Developing a controlled release biodegradable platform for nanomedicine delivery
Approximately 20-30% of prostate cancer (PC) patients initially diagnosed with intermediate favourable disease will develop treatment failure. However, innovative treatments would help improve cure rates. Heavy metal nanoparticles (e.g. gold) enhance effectiveness of radiotherapy, by compressing the radiation dose deposition field, limiting damage to normal tissue. The clinical potential of metal nanoparticles as radiosensitisers are now emerging (Act.In.Sarc (phase 2/3) and NANO-RAD (phase 1)). Indeed, a recent Lancet Oncology communication reported a 50% increase in complete pathological response of soft tissue sarcomas when radiotherapy was combined with metal nanoparticles (Act.In.Sarc). Despite these advancements, maximum nanoparticle radiosensitisation is limited by two confounding factors, poor intra-tumoural and poor intra-cellular delivery. Utilising the RALA drug delivery system, Coulter and McCarthy have developed a combined gold nanoparticle formulation (RALA/AuNP) capable of delivering the gold nanoparticle directly to the nucleus, resulting in highly significant increases in tumour radiation sensitivity. This clearly addresses the problem of intra-cellular delivery.
This project will address the issue of poor intra-tumoural delivery though the development of a novel controlled release (CR) platform, impregnated with RALA/AuNP. Using materials such as biodegradable hydrogels or electrospun nano-fibres, the appointed student will characterise RALA/AuNP loading and release rates, aiming to achieve release characteristics that align with clinical radiotherapy treatment plans. Furthermore, the student will undertake a range of established in vitro and in vivo cell and molecular biology based assays to established the effectiveness of the released nanoparticles as effective anti-cancer agents.
This projects forms part of an exciting collaborative partnership between Dr Jonathan Coulter, a prostate cancer expert in translational medicine and Professor McCarthy, a nucleic acids drug delivery expert and CEO of Phion Therapeutics.
Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Molecular Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered, but the School reserves the right to shortlist for interview only those applicants who have demonstrated high academic attainment to date.
The School of Pharmacy focuses its research activities on key areas of the pharmaceutical sciences and clinical and primary care aspects of pharmacy. Our research spans a wide range of scientific and professional disciplines. It is characterised by being multidisciplinary, internationally-connected and, ultimately, relevant to patients.
The School achieved an excellent result in REF 2014, we have 92% of our research falling within the highest quality 4* and 3* categories. We are now one of the leading centres for pharmaceutical research in the UK. The School is also committed to research excellence. This is achieved through continual review of research standards, strategic recruitment and development of external and internal collaborations. The School has a a broad portfolio of high quality research income and School staff publish widely in leading journals and present their work at national and international conferences.
Our research focuses on making real-world improvements for patients through our expertise in pharmaceutical science and practice and is grouped into 5 themes with associated areas of activity which are mainly funded by UK and European Government sources, leading medical charities and the pharmaceutical industry.
1. NANOMEDICINE AND BIOTHERAPEUTICS
This area looks at the development of novel technologies and targeted therapies for advanced healthcare solutions including anticancer therapeutics, nano delivery of macromolecules; proteases in disease and natural peptides.
2. PHARMACEUTICAL MATERIALS SCIENCE AND FORMULATION
This activity centres around the design, development and industrial translation of novel systems for patient-focused administration of difficult-to-deliver drugs including; HIV prevention and multipurpose prevention technologies; solid dosage forms and microneedles.
3. DRUG DELIVERY AND BIOMATERIALS
The area looks at the development of materials which interface with the body and provide enhanced functionality, such as drug delivery, infection resistance or monitoring of levels of drug or host markers in 3 main areas, Photoactive Biomaterials, Polymeric Medical Devices and Sensor Development.
4. INFECTION AND ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE
This comprises basic and clinical research to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of infection, in particular Respiratory Infectious Diseases, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Novel Antimicrobials and Anti-Infective Biomaterials
5. HEALTHCARE DELIVERY AND MEDICINES OPTIMISATION
This area encompasses the development and implementation of interventions that improve the health outcomes of patients in primary and secondary care including Systems of Healthcare Delivery; Quality of Care in Vulnerable Populations and Clinical Paediatrics
World Class Facilities
- The modules are delivered in the University's Graduate School.
