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Lab-on-GaN for manipulating cancer exosomes for cancer early diagnostics

This research project is in competition for funding with one or more projects available across the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Usually the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. Find out more information about the DTP and how to apply.

Start date: 1 October 2019

The project will develop a surface acoustic wave (SAW) transducer based on piezoelectric effect of Gallium Nitride (GaN) to separate cancer-derived EVs subpopulation from whole blood.


A cancer becomes life-threatening when the primary tumour spreads from the place where it first started to another place in the body. The spreading process is called metastasis, a tumour formed by spreading cancer cells is called a metastatic tumour.

It has been demonstrating the urgent need for increased knowledge about the cellular communication mechanisms between tumour cells and normal cells resulting in pathological metabolism in the metastatic site. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a distinct population of membranous vesicles of endocytic origin. They range from 30 to 150 nm in diameter and are released by cells upon fusion of intracellular multi-vesicular bodies with the plasma membrane.

Project aims and methods

The supervisor team including experts in engineering, biology, oncology and physics has secured a number of research funding from the EPSRC, Wellcome Trust, GCRF, Royal Society, etc. to facilitate the development of the proposed project.

You will work in a multidisciplinary team with the objective to develop and implement the novel transducer for new real-time diagnosis and classification of cancer by using EV as a cancer marker, which will lead the international front of the area. You will be working on wide range of cutting-edge laboratories and facilities with the support from postdocs and technician.

The project is expected to complete within 3.5 years with the below research packages and milestones:

  • Literature studies on both the physics and biology knowledge and preliminarily deliver the technology development plan.
  • Development of the lab on GaN and test the device with standard samples.
  • Testing the device with clinical samples and preliminary implementation.
  • Documenting and writing up.

You will be trained with nanofabrication to develop the acoustic sensor for separating EVs. This may involve the use of both the standard photolithography and nanofabrication with atomic force microscope. You will also be trained by cancer biologists, scientists and engineers to get insights into cancer biology, sensor physics and fluidic dynamics.

Experimental skills in biosensor development and biological analysis will be required in the PhD. Supervisory team consists of experts from the School of Engineering, and the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, they will provide expertise and facilities for the project. Collaborations with hospitals and other research centres will be established and you will work with different teams to share resources and maximise the research impact


Xin Yang

Dr Xin Yang (Chris)

Lecturer - Teaching and Research

+44 (0)29 2087 5708
Aled Clayton

Yr Athro Aled Clayton

Senior Lecturer

+44 (0)29 2251 0589

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