Lab-on-a-chip Platform for Detection of Early Metastasis Biomarkers

About this project

There is a worldwide need to identify biomarkers that are specific and enable the diagnosis of chronic disease at an earlier time point. In doing so we can treat patients before their disease affects multiple organs, enabling more effective treatment, extending patient survival and enhancing quality of life. We aim to develop non-invasive or minimally invasive tests to identify early pre-clinical disease changes in patients. This should improve patient outcomes with diminished side effects and decrease NHS treatment costs.

This cluster encompasses academic staff, based in both the School of Life Sciences and the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Hull, who are experienced in biomarker identification in difficult to treat diseases such as endometriosis (Guinn), therapy-induced cancer (Wade), cardiovascular disease (Beltran-Alvarez) and sarcoidosis (Hart).  Our skills in state-of-the-art technologies such as lab-on-a-chip (Pamme) and spheroids (Pires), and our access to high tech equipment (mass spectrometry, phosphor-flow cytometry, transcriptomics) provide a unique opportunity to collaborate and form a UK cluster of excellence providing high quality training and mentorship to our PGR students.

Lab-on-a-chip platform for detection of early metastasis biomarkers with Dr Isabel Pires and Professor Nicole Pamme.

Metastatic disease is responsible for 90% of cancer deaths. However, the identification of specific biomarkers for early metastasis or pre-metastatic alteration remains an area of unmet need. In this project we will develop an advanced on-chip platform to model tumour microenvironmental conditions driving metastatic disease. The project builds on current expertise in the biology and modelling of the tumour microenvironment (Pires) and the development of microfluidic devices (Pamme). We will incorporate 3D models of cancer (multicellular spheroids), in the well-controlled microenvironment of a microfluidic platform and analyse molecular and cellular components released from the spheroids using immunodetection or electrochemical sensors, as well as high throughput techniques such as Mass Spectrometry and RNA-sequencing. These strategies will allow the identification of novel molecular markers of early metastasis, ultimately to be translated as clinically relevant biomarkers.This exciting multidisciplinary project encompasses many varied technical skills and approaches, including cancer cell tissue culture (2D and 3D), transcriptomic and proteomic analysis, and cutting-edge bioengineering of microfluidic devices. The successful candidate will be expected to have a solid knowledge base in cell biology and molecular biology, and, ideally, some knowledge on cancer biology. The candidate must also show a willingness to work multi-disciplinary and embrace the area of microfluidic chip design. 


You are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor and to discuss your research proposal, well before you submit an application. Please refer to the Health research pages.

If you have any queries, please email Dr Isabel Pires and Professor Nicole Pamme.

Next steps


To celebrate the University's research successes, the University of Hull is offering a full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursary.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in biomedicine or a related discipline, together with relevant research experience. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level qualification.

How to apply

Applications for scholarship consideration at the University of Hull should be made through the Postgraduate Application system.

On the second page of your application, please select “Graduate Scholarship” as the type of scholarship you are applying for. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to first identify and contact a potential supervisor.

Apply now

Application deadline: Monday 19 February


Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,553 in 2017/18) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.