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GCDC: Portable Diagnostic Platform for Rapid Detection and Integrated Surveillance of Viruses

Annual Tuition fees at the UKRI Home/EU rate (£4,260 in 2018/19) plus annual stipend at UKRI rates (£14,777 in 2018/19)

This scholarship competition is open to all new postgraduate research applicants. GCDC scholars will receive the following for 3.5 years: - Annual stipend at UKRI rates (these were £14,777 in 2018/19); - Annual tuition fees at UKRI Home/EU rates (these were £4,260 in 2018/19); - A minimum research training support grant of £3,500; and - Specialised interdisciplinary GCDC cohort training activities.

GCDC: Portable Diagnostic Platform for Rapid Detection and Integrated Surveillance of Viruses

Supervisors: Dr R Barker

Poultry sectors of the UK and Brazil contribute to the cheapest and the most accessible source of meat protein. Brazil is the largest producer of poultry and poultry products, after the US and China. Despite this high production, infectious diseases are a major hurdle in achieving increasing demands of poultry products, around the globe. One factor affecting growth is an inability to rapidly detect diseases within the chicken population. There are a range of bacterial and viral pathogens which affect the poultry industry. Currently the diagnostic methodology is reliant on a drop in production performance, presence of clinical signs, pathological lesions and serological findings. Further, samples sent for testing at the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Reference Laboratory (LANAGRO) in Brazil currently face a 6-9 month delay before being processed.

These factors render any rapid response to a disease outbreak almost useless, with loss of an entire farm population regularly seen. Such long diagnostic times limit the ability to implement control measures to minimise the spread of the disease to adjacent poultry farms. Among other bacterial and viral diseases in poultry, influenza viruses’ outbreak result in extensive quarantine and slaughtering of infected birds, as the only choice and costing the poultry industry billions of pounds.To address this problem, a multidisciplinary project has been supported as part of the University of Kent’s Global Challenges Doctoral Centre (GCDC), established to enable UK researchers to collaborate with those in LMICs to address their development needs. The project will be supervised by Dr Rob Barker (University of Kent), building on his groups expertise in microfluidics and biophysics/sensing capabilities, supported by Dr Muhammad Munir (University of Lancaster), a virologist with expertise in pathobiology. Consortium partners in Brazil, namely Prof. Clarice Arns, UNICAMP and Prof. Edison Luiz Durigonhas, Universidade de São Paulo, will be directly involved in the supervision and delivery of the project. It is therefore expected that the successful candidate on this project will spend time embedded in Lancaster and in Brazil with the project partners.

Using the complimentary skills of those involved this project proposes to develop and translate to the Brazilian environment a rapid, easy to use point of need molecular diagnostic platform that can be delivered at the site of infection by trained poultry farmer and test for the key viral and bacterial pathogens currently of concern in under one hour. 

In order to take some steps towards this goal and create initial data which would be scalable towards a GCRF bid, the proposed project has 3 main milestones:

(1) To build on the microfluidic expertise in the Barker group towards the separation of pathogens from whole poultry blood.(2) To work with the project partners to identify the key viral and bacterial pathogens affecting Brazilian poultry.(3) To develop electrochemical biosensing capabilities for the pathogens identified in (2), building on the surface chemistry and bio-physics expertise in the Barker group.

This PhD Studentship is due to start in September 2019.


Entry requirements and funding: The successful candidate is expected to be a highly motivated student with an interest in multidisciplinary research and global development challenges. Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Biophysics or a related subject. This is a funded scholarship, which provides a stipend at the full UK Research Council rate of £14,777 (rate for 2018/19) plus tuition fees at the Home/EU rate, or for exceptional candidates at international rates. Please note that overseas students must have the appropriate documentation to evidence eligibility to work in the UK. Additional training and support will be provided as part of the GCDC.

Webpage(s): https://www.robbarker.co.uk

Contact: For further information or informal enquiries, please contact Dr Rob Barker at r.barker@kent.ac.uk.

How to apply

To apply please go to [https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/18/chemistry]. You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. 

Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results, two academic references). The title of this project can be used in the Proposal section.

Deadline Date for Applications: Sunday 20th January 2019

Interviews to be held between: 29th January and 4th February.


The deadline for this award has now passed

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