Research Vacancies

2 PhD Positions in “Delivery of RNA Therapies to Cells and preclinical models”

Job Posted: 22 Jul 2022
Closing Date for Applications: 31 Aug 2022
School: APC Microbiome Ireland, School of Medicine and School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Contract Type: Fixed Term Whole-Time
Job Type: Research
Salary: see advert for stipend details




Two open PhD Positions in “Delivery of RNA Therapies to Cells and preclinical models”

APC Microbiome Ireland, School of Medicine and School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, University College Cork, Ireland are currently recruiting two fully funded PhD positions under the GENEGUT Research and Innovation Action.


The GENEGUT Research and Innovation Action aims to develop a first-in-class, orally administered RNA-based therapy for ileal Crohn’s disease which selectively targets novel nucleic acid-based therapeutic modalities to the diseased site in the small intestine. GENEGUT will tackle this delivery dilemma by utilising novel biomaterials to formulate RNA NPs, which will be delivered orally in a device engineered to achieve site-specific intestinal release and accumulation locally in diseased intestinal tissue. Pivotal proof-of-efficacy will be demonstrated in a pig model of chronic intestinal inflammation and a 3D multi-cellular model of ileal CD.

About the project

We are looking for two highly motivated candidates who will join the laboratories of Prof Subrata Ghosh, Dr Silvia Melgar and Dr Ken Nally, UCC/APC Microbiome Ireland for a four-year research project funded by Horizon Europe. The project aims to develop the first oral RNA-based therapy for ileal Crohn’s Disease (CD), a chronic intestinal inflammation of the gut. Our colleagues in the School of Pharmacy, UCC, will develop novel biomaterials such as amphiphilic cyclodextrins and amino polyesters, to identify nanoparticles (NPs) suitable for intracellular delivery of RNA to cells in the small intestine. Once these RNA NPs formulations have been generated, the PhD candidates will evaluate their efficacy in targeting inflammatory pathways associated with Crohn’s disease pathogenesis in three relevant human intestinal cell types including immune (macrophages) and non-immune cells (fibroblasts and epithelial cells). The candidates will also investigate the mechanism of action of the delivered RNAs by using RNASeq and proteomics analysis, the latter in collaboration with our partners at Uppsala University, Sweden. Finally, a disease relevant large animal model will be established and validated in collaboration with our colleagues in the School of Pharmacy, UCC. This will be used to assess the efficacy of the orally delivered encapsulated RNAs to the small intestine of the pigs with a focus on inflammation and identified responses in the cell-systems.

About the candidate

The two PhD candidates will conduct a specific programme of research under the supervision of Dr Silvia Melgar and Dr Ken Nally.

The successful candidates will be able to develop and apply cell and molecular biology skills, work in a cross-disciplinary research team and work closely with our academic and industry collaborators, including RNA biologists, pharmacologists, nanomedicine experts, drug delivery experts, and clinical scientists. The candidates should have strong interpersonal skills and excellent oral/written communication skills.

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must have a first class or upper second-class honours degree in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Cell biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, or a life science area
  • M.Sc. degree is desirable but not essential
  • Prospective Ph.D. students should have prior practical laboratory experience
  • Prior experience with in vivo animal models and bioinformatics is desirable but not essential
  • Applicants must all meet UCC eligibility requirements for registration as a PhD student

Experience in one or more of the following areas will be beneficial but is not required: RNA biology, cell and molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and animal work.

Technical skills in cell culture, RNAi biology, RT-PCR, western blots, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, RNASequencing, bioinformatics and animal models/handling are desirable.

Availability to start 1st October 2022 will be an advantage.

Funding details

Successful candidates will receive a stipend of €18,500 per annum (tax-exempt) for four years plus registration fees (at the EU level).

Non-EU candidates are encouraged to apply, but they may need to cover extra fees themselves

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at UCC.

Funding notes

GENEGUT has received funding from the European Commission under the HORIZON-HLTH-2021-TOOL-06 Programme Grant Agreement number 101057491.

Further information

Dr Silvia Melgar - and

Dr Ken Nally - and

Prof Subrata Ghosh -  and

To Apply:

Interested candidates should send a detailed CV, including contact details of at least two referees, and a detailed cover letter via email to or on or before the closing date of August 31st, 2022.

Please include “PhD in RNA delivery to cells and preclinical model” in the subject line of your email.

About APC

APC Microbiome Ireland is a trans-disciplinary research centre, with clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists from diverse backgrounds working in teams, sharing ideas and resources. Although focused upon the gastrointestinal bacterial community (the microbiota), the scale and scope of the work has become one of the fastest moving areas of biology. The microbiota is not only a target for treatment and prevention of disease, it is a repository for functional food ingredients and even new drugs and is a source of novel biomarkers of disease risk. The scientific organisation of the APC consists of a matrix of ‘spokes’ or themes of intellectual pursuit which are supported by multiple horizontal or shared technology platforms.

About UCC

UCC is an award-winning institution with a history of independent thinking stretching back over 170 years. UCC has a student population of over 21,000. The University was named Irish University of the Year by the Sunday Times in 2017. In 2015, UCC was also named as top performing university by the European Commission funded U-Multirank system, based on obtaining the highest number of "A" scores (21 out of 28 metrics) among a field of 1200 universities. UCC has been ranked as one of the leading universities in the world for sustainable social and economic impact, in the inaugural 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact rankings.


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