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University of Bath

GW4 BioMed MRC DTP Projects

Find out more about the PhD projects available via the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP Doctoral Training Partnership.

Research Theme: Infection, Immunity & Repair

Understanding the complex threat of aspergillus infections when treating vulnerable people with cystic fibrosis

Lead Supervisor: Dr Neil Brown
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited life-limiting disease. Respiratory fungal infections, especially aspergillosis, contribute significantly to disease progression. Here, we will use clinical mycology, genomics and big data science to study how the genetic determinants of Aspergillus pathogenicity and CF patient treatments interact and impact on disease progression. This will deliver the knowledge of this complex disease required to improve future CF patient care.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Brown
Project Enquiries: n.a.brown@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Understanding the complex threat of aspergillus infections when treating vulnerable people with cystic fibrosis .

Automated T-cell expansion in an integrated bioelectronics microfluidic chip: paving the way for personalised T-cell therapies for blood cancer

Lead Supervisor: Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo
Department: Chemical Engineering
Project Summary: Advanced cell-based therapeutics will shift toward personalised solutions where patients are treated as individuals rather than receiving one-size-fits all treatment. To enable this, we propose a highly interdisciplinary project that will lead to an innovative real-time monitoring and control platform for automated stem cell culturing.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Di Lorenzo
Project Enquiries: m.di.lorenzo@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Automated T-cell expansion in an integrated bioelectronics microfluidic chip: paving the way for personalised T-cell therapies for blood cancer.

Inhibition of signaling pathways as a novel strategy to block antibiotic resistance

Lead Supervisor: Dr Susanne Gebhard
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to public health. Its first step is often through signaling pathways that trigger the bacterium’s resistance mechanisms in response to a drug. This project will apply biochemistry, molecular biology and protein modelling to find inhibitors that block signaling and thus prevent activation of resistance.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Gebhard
Project Enquiries: s.gebhard@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Inhibition of signaling pathways as a novel strategy to block antibiotic resistance.

Evolution of biocide tolerance in Klebsiella pneumoniae and its impact on antibiotic resistance and virulence

Lead Supervisor: Dr Brian Jones
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Biocides are used extensively in healthcare as antiseptics and disinfectants. Working with Public Health England, you will employ molecular, genomic, bioinformatic, and biochemical techniques to answer fundamental questions about the contribution of biocides to evolution of antibiotic resistance and virulence in bacterial pathogens.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Jones
Project Enquiries: bvj20@bath.ac.uk

[Find out more about the Evolution of biocide tolerance in Klebsiella pneumoniae and its impact on antibiotic resistance and virulence.

How does the inflammatory microenvironment and therapy influence non-melanoma skin cancer initiation?

Lead Supervisor: Dr Ute Jungwirth
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: Skin cancers can be the side effect of anticancer therapies originally aimed at a different tumour. In this PhD project the student will investigate the role of fibroblasts and immune cells in skin cancer initiation and develop in-vitro/ex-vivo models to mimic the human situation. The project will also address how healthy cells change due to the anticancer therapy and counter-intuitively promote the growth of skin cancers.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Jungwirth
Project Enquiries: uj217@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about How does the inflammatory microenvironment and therapy influence non-melanoma skin cancer initiation?

Escaping host immunity: Defining Staphylococcus aureus complement evasion mechanisms

Lead Supervisor: Dr Maisem Laabei
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Complement plays a major role in defence against infection. How major human pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus resists this element of host immunity is currently unclear. By employing phenotypic, transcriptomic and functional genomic techniques, this project will reveal important virulence factors and underlying gene regulatory networks that promote resistance to complement, offering new targets for future therapeutic intervention.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Laabei
Project Enquiries: ml418@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Escaping host immunity: Defining Staphylococcus aureus complement evasion mechanisms.

Modelling parity-associated immunity against breast cancer

Lead Supervisor: Prof Adele Murrell
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Pregnancy imposes a risk of breast cancer in the mother. Paradoxically if a woman has a first full-term pregnancy before the age of 20, she is protected against some types of breast cancer. This PhD will model the impact of pregnancy on the maternal immune system and susceptibility to breast cancer, using 3D-organoids, quantitative imaging, epigenetic/genome editing and bioinformatics approaches.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Murrell
Project Enquiries: amm95@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Modelling parity-associated immunity against breast cancer.