Internationally Renowned Experts
- This unique programme is delivered by leading international academic experts in specialist fields including drug delivery, medical devices and nanotechnology
- 94% of current PhD students agree that the School of Pharmacy equips them with the necessary skills and experience to complete their research degree (PRES 2019).
School of Pharmacy works closely with both local and global pharmaceutical companies. This ensures a successful pipeline for the development of novel emerging healthcare technologies, designed specifically to deliver patient benefit.
NANOMEDICINE AND BIOTHERAPEUTICS
Research in this theme is focused on the development of novel technologies and targeted therapies for advanced healthcare solutions. Activities are concentrated on the development of unique genetic therapies and delivery systems that can be applied for the detection and treatment of cancer, the development of novel strategies for the detection, characterisation and inhibition of proteases implicated in chronic diseases, the isolation and characterisation of bioactive peptides for potential therapeutic use and computational biology for drug design and molecular modelling.
PHARMACEUTICAL MATERIALS SCIENCE AND FORMULATION
Research in this theme is focused on the design, development and industrial translation of novel systems for patient-focused administration of difficult-to-deliver drugs. Activities are concentrated on the development of formulations to address major global issues around sexual and reproductive health, use of hot melt granulation and polymer extrusion/injection moulding technologies to produce solid dosage forms, multi-layered and targeted drug delivery systems, the use microneedles for transdermal drug delivery, patient monitoring and vaccine delivery, implantable delivery systems and ocular therapeutics.
DRUG DELIVERY AND BIOMATERIALS
Research in this theme is focused on the development of materials which interface with the body and provide enhanced functionality, such as drug delivery, infection resistance or monitoring of levels of drug or host markers. Activities are concentrated on the development of new methods for fabricating materials for medical device manufacture including biomaterials with enhanced anti-infective and biocompatibility properties. Sensor research focuses on sensors immobilised in biocompatible scaffolds, blood-free diagnosis/patient monitoring using microneedles and developing point-of-care tests for microbial infection.
INFECTION AND ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE
Research in this theme is focused on improved prevention, detection and treatment of infection. Activities are concentrated on preventing the development of antimicrobial resistance through improved antimicrobial stewardship, improved detection of infection using molecular and sensor based technology, prevention of infection using novel anti-infective biomaterials and enhanced infection prevention and control strategies and improved treatment of infection through discovery of novel antibiotics and antibiotic adjuvants and markers for better evidence-based decisions on antibiotic selection.
HEALTHCARE DELIVERY AND MEDICINES OPTIMISATION
Research in this theme is focused on the development and implementation of interventions that improve the health outcomes of patients in primary and secondary care. Activities are concentrated on improving systems of patient care in all health care sectors with a focus on the appropriateness of prescribing in chronic disease and in care home residents with dementia, and medication adherence in children.
The School of Pharmacy at Queen’s is acknowledged as a leading centre for Pharmacy teaching and research in the UK. We are currently ranked the #1 School of Pharmacy in the UK for Pharmacy and Pharmacology Research
(Times and Sunday Times good university guide 2019)
PhD opportunities are available in:
•Nanomedicine and biotherapeutics
•Pharmaceutical materials science and formulation
•Drug delivery and biomaterials
•Infection and antimicrobial resistance
•Healthcare delivery and medicines optimisation
Our research focuses on making real-world improvements for patients through our expertise in pharmaceutical science and practice. REF 2014 showed that 92% of the School’s submitted research fell within the highest quality 4* and 3* categories, with 44% classed as world-leading 4* research.
The School of Pharmacy has a long-standing track record in undertaking research which has had impact on healthcare and wellbeing for the population. Our work has led to the development of a local anaesthetic cream formulation, the creation of spin-out companies, devices to help prevent the spread of HIV and a new type of pharmacy-led service which improves the prescribing of medication for older people. We constantly strive to do research which will have applications in society and improve the delivery of health care. One example of our high impact research includes the BREATH project led by Professor Lorraine Martin.
Materials & Advanced Technologies for Healthcare (MATCH) is an interdisciplinary research initiative comprising leading researchers from the Schools of Pharmacy, Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Biological Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences and Nursing & Midwifery.
