PhD Studentship with GreenLight Medicines and Ulster University2019-02-01T11:45:22+00:00

Department for the Economy (DfE) funded PhD Studentship in collaboration with GreenLight Medicines

Title: An investigation of endo-cannabinoid receptor system modulation of inflammation and pain pathways in cells involved in arthritis

Applications are invited for the following DfE CAST (Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology) PhD studentship. The project will be based at the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine, CTRIC Building, Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry and is tenable via the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences (Coleraine campus).

Project Summary

Around 10 million people in the UK will seek help from their GP each year with arthritis or related conditions. Many will experience some form of inflammation and persistent muscle or joint pain, making arthritis the single largest cause of disability. The relationship between the reduced inflammatory control exhibited by immune cells and pain signalling in neurons is poorly understood. This loss of control over immune responses drives the progression of arthritis and it therefore represents a major target for novel therapeutics. Current pain and anti-inflammatory treatments are not well tolerated and are associated with toxicity and adverse events.

Increasing evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system, comprising cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands and metabolic enzymes, has a regulatory role within immune and neural cells. This project focuses on an in vitro study of the intracellular mechanisms and functional effects of cannabinoid receptor agonists in these cells. Pro-inflammatory models will be established to test phyto-cannabinoid mixtures supplied by GreenLight Medicines Ltd ( The effects will be analysed by multiplex molecular and protein assay platforms and expression data will be used to inform the construction of a robust computational model.

Project Details

Dr David Gibson, Dr Elaine Murray, Dr Steven Watterson.
Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine, Ulster University, Derry, Northern Ireland.
This study will establish the therapeutic potential of phyto-cannabinoids combinations (plant based extracts) and will map out their molecular function, exploring their action in dysregulated immune and neural cells.
  1. To create a molecular pathway model of cannabinoid receptor systems in inflammation and pain signaling
  2. To investigate the impact of phyto-cannabinoids on neurological cell signaling.
  3. To investigate the effects of phyto-cannabinoids on lymphocytes.
Methods adopted/ experience gained:
  • Molecular pathway construction (in silico modelling).
  • Cell biology and culture dose response experimentation (in vitro models).
  • RNA and proteome expression analysis.
  • Statistical analyses, international conference presentations, publication and IP generation.
  • Placement at GreenLight Medicines Ltd. for up to 3 months.

Entrance Requirements

Candidates should have ordinary UK residence to be eligible for both fees and maintenance. Non UK residents who hold ordinary EU residence may also apply but if successful will receive fees only. All applicants should hold a first or upper second class honours degree in stratified medicine, biomedical or biological sciences or a cognate area. Applications will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate’s qualifications, skills, experience and interests. Successful candidates will enrol as of 1 October 2017, on a full-time programme of research studies leading to the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The studentship will comprise fees together with an annual stipend of £15,553 and will be awarded for a period of up to three years subject to satisfactory progress.

If you wish to discuss your proposal or receive advice on this project please contact


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The closing date for receipt of completed applications is 7th May 2017

Interviews will be held late May/ early June 2017