In 2020, one selected candidate will be the beneficiary of a 3-year working contract with all benefits attached. This contract includes high level interdisciplinary, inter-sectorial, and international training with personalized career development plans involving soft-skills training, secondments and mentoring. Over 50 partner organisations actively support this programme.
THE MFP-COFUND PROGRAMME OFFERS
- One of the best salaries at PhD level in Europe. Gross monthly salary of approximately 2.200€. Apart from the salary, URV will contribute up to 7.500€ each year to the cost of the fellow’s travels, research and training.
- 3-6 months secondments at international (and in some cases intersectoral) partner organisations.
- An international environment, supported by the adherence to the European Charter & Code.
- Enrolment in excellent PhD programmes.
- Opportunity to do research in a top 500 universities in the world (76 in THE Young universities ranking).
- Access to high-quality infrastructures for research & innovation.
- Gender balanced, Open, Transparent and Merit based Recruitment.
- Equal opportunities for all.
|Title of the research project||Rapid and cost-effective diagnostic tools to fight viral outbreaks|
|Keywords||Early diagnosis; Viral outbreaks|
|Research line||Bio-inspired technologies|
|PhD Programme||Technologies for Nanosystems, Bioengineering and Energy|
DESCRIPTION OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT
We aim to generate and validate a suit of highly sensitive and versatile label-free electrochemical sensing platforms for the early diagnosis of viral outbreaks. Early diagnosis is critical to advance in the fight against viral outbreaks, such as the CoVid19. The developed tools will be harnessed to 1) guide clinical workflow for health system relief, 2) select appropriate treatment, 3) inform prognosis, 4) confirm low enough viral load to recommend patient discharge to free up intensive care units, and 5) prevent the spread of infections, mainly driven via asymptomatic patients.
Early diagnosis will be approached via two strategies:
1. Host response-based diagnostics: The acquisition of personalised information about the host immune response to infection is highly relevant. Infection evolution over time shows that the early detection of biomarkers key during the incubation period, can be harnessed to actuate before pathogen replication and symptoms arise. We aim to demonstrate the potential of host response-based diagnostic tools to face the challenges involved in detecting viral infections at their onset. Biosensing platforms based on multi-stacks of materials featuring aligned nanochannels will be crafted to enable sequential analysis of exosomes and exosomal content, as biomarkers of the host response to infection. Complementary biomarkers, including procalcitonin and specific cytokines, will also be incorporated as target analytes in these multiplexing platforms to prove quick discrimination among viral infections.
2. Fit-for-purpose diagnostics for sequential viral and RNA viral detection: Tools that can provide information about the class of virus and subsequently identify the specific virus are expected to be a game changer in the early diagnosis of viral outbreaks, such as the CoVid19, by detecting infected patients prior to symptoms manifest and enabling monitoring of their infection status. Biosensors based on multi-stacks of hybrid materials are key to achieve sequential detection of various biomarkers to identify the class of virus (e.g. human coronaviruses) and the specific virus (e.g. SARS-CoV-2) by harnessing the feasibility of each layer to play a different role (i.e. biorecognition, transduction). Furthermore, this type of sensing platforms has demonstrated ultra-sensitivity, required to allow direct measurements on complex matrices (e.g. blood, serum, saliva) without sample pre-treatment, and its ability to provide label-free detection without the need of previous amplification steps.
We are looking for a highly motivated student with interest in a broad range of disciplines, including biosensors, materials science, micro/nanofabrication, electrochemistry and microbiology. The student must have initiative, excellent oral and written communication skills, basic knowledge in chemistry and biology, and the ability to critically plan and discuss both the experimental work and the research results. S/he has to be pro-active, responsible, a good team player, well organised, and ready to receive interdisciplinary training and engage in various collaborations with researchers working on different fields of research.