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Portable Diagnostic Platform for Rapid Detection and Integrated Surveillance of Viruses

3.5-Year PhD Position

BACKGROUND 

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 lead by the Rob Barker research group 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. 

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. 

PROJECT GOALS

In order to take some steps towards this goal and create initial data which would be scalable towards a larger future project 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 biophysics expertise in the Barker group.

The successful delivery of this project has far-reaching industrial applications, in (amongst others) the pharmaceutical, medical and forensic industries and could be deployed in other areas across the World, which the candidate will be able to develop towards their own research interests.

PROJECT PARTNERS

The student will join this exciting multi-national, interdisciplinary project, 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.

WHO ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

If you are an interested and motivated candidate, with a background in Chemistry, Biophysics, Engineering or Physics, please send us an email and we'd be excited to discuss the project further with you.

HOW MUCH WILL YOU BE PAID?

£14,777 per year (tax free) plus the payment of tuition fees for 3.5 years.

Significant additional funding will be provided to cover travel and research training support.

The will also be involved in specialised interdisciplinary GCDC cohort training activities.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE?

20th January 2019 

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

WHEN WILL YOU START?

September 2019.

Last Updated: December 2018 by Rob Barker.