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KESS2 East PhD in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: A microwave powered DNA extraction molecule

This funding opportunity has expired.

Key facts

Application deadline 31 March 2019
Start date 1 July 2019
Duration 3 years
Funding body KESS
Level of study Postgraduate research
Award type PhD studentship
Number of studentships 1

This KESS2 East PhD project will involve the design and development of a hygienic, disposable sample processing cartridge which will allow us to extract target DNA from a clinical sample.


Tuberculosis (TB) infects one third of the world’s population, which is exasperated by the emergence of antibiotic resistant variants of the bacterium. TB is difficult to diagnose and current diagnosis methods, where available, can take weeks to generate a result. This greatly affects patients living in remote areas of the world, far from a reliable mobile phone network.

An example is the bush people of Namibia, in whom the incidence of TB is relatively high. The successful PhD candidate will join a multidisciplinary team of engineers, biologists and clinicians from the universities of Cardiff, Bath and Namibia (UNAM), who are working to develop a portable, low cost, easy to operate assay capable of identifying the pathogen and determining its antibiotic sensitivity in minutes to facilitate its same day treatment.

Project aims and methods

Working with our industrial partner Microsemi Semiconductor Ltd., a Microchip Company, the PhD project will involve the design and development of a hygienic, disposable sample processing cartridge which will allow us to extract target DNA from a clinical sample. The cartridge is a crucial step in any DNA detection system and its realisation is a considerable challenge, given the complex nature of clinical samples (eg sputum, normally used for TB detection).

A sample will be presented to the cartridge, which will be inserted into a microwave module which drives the DNA release. The target DNA will be extracted by a process that uses functionalised magnetic beads. The output from the cartridge will be purified droplet containing the concentrated target DNA, for presentation to the reporter, based on a lateral flow assay. The two main project milestones are:

  • Design and demonstration of prototypes of the sample processing cartridge, incorporating the magnetic extraction process.
  • Identification and demonstration of the optimal nanoparticle DNA probe combinations which maximise the recovery of the target DNA for presentation to a lateral flow assay.


Funding details

Tuition fee support Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

Eligibility criteria

Residency Applicants for these awards must have a home or work address in the East area* of Wales at the time of their application for funding and enrolment.
Academic criteria

Applicants for research PhDs will be expected to have one or both of the following:

  • a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject
  • a relevant master's degree qualification or equivalent.

Applicants must:

  • have the right to work in the UK on completion of the scholarship
  • be classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student
  • satisfy the respective admissions criteria

It is a condition of eligibility for KESS2 funding that you have not applied for, nor are intending to apply for, a doctoral or research master's loan. Please read clause (3) (m) of The Education (Postgraduate Doctoral Degree Loans) (Wales) Regulations 2018 for more information.

*The East Wales region is comprised of 7 local authorities: Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham.

In the first instance, applicants should make initial enquiries via the named School / academic supervisor for each funded KESS2 project. All applicants must apply initially to the Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences identifying the KESS2 Scholarship they wish to be considered for.

If deemed suitable for the project, applicants will be invited to complete a ‘KESS2 Participant Form’ which assesses eligibility for funding. Applicants must also be able to provide supporting documentary evidence of their eligibility. Guidance on this requirement is outlined in the KESS2 Participant Form, an example of which can be downloaded as above. Suitable applicants will be sent this form to complete following the School selection process. Further advice is available from the KESS2 team.

We reserve the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Funding opportunity provided by:

Eligible research programmes