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Omics changes associated with innate immune activation and interferon-mediated immunomodulation of human cells, as novel targets for personalised medicine S&T70

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Innate immunity and type I interferons (IFN) are essential for protection against viral infections and recently have emerged as critical components of the host response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Other immunologically relevant diseases are less clearly characterised, such as bacterial infections, shock, autoimmunity, and malignancy. Previous research has revealed that IFN-I signalling is not straightforward, and that delayed or sustained IFN-I production and signalling may have the opposite impact. Efforts to treat IFN-I-mediated disease have been fruitless because of a lack of knowledge of IFN-I signalling's disputed activity. Although exogenous IFN-I therapy may be beneficial in the early stages of some illnesses, IFN-I specific immunosuppressants may be a better alternative in the later stages—a lesson learnt during COVID-19 treatment. As a result, there is a gap in understanding the impact of interventional therapies such as JAK inhibitors, as well as the identification of signalling molecules with potentially relevant possibilities for modulating innate signalling and the interferon pathway.

Intriguingly, IFN-I exerts an immunomodulatory effect on human cells. e.g. stromal cells, which require more investigation to characterise the time impact and dosage result associated with the establishment of an immunomodulatory milieu and the cessation of disease development.

The goal of the project is to use cutting-edge technologies, quantitative analytical tools, and systems approach to better understand complex and dynamic biology of innate immunity and interferon at various scales in health and disease, including genotype-to-phenotype, single-cell techniques, tissue culture, organism (including human and model systems), multiparameter flow cytometry, nanostring technology, and transcriptomics studies.

The candidate will use better experimental systems, such as tissue models to go beyond existing techniques and introduce stroma and immune cell interactions in an interferon/innate immunity-activated environment.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to use bioinformatics, such as the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis Platform (IPA), to analyse biological systems and understand biological complexity and pathological readouts, which will aid in the identification of molecules and biomarkers for disease conditions, as well as the application of these approaches and knowledge to develop molecule, gene/cell-targeted therapies and biomarkers. This can be used to identify or improve stromal and immune cell functions. The initiative will provide a platform that is suitable for clinical testing.
The project will provide a thorough training plan for pertinent immunology, cell culture, molecular, and proteomic biology methods.
The candidate will have the opportunity to work on clinical samples in order to validate the findings from the early phases in translational research could enhance the outputs from the project in the form of high impact publications, institutional and Conference presentations in relative events. and to participate in international research collaborations and training aimed at enhancing career opportunities in academic and industrial sectors.

This research will be enriched by having a supervisory team from the Biosciences and the John Van Geest Cancer Center within the School of Science and Technology (SST). Dr Yasser El-Sherbiny and Professor Sergio Rutella, the supervisors, have considerable experience in immunology and molecular cell biology.

School strategic research priority

This project aligns with the Centre for Health, Ageing and Understanding Disease (CHAUD) and the Medical Technologies Innovation Facility.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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