PhD Studentship: How Does Excessive Type I Interferon Activity Damage the Brain?

Closing Date
17 Jul 2019
Newcastle University
3 years

Value of award

Full home/EU fees and an annual stipend starting at £15,150 for year 1.

Number of awards: One

Start date and duration: 31/10/19, 3 years


Type I interferons (IFNα/β) are potent antiviral cytokines with pleotropic functions, including the regulation of cellular activation, proliferation and cell death. Intriguingly, both too little and too much IFNα/β activity is associated with neurological disease. Having previously reported loss of function mutations of this pathway in humans with CNS viral disease(1, 2), we have now discovered a novel genetic disease of uncontrolled IFNα/β signalling causing sterile neuroinflammation. The phenotype resembles a set of genetic diseases known as type I interferonopathies(3).

Understanding precisely how IFNα/β causes neurological damage in these disorders remains a fundamental scientific and clinical challenge. To address this need, we have generated a CRISPR/Cas9 knock-in mouse model of this novel interferonopathy mutation. Preliminary studies indicate the development of neurological disease in homozygous animals.

Project goals:

1) Dissect pathomechanism using cutting-edge methods of neuropathological analysis including imaging mass cytometry

2) Exploit a new conditional knock-in mouse model, currently being generated, to determine the specific CNS cell types driving neuropathology

3) Test novel therapeutic strategies which we are developing

Key opportunities: You will emerge with a unique skillset in neuroimmunology, including cutting-edge experimental techniques relevant to a broad range of biomedical disciplines. The supervisory team is composed of experts in immunogenetics, innate immunity and neuroscience. Based within the Immunity and Inflammation Theme in Newcastle University, you will have access to purpose-build facilities and opportunities for collaboration and mentorship with world-leading scientists. You will also engage with a regular programme of high-quality research in progress seminars.


  1. Duncan CJ (2015) Science Translational Medicine 7(307):307ra154
  2. Hambleton S (2013) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(8):3053-8.
  3. Uggenti (2019) Annual Review of Immunology 37:247-267.


Dr. Christopher Duncan

Prof. Sophie Hambleton

Prof. Andrew Mellor

Dr. Gavin Clowry

Eligibility Criteria

The successful candidate should possess an outstanding academic track record and be able to demonstrate their potential for development. You must hold (or be about to obtain) a First/Upper Second Class UK undergraduate degree or an equivalent degree from a recognised EU institution, in a relevant subject (e.g. neuroscience and/or immunology). Experience of and enthusiasm for work in rodent models is highly desirable.

Please note this studentship is open to UK/EU students only.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’.

Only mandatory fields need to be completed. However, you will need to include the following information:

  • Insert the programme code 8300F in the programme of study section
  • Select ‘PhD in in the Faculty of Medical Sciences’ as the programme of study
  • Insert the studentship code CL117 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • Attach a covering letter and CV no more than two pages for each. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote the studentship reference code CL117 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications


Informal enquiries are welcome:

Contact Details