A novel, antibiotics free and prophylactic topical in-wound applied formulation for combating biofilms and improving orthopaedic surgical wound healing

A funded studentship project focusing on the development and characterisation of antibiotics-free and prophylactic topical formulations for combating biofilms and improving orthopaedic surgical wound healing.

Start date

1 January 2024


4 years

Application deadline

Funding information

The 4-year CTP Studentship comprises student stipend and fees at standard UKRI levels, a £5K per annum Research Training Support Grant (RTSG), and £230 for Conference and Fieldwork.


The School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (SCCE), School of Biosciences (SB) and School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) at the University of Surrey are able to offer  a BBSRC/NBIC funded PhD studentship. The studentship will focus on the development and characterisation of antibiotics-free and prophylactic topical formulations for combating biofilms and improving orthopaedic surgical wound healing. The studentship will work within multidisciplinary research groups across two faculties, namely The Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (FEPS) and Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (FHMS) at University Surrey with chemical engineers, microbiologists, chemists and clinicians. The PhD student will have the opportunity to spend time working with the University’s industrial partner, Phytoceutical Ltd and their associated entities.

The project

Working in close collaboration with Surrey’s industrial partner, Phytoceutical Ltd in West Sussex, this exciting interdisciplinary PhD project will investigate novel non-antibiotic formulations for combating biofilms and improving orthopaedic surgical wound healing, directly addressing the societal need of combating antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and biofilm formation. 

This project is the continuation of the collaborative project between the University of Surrey and is based on the Phytoceutical existing IP. Underpinning the IP is stable nano-micellar formulations that contain TPGS, Retinol, Retinaldehyde and PHMB, with TPGS and PHMB for antimicrobial activity, along with retinol and retinaldehyde (vitamin A) and other bio-actives for skin and tissue regeneration, variously combined in micellar form. Existing studies have already demonstrated the high antibacterial and antibiofilm efficacy of the individual components in the designed formulation against P. aeruginosa and S. aureus biofilms.

In order to progress the research and formulation into the next stage, there are important questions that need answering. Firstly, what are the combination effects of the individual components in terms of anti-biofilm/anti-bacteria efficacy in an in vitro orthopaedic setting? Secondly, what are the toxicity profiles of the combined formulation on tissue and osteoblast cells? Thirdly, what is the in vitro wound healing efficacy of the formulation, both without the biofilm and with the presence of bacteria and biofilm? This new PhD studentship combined with a paired PhD, who is specialising in orthopaedic surgery, will answer the above questions and also validate the approach from a clinical perspective.

Project location: University of Surrey, SCCE, SVM and SB

Training: At Surrey, the student will obtain mandatory training in serval areas including microbiology, research ethics and data analysis, as well as enrolling in the NBIC Doctoral Training Centre, which provides interdisciplinary training in biofilm science, engineering and technology.

Eligibility criteria

At least a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Bioengineering, Bioscience, Chemistry, Pharmacy or Microbiology.

Open to any UK or international candidates. Up to 30% of our UKRI funded studentships can be awarded to candidates who will pay the fee difference of £18,000 per year between international rate fees and home students. Find out more about eligibility.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Chemical and Process Engineering Research 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. Please also submit an up-to-date CV and cover letter to A/Prof Lian Liu by email l.x.liu@surrey.ac.uk. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed first, and the successful candidate will be asked to apply online before an offer is made.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Lian Liu
11 BC 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686594
E-mail: l.x.liu@surrey.ac.uk

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