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Novel Anti-inflammatory Approaches to Ameliorate Chronic Inflammatory Lung Disease

PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Novel Anti-inflammatory Approaches to Ameliorate Chronic Inflammatory Lung Disease

A number of patients with Chronic Lung Disease (CLD) (including Cystic Fibrosis lung disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)) experience periods of infection (exacerbations) which can result in a catastrophic loss of lung function, which may be irreversible. This loss in lung function is thought to be driven, in part, by an excessive inflammatory response to infection. Therefore, there is a significant need to develop effective anti-inflammatories that can ameliorate the damaging effects of inflammation in CLD. Taggart and colleagues have identified a family of proteases in the lungs of patients with CLD that may contribute to the deleterious features of CLD including lung damage, mucus plugging and cellular inflammation. Along with our partners in Germany (Professor Marcus Mall, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin) we now wish to target these proteolytic entities in models of CLD with newly developed protease inhibitors that may be of future therapeutic relevance in the treatment of CLD.

Supervisors' track record of PhD completions, plus excellence and international standing in the project area
Prof Cliff Taggart has supervised a large number of PhD student (17) to completion (100% success rate). He has an internationally excellent profile in the area of inflammation in lung disease and his research is funded by the MRC, CFF, EPSRC and EU FP7. He has published almost 100 papers to date mostly in high impact factor journals and is currently a member of the European Respiratory Society and European Cystic Fibrosis Society

Intersectoral exposure and/or international mobility (e.g. secondments to/collaboration with partner organizations)
Apart from research in the Taggart laboratory in the Centre for Experimental Medicine at QUB there will be the potential to spend time in Prof Mall's laboratory in Berlin.

Describe briefly the international profile of the partner
Prof Mall was the first researcher to develop a viable and reliable model of chronic lung inflammation akin to the type of inflammation that is observed in the CLD lung. He has subsequently published a number of papers evaluating various drugs and protease inhibitors in this model. He is also collaborating with Taggart's group in QUB via EU FP7 and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) funding for the evaluation of protease inhibitors in the ENaC model and PBECs 

Training that will be provided through the research project itself
There will be extensive training in the use of in vivo models of CLD in the Taggart laboratory along with training in protein analytical techniques (ELISA, Western blotting) and qPCR.

Examples of additional training in non-research transferable skillsPhD students at QUB are expected to carry out 240 hours of mandatory training not related to their research over the lifetime of their PhD. The Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen's University Belfast, where the student will be based, runs an active postgraduate programme for PhD students providing students with training opportunities to allow them to develop further through the QUB Learning Development Service (LDS) department within the Student Guidance Centre. Students are encouraged to avail of the 22 workshops on offer including workshops on Presentation Skills, Writing Skills and Becoming a More Assertive Student. There is also One to One advice and Peer Mentoring available to postgraduate students from the LDS.

Expected dissemination of results: peer-reviewed journals, seminars, workshop and conferences at European/international level
We anticipate at least 2 high impact publications from this study in top quality peer reviewed journals. The fellow will also present their data at leading international respiratory meetings for example the European Respiratory Society, European Cystic Fibrosis Society (ECFS) and North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference (NACFC) meetings.

Expected impact activities (e.g. public talks, visits to schools, open days, QUB impact showcase)
There will be opportunities to present findings to the public as part of the Northern Ireland Science Festival, patient/family evenings and public showcase events organised by the Centre and University.

Primary supervisor: Professor Cliff Taggart (Medicine, Dentistry and Biomenical Sciences)
Secondary supervisor/External Partner/Organisation:  Prof Marcus Mall (Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin)