PhD in Development of aptamer-based vesicles for ultrasensitive biosensing

United Kingdom
Jun 18, 2017
Aug 31, 2017
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

The need for highly sensitive, rapid detection of ultra-low levels of chemical and biological substances is pervasive in many different sectors, including medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, food safety and security. In medical diagnostics, detection of low levels of biomarkers is critical for early diagnosis of many diseases, including cancer, neurological disorders, traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular diseases and in the early stages of infection.

This project seeks to establish a new biosensing system that is dynamic and modular by harnessing and tailoring the molecular properties of aptamers and vesicles. Aptamers – DNA strands can bind selectively a large set of binding partners, including metal ions, small molecules, peptides, proteins, and even complex targets such as the whole cell. Vesicles are self-assembled closed structures that use one or more bilayers of amphiphilic molecules to separate an aqueous interior from the bulk external aqueous medium. Vesicles provide important properties for developing ultrasensitive biosensing, namely selectivity, dynamic behaviour, programmability and adaptability. Thus, by combining the unique recognition properties of aptamers with the advanced functional properties of vesicles, the work will provide a new sensing platform for the ultralow detection of targets in complex biological media in a way hitherto unachieved and, thus opening up unprecedented opportunities for creating ultrasensitive, highly accurate, reliable, fast-responding and cost-effective biosensors.

This project will focus on the synthesis of aptamers derivatives as viable molecules for incorporation in vesicles. Vesicles will be then functionalized with the synthetized aptamers and fully characterized by a range of spectroscopic and microscopic techniques. The successful applicant will be willing to partake in multi-disciplinary research and will learn and utilize a range of skills, including synthetic chemistry (e.g. organic and DNA synthesis) and various techniques for characterization and analysis of smart vesicle constructs.

Funding Notes

This PhD is fully funded and open to EU/UK applicants only. Students must have a minimum of a good (>65%) upper second-class or higher integrated masters (MSci/MChem) UK degree (or an equivalent EU qualification) in Chemistry or a closely related subject. Potential applicants should contact Professor Paula Mendes ( and Professor Jim Tucker ( in the first instance and include a CV.