Snapshot into the nucleus – opening novel avenues to tackle fungal disease

Lead Supervisor: Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nützmann
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Fungal pathogens threaten our health and kill over a million patients worldwide. In this project, we will deploy cutting-edge 3D chromatin genetics, fungal biology and bioinformatics to better understand how pathogenic fungi sense and adapt to the human host. Our goal is to open novel paths to interfere with fungal disease.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Nützmann
Project Enquiries: hwn25@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Snapshot into the nucleus – opening novel avenues to tackle fungal disease.

Strain wars and the evolution of opportunistic pathogens

Lead Supervisor: Prof Samuel Sheppard
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Many serious diseases (e.g. meningitis, pneumonia, blood/wound infections) are caused by commensal bacteria that are common on the skin or in the guts of healthy people. But what makes good strains go bad? Trained by academics and clinicians (Bath/Bristol/Cardiff), you will use laboratory techniques and state-of-the-art genome analyses to identify pathogenicity genes, strains, and evolutionary forces that cause harmless bacteria to become opportunistic pathogens.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Sheppard
Project Enquiries: s.k.sheppard@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Strain wars and the evolution of opportunistic pathogens.

Examining the influence of inflammation and lifestyle on anti-tumour immunity in men with prostate cancer

Lead Supervisor: Dr James Turner
Department: Health
Project Summary: Strong anti-tumour immunity is thought to protect people from developing cancer and limit disease progression in patients. In a randomised clinical trial, and with other mechanistic work, this studentship will use cutting-edge immunological techniques, to examine how inflammation and lifestyle factors, including exercise, influence immune-competency in healthy people and men with prostate cancer.
Project Reference: MRC21IIRBa Turner
Project Enquiries: j.e.turner@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Examining the influence of inflammation and lifestyle on anti-tumour immunity in men with prostate cancer.

Research Theme: Neuroscience & Mental Health

Understanding the neural mechanisms of antidepressant withdrawal and links with depressive symptoms, anhedonia and relapse

Lead Supervisor: Dr Katherine Button
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: This project will investigate the effects of antidepressant withdrawal on neural markers of reward and emotion processing using event-related potentials in a longitudinal study of patients in primary care. We will also test whether changes in neural markers early in the withdrawal process can be used to predict later depressive relapse.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Button
Project Enquiries: k.s.button@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Understanding the neural mechanisms of antidepressant withdrawal and links with depressive symptoms, anhedonia and relapse.

Advanced detection of synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs abused in the South West (GW4) region

Lead Supervisor: Prof Stephen Husbands
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: Drug abuse has serious adverse neuronal effects leading to major mental health issues. In this interdisciplinary research, we will apply a range of advanced detection methods to assay prison and police samples from areas of deprivation in the South West. Using outcomes data, we will research the mental health and cognitive consequences of drug use in prison and aim to track how this predicts social and psychological functioning following release.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Husbands
Project Enquiries: prssmah@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Advanced detection of synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs abused in the South West (GW4) region.

Integrating MRI network analysis and genomics to refine risk prediction in Alzheimer’s disease

Lead Supervisor: Dr Thomas Lancaster
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: Alzheimer’s disease has a significant heritable component, yet we know little about this genetic risk affects the living human brain. The project will incorporate bioinformatic approaches using neuroimaging, genomic and clinical health record data to understand why we see increased brain cell death in individuals with heightened genetic for Alzheimer’s disease.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Lancaster
Project Enquiries: tml45@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Integrating MRI network analysis and genomics to refine risk prediction in Alzheimer’s disease.

Tightening the Noose on Parkinson's disease: Harnessing Lasso Peptides as Inhibitors of alpha-Synuclein Toxicity

Lead Supervisor: Prof Jody Mason
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Starting from an initial hit sequence, we will screen small ultra-stable lasso peptide libraries, to identify members that block alpha-synuclein (αS) toxicity associated with Parkinson's disease. These highly structured molecules can resist breakdown, penetrate biological membranes, and are target selective. We will inhibit αS-associated toxicity using a powerful screen that searches millions of lassos inside live cells to identify those that restore viability.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Mason
Project Enquiries: j.mason@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Tightening the Noose on Parkinson's disease: Harnessing Lasso Peptides as Inhibitors of alpha-Synuclein Toxicity.

