivo. Current culture-based methods typically take at least 48hrs to deliver a result, and in the meantime severely ill patients must be treated empirically. We aim to identify a biomarker or a set of biomarkers from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath or sample headspace that would facilitate the detection and monitoring of respiratory infection.
The successful candidate would be co-supervised by researchers at the University of Manchester (Dr Stephen Fowler and Prof Roy Goodacre) and Markes International (Dr Lara Kelly), providing extensive multidisciplinary training within both academic and industrial environments. The PhD project would focus on the development of:
1. Novel sampling methods for headspace sampling. For our current work we have developed a bespoke culture-sampling system. Both our group and Markes have complimentary experience and expertise that would enable the student to refine this further to facilitate robust and larger-scale sampling.
2. Alternative analytical methods, with potential increased sensitivity and/or selectivity compared to our current methods, which are based on gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS). The collaboration with Markes will enable the student to access novel and advanced analytical techniques such as GCxGC and Bench-ToF.
Research challenges lie in developing the sample methodology, novel analytical methods, and data analysis. To tackle these challenges a combination of knowledge on instrumentation, clinical informatics, biochemistry and signal processing will be necessary. Experiments will be conducted mainly in laboratory settings, but there will be the opportunity to explore clinical sampling if appropriate to the development of the project. Extensive training will be provided in analytical techniques, in particular thermal desorption/GC-MS, as well as in data pre-processing and multivariate analysis. The PhD student will spend time at Markes International to gain experience with various analytical instrumentation, as well training in commercial and business-related aspects.
For more information, please contact Dr Stephen Fowler [email protected]
or Prof Roy Goodacre [email protected]
University of Manchester Breathomics Group: http://mancbreathgroup.net
Stephen Fowler University of Manchester page: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/Stephen.Fowler.html
Stephen Fowler Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.nl/citations?user=Ya3wEFcAAAAJ&hl=en
Roy Goodacre group: http://www.biospec.net
Roy Goodacre Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=Dszi0U8AAAAJ&hl=en
This is a CASE studentship is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website www.manchester.ac.uk/bbsrcdtpstudentships
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.