Development of next-generation microfluidic technology device for detection of circulating cancer cells

An exploration into new microfluidic technologies for cancer diagnosis.

Start date

1 October 2023


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

The University of Surrey and ANGLE PLC

Funding information

  • UKRI standard stipend (£16,062 for 2022-23)
  • UK fees.


As cancer advances, tumour cells detach from their original site and migrate through the bloodstream to form new, secondary tumours. Determining the numbers of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in the bloodstream indicates the cancer stage and can inform the clinician as to the most appropriate treatment; if the CTCs can be recovered from the test, this also allows identification of the original tumour site via genotyping. 

However, the number of CTCs is small – typically 1ml of blood contains 1-20 CTCs depending on cancer stage, compared to 4 million white blood cells and 2 billion red blood cells. Consequently, a method of trapping CTCs from a blood sample, eliminating the blood cells and allowing recovery of the captured CTCs would be highly valuable. 

ANGLE PLC has developed and patented the Parsortix® instrument, which uses pressure-driven separation to filter blood samples through a disposable cassette. The cassette has been designed to enrich and purify the samples, or more specifically, allow blood cells to passively pass through whilst retaining the larger, less compressible CTCs. To date, in-house testing (at ANGLE Europe Ltd) has shown the cassette to be effective at capturing CTCs.

This project will focus on developing a next-generation microfluidic separation cassette that enables faster sample processing while increasing capture of target cells compared to the current separation cassette, using novel biophysical approaches in increase selectivity, speed and efficiency. The student will have an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, including cell biology, biophysics, microfluidics, and computer simulation, supported by our highly interdisciplinary research team. Work will be split between the University of Surrey and ANGLE PLC, which are both located in Guildford, England.

Eligibility criteria

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the work, we are happy to consider graduates with degrees in engineering, physics, chemistry or life sciences.  You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme.

This studentship is for UK students only.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Biomedical Engineering PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Fatima Labeed
17 AA 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684536

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