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Point of Care Low Cost Nanobiosensors

Principal Supervisor: Professor Matthew I. Gibson

Co-supervisor: Dr Sarah Jane Richards (Assistant Professor)

PhD project title: Point of Care Low Cost Nanobiosensors

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Current diagnostics are often based on either growing the infectious agent (e.g plating out a swab) or rely on genetic techniques such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction). A key challenge is that these need infrastructure and trained personnel. Also results are not ‘instant’ and the assays are expensive. We have recently disclosed a method to identify SARS-COV-2 (cause of COVID) using a paper-based device which gives an answer in under 30 minutes.

ACS Central Science, 2020, The SARS-COV-2 spike protein binds sialic acids, and enables rapid detection in a lateral flow point of care diagnostic device. Online.

Crucial to this technology was the understanding of how glycans (sugars) act as ‘anchors’ for virus, bacteria and their toxins to ‘grab’ hold of their hosts at the initial stages of infection. We aim to understand how pathogens bind these sugars, and then to reproduce these structures on the surface of nanomaterials to generate sensors. These have broad applicability across animal health (both domestic and agricultural), bioterrorism (e.g ricin detection), sanitation (cholera detection) and more.

This is a huge field, and a student would have the chance to work with us on dissecting how pathogens interact with glycans. There are several targets which we available to work on, which would be agreed with the student.

This project will enable a student to be exposed to a unique biomaterials environment and learn/apply skills in synthetic biomaterials but also cell biology and advanced analytics, using confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. The GibsonGroup ( has unique facilities enabling such an ambitious cross-disciplinary project, and the student will learn nano science as well as microbiology and analytical skills.

Key objectives will include;

  • Dissection of pathogen/glycan interactions
  • Recapitulate glycans onto nanomaterial surfaces
  • Demonstrate sensing in a physiologically relevant medium

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding the rules of life Immunology, and Microbiology, Sustainable Agriculture and Food - Microbial Food and Safety, and Animal Health and Welfare, and Integrated Understanding of Health - Pharmaceuticals, Ageing, and Regenerative Biology.


Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

Carbohydrate Chemistry

Polymer Chemistry

Biolayer interferometry

UV/fluorescence spectroscopy

Basic microbiology

Contact: Professor Matthew I. Gibson