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PhD Studentship (3 years) Development and optimisation of a novel composite delivery system to improve drug solubility

Aston Pharmacy School

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Friday 16 July 2021
Reference:  R210137
Release Date:  Thursday 29 April 2021

Department: College of Health and Life Sciences

Contract Type: Fixed Term

Basis: Full Time

Closing Date: 23:59 GMT on 16 July 2021 (or until the position is filled)

Supervisor: Prof Afzal Mohammed

Associate Supervisor: Dr Craig Russell

Project Reference: Mohammed_50:50_Max Biotech

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the College of Health and Life Sciences, to be undertaken within the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Clinical Pharmacy Research Group at Aston University.  The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on particle engineering and formulation development.   The studentship is offered in collaboration with Max Biotech Ltd.

The position is available to start in October 2021.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of £15,609 (subject to eligibility). 

Background to the Project

Despite the advent of new strategies in drug discovery, majority of the drugs in the pipeline have poor solubility. Poorly soluble drugs exhibit low bioavailability due to limited dissolution or low solubility. One of the primary strategies to overcome this challenge includes development of alternate formulations such as liposomes, nanocarriers and nano capsules. However, these approaches present significant challenges such as poor drug loading, short stability and complex manufacturing methods.

MaxBiotech in partnership with Aston have developed novel composite nanoparticles which have the potential to improve apparent solubility of poorly soluble drugs. These nanoparticles are stable in liquid form and have shown to improve drug release over an extended period. Typical system compromises of a polymer shell which encapsulates the drug and the resultant particle is coated with second layer to improve drug retention and control release.  Work has also shown that these nano particulate systems can be filter sterilised without impacting the overall formulation properties.

The overarching hypothesis of the project is that formulation optimisation will lead to higher drug loading of model poorly soluble drugs. Work in this project will include assessing the suitability of existing particulate carriers such as cyclodextrins, nano carriers, nano capsules in improving apparent solubility either as a single system or when coated with a second layer (polymer/lipid/ both). Analytical method development using HPLC and characterisation studies such as surface charge, particle size and polydispersity, SEM and confocal microscopy will be central to this project. Additionally, formulations with high drug loading will be subjected to permeability testing using caco2 cell model. 

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution).  Preferred skill requirements include: 

  • Good laboratory working skills
  • Well versed in MS Office
  • Experience of working with cell culture would be desirable   

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Prof Afzal Mohammed by email at

Submitting an application

As part of the application, you will need to supply:

  • A copy of your current CV
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree (if studied); this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A research proposal statement*
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here.  Please select “Research Health Sciences (including Psychology, Ophthalmic, Pharmacy Research areas) (Full time Oct 2021)” from the application form options.

*The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined, candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Please include the supervisor name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at 

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Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via



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