Predicting the dementia-induced changes to neuronal ion channels: a combined experimental and in silico approach

Lead Supervisor: Prof Alain Nogaret
Department: Physics
Project Summary: The effect of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, on neuronal ion channel properties is not well understood. This project will combine sophisticated inverse mathematical methods with brain slice electrophysiology to quantify changes to specific ion channels in dementia. This interdisciplinary approach will provide important insights into neurophysiological dysfunction.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Nogaret
Project Enquiries: A.R.Nogaret@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Predicting the dementia-induced changes to neuronal ion channels: a combined experimental and in silico approach.

Development of a rapid biosensing methodology for “fingerprinting” endocrine and immune responses to stress

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nuno Reis
Department: Chemical Engineering
Project Summary: Neurophysiology and health psychology research identified the mechanisms of response to stress, with the allostatic load pointing to a physiological ‘wear and tear’ leading to dysregulation and poor health. This project will combine expertise in microfluidic diagnostics and neurophysiology to deliver a transformative biosensor profiling key stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers, for monitoring response of the nervous, endocrine and immune system to stress.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Reis
Project Enquiries: n.m.reis@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Development of a rapid biosensing methodology for “fingerprinting” endocrine and immune responses to stress.

Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) and computational modelling to understand the role of sleep in disease progression in amnestic mild cognitive impairment

Lead Supervisor: Dr George Stothart
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: Disruption to sleep causes dementia pathology and symptoms. New mobile technology has made it possible to measure brain activity during sleep remotely, in patients’ natural home environments. The studentship will harness this new technology to understand the role of sleep in early dementia, bringing together clinical neurologists, neuroscientists, biomedical mathematicians and an industrial partner to provide a unique, ambitious and interdisciplinary project.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Stothart
Project Enquiries: G.Stothart@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) and computational modelling to understand the role of sleep in disease progression in amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

Cannabis, Tobacco and Psychiatric Disease: Examining the impact of single and combined-use on functional and structural brain functioning

Lead Supervisor: Dr Gemma Taylor
Department: Psychology, Addiction and Mental Health Group (AIM)
Project Summary: This PhD project will ask: Can we isolate the relationships between cannabis use, tobacco use and psychiatric disease through triangulation of data from multiple data sources (Cohort data, brain imagining data), and across statistical methods that differ in their ability to make causal links?
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Taylor
Project Enquiries: G.M.J.Taylor@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Cannabis, Tobacco and Psychiatric Disease: Examining the impact of single and combined-use on functional and structural brain functioning.

KAP1-long non-coding RNA chromatin regulatory complexes control neurogenesis

Lead Supervisor: Dr Keith Vance
Department: Biology & Biochemistry
Project Summary: Adult neural stem cells produce neurons and have great potential in regenerative medicine to limit neuronal damage and functional loss. This project will systematically define novel KAP1-long non-coding RNA chromatin regulatory complexes needed for neuron production that may be targeted to develop new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.
Project Reference: MRC21NMHBa Vance
Project Enquiries: k.w.vance@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about KAP1-long non-coding RNA chromatin regulatory complexes control neurogenesis.

Research Theme: Population Health

Using artificial intelligence to identify medicine safety risks

Lead Supervisor: Dr Matthew Jones
Department: Pharmacy & Pharmacology
Project Summary: There are 237 million medication errors in England each year and 28% harm patients. This project will use artificial intelligence (AI) to identify possible causes of medication errors reported in the NHS. The student will gain skills in AI & statistics for large data sets through training, and knowledge of NHS medicines safety via a placement. This project will suit students from a wide variety of backgrounds, e.g. computer science or a health profession.
Project Reference: MRC21PHBa Jones
Project Enquiries: M.D.Jones@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Using artificial intelligence to identify medicine safety risks.

Understanding Mental Health in Neurodevelopmental Conditions: A Hidden Talents Approach

Lead Supervisor: Dr Punit Shah
Department: Psychology
Project Summary: People with neurodevelopmental conditions (NDCs) often score lower on cognitive tests, which is related to poor mental health. However, they may have enhanced mental abilities (‘hidden talents’) due to their symptoms and related adversities. Drawing on the lived experience of people with NDCs and population-based genetic, cognitive, and neuroimaging data, the project will investigate the role of hidden talents in understanding and enhancing mental health in NDCs.
Project Reference: MRC21PHBa Shah
Project Enquiries: p.shah@bath.ac.uk

Find out more about Understanding Mental Health in Neurodevelopmental Conditions: A Hidden Talents Approach.