Our research is centred on the key question: “How can we use advanced technologies to significantly improve healthcare outcomes?” We connect researchers along the development pathway and follow a unique “Molecule to Patient” approach. Currently, single-stranded strategies are applied to development and use of new healthcare products. Without a holistic approach, medicines are wasted, patients suffer avoidable adverse effects, or go untreated. Greater interaction between those involved in identifying novel therapeutic targets, drug discovery, materials science, pharmaceutical formulation, manufacture, diagnosis, prescribing and medicines utilisation is a significant unmet need. If addressed, this stands to have major impact in the care of all patients, but especially the very young and old, representing the populations in which medicines may present the greatest risk, but have maximum benefit. We take an innovative dual approach, firstly by developing the underpinning technologies, secondly by exploiting the possibilities that these technologies present to maximum clinical and commercial advantage by selecting the best target areas and understanding patient factors.
The research profile produced by the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) showed that 92% of the School’s submitted research fell within the highest quality 4* and 3* categories, with 44% classed as world-leading 4* research, confirming the School's reputation as an internationally-leading research centre. Excellence across the School of Pharmacy is evidenced by our consistent ranking as one of the top pharmacy schools within the UK. Globally we are rated within the top 100 Schools of Pharmacy.
Current PGR Student Profiles
PhD Title: Metabolism supressing gold nanoparticles: A means of sensiting hypoxic head and neck cancers to radiotherapy.
Years of Study: 2018 - present
Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles within the pharmaceutical industry. Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability.
Employment after the Course
Queen’s University offer extensive career development opportunities to PhD students. Further details can be accessed via the link below.
People teaching you
Dr Jonathan Coulter
A research degree offers students an opportunity to develop their capacity for independent research and critical thought. A PhD allows students to explore in-depth an area of interest, developing skills to solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree will enhance a student’s written and oral communication skills, providing the essential skills required for academic and industry leadership positions.
There is no specific course content as such. You are expected to undertake 30 days of formal training which includes demonstrator training, laboratory techniques, annual progress review preparation etc... All students are closely supported by the school to obtain quantitative and qualitative data using a range of research methods. You will be expected to carry out your own research under the guidance of your supervisor and postdoctoral team.
Over the course of study you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School.
You will normally register, in the first instance, as an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree. The decision as to whether you should undertake an MPhil or a PhD is delayed until you have completed ‘differentiation’.
Differentiation takes place about 9-12 months after registration for full time students and about 18-30 months for part time students: You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of up two academics and this is followed up with a formal meeting with the ‘Differentiation Panel’. The Panel then make a decision regarding your progress and the viability of your research project. Annual progress reviews, with the same panel will occur both during 2nd and 3rd year.
To complete a doctoral qualification you will be required to submit a thesis and to attend a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner to defend your research.
A PhD programme runs for 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year should it be required.
The PhD is open to both full and part time candidates and is often a useful preparation for a career within academia or industry.
Full time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue in some depth an area of academic interest.
If you meet the Entry Requirements, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research interests should align with those of our academic staff. Full details can be found via the website.
If you identify a potential PhD supervisor, select the “Make a PhD enquiry” tab, and complete the required fields. Your potential supervisor or the admissions team will aim to respond within a working week.
Following initial discussions, and assuming you meet the eligibility criteria, potential students will need to make a formal application for PhD study via the link below. This application will require a brief outline of the proposed research project. This can be agreed with your potential supervisor during initial discussions.
If you have difficulty identifying or contacting an appropriate supervisor, please contact Dr Jonathan Coulter (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lee-Anne Howell (email@example.com) who will be happy to help.
Application from full-time self-funding students will be accepted at any point throughout the academic year.
Scholarship awards: Funded PhD positions (UK and EU students) will be advertised via the School of Pharmacy website, typically around November, with interviews held during January/February.
International students are eligible to apply for a range of scholarships, full details of which including closing dates can be found below. Prospective international students should also discuss scholarship options with potential PhD supervisors.
Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually, termed the Annual Progress Review (APR).
APR requires students to present their work in both the written and oral format to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.
The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both written and oral. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.
Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.
Full time PhD students will have access to a shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.
The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University.
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.
English Language Requirements
Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.
International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.
For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.
If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.
|Northern Ireland (NI) 1||£4,500|
|Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2||£4,500|
|England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1||£4,500|
|EU Other 3||£22,000|
1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.
2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.
3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.
All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
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Additional course costs
Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.
How do I fund my study?1.PhD Opportunities
Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes
We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.3.PhD loans
The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.4.International Scholarships
Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.
Funding and Scholarships
The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.
How to Apply
Find a supervisor
If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.
To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.
You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.