Self-funded PhD opportunities

Theoretical and Experimental Investigations of Drug Delivery via Zeolites

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Paul Cox and Marisa van der Merwe

About 40% of drugs in the pipeline and 60% of new chemical entities coming directly from synthesis or high throughput screening are classified as poorly soluble, meaning that they have bioavailability and/or delivery problems. This can induce side-effects or create problems related to the cost of treatment. It may oblige the formulator to choose the injection route, a much more unpopular method of administration for patients which reduces compliance, or may mean that a candidate molecule is abandoned altogether. Enhancing the oral bioavailability and controlling the release of dissolution-impaired drug candidates therefore constitutes one of the most important and challenging tasks facing formulation scientists in the pharmaceutical industry and novel approaches to tackle this difficult problem are constantly sought.

Work on the use of ordered porous solids is relatively scarce despite the fact that some types of material possess high specific high surface areas that render them as suitable carriers. However, studies carried out using a class of compounds known as zeolites show significant promise. Zeolites are inorganic compounds with well-defined channels and cavities. They are formed by linking SiO4 and AlO4 groups via the oxygen corners of adjacent tetrahedra to form crystalline solids. Currently, over 150 different zeolite frameworks have had their structure elucidated and many of these possess pores and channels that are potentially large enough to accommodate a wide-range of different drug molecules. By controlling the Si/Al ratios of the zeolite its degree of hydrophobicity can be altered and high-silica materials can readily absorb hydrophobic compounds in their channels. Moreover, their particle size can be controlled such that they may be ready absorbed through the GI-tract. Thus, zeolites appear to be ideally suited for both enhancing the dissolution and controlling the release of drug molecules.

The aim of this investigation is to optimise the use of zeolites as effective drug delivery systems for a range of poorly soluble drug candidates. The work will include the use of molecular modelling studies to help interpret and the guide experimental work. In addition, an extensive array of experimental techniques, including Neutron Diffraction, Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) and Dissolution will be used to help understand fundamental information about the loading and diffusion of the drugs inside their zeolite host. The experimental and theoretical skills developed during this project will prepare the student well for a future career in academia or industry. 

Funding notes:

This PhD opportunity is available to self-funded students. Bench fees may apply. For more information please contact the project supervisor.

How to apply:

To apply or make an enquiry, please visit postgraduate research: Biomedical, Biomolecular and Pharmacy

All applications should use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code - BIOL3300217