The University of Exeter and the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory are jointly funding five PhDs.

University of Exeter boosts research in disease prevention and treatment

The University of Exeter is furthering our understanding of the causes and treatments of diseases.

Through its £230 million investment in science, medicine and engineering, the University is using systems biology – an approach that uses techniques from mathematics and physics – to better understand how disease occurs.

Ultimately, the research could lead to new treatments for some of the world’s most deadly diseases.

As part of this initiative, the University of Exeter and the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are jointly funding five PhDs, all focused on identifying new ways of preventing and treating infectious diseases. Starting in October 2012, the students will be based at the University of Exeter. 

Two of the students will focus on Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium which causes melioidosis. Often fatal, this disease is endemic in many tropical countries, especially in South East Asia. One student will look at new ways of enhancing antibiotic treatments for the disease while the other will focus on new treatments, exploiting the ability of bacteria to switch on self-destruct mechanisms.

One of the students will examine how viruses and bacteria manipulate the host cell to allow them to grow and reproduce. Another will investigate a potential treatment for infections caused by intracellular bacteria, which grow and reproduce within the cells of other organisms. The fifth PhD student will look at new techniques for diagnosing bacterial infections, including potentially fatal human sepsis. 

All of the students will uncover new aspects of how these microorganisms cause disease, with a view to paving the way for new treatments.

Professor Rick Titball, Head of Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “These five studentships, jointly funded by Dstl, will greatly enhance our work on the prevention and treatment of diseases. This is a growing area of expertise for the University of Exeter and we are delighted that Dstl is joining us to invest in these PhDs.” 

The University of Exeter recently announced plans to develop a £20 million research centre, dedicated to developing new strategies for diagnosing and treating diseases. The centre's research will bring a new approach to understanding how diseases operate in the human body by applying engineering principles to living cells.

Date: 26 June 2012