child using inhaler

Key information

Professor Maria Belvisi and Dr Mark Birrell

Deadline: Now closed.

3 year PhD funded through the National Heart and Lung Institute, starting October 2019.

Applications are invited from candidates with a Master’s degree (Merit and above) in Biomedical Sciences or a related discipline, for a three year PhD studentship to investigate the mechanisms underlying the inception of childhood asthma.

The studentship will be funded for three years with a tax free bursary. Tuition fees at the Home/EU rate will also be paid.

Cough is the most common condition for which patients seek medical attention but currently there are no effective treatments. It is an important defensive reflex, which protects the airways from the inhalation of harmful substances. However, excessive coughing is a symptom of respiratory tract infection, most inflammatory airway diseases (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)) and less commonly it can be idiopathic in origin (refractory cough). Chronic cough severe enough to interfere with quality of life is thought to affect 7% of the general population. Antitussive medications represent one of the most widely sold over the counter medications but there is no objective evidence to support their use, suggesting a significant unmet medical need and a requirement for effective therapies. The cough reflex is triggered by ion channels present on vagal nerve termini which can be activated by a wide variety of immune and environmental irritants. Recent clinical data from our collaborator utilising AF-219 (a first in class P2X3 antagonist), has identified adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as a driver of the chronic idiopathic cough which is treatment refractory. However, the mechanisms at play are not known and it is not clear whether similar efficacy will be observed in chronic cough associated with respiratory diseases. This research focuses on understanding the role of ATP in chronic cough, the signaling mechanisms involved and whether these mechanisms drive chronic cough across cough associated with chronic inflammatory diseases. This project is part of a programme of work linked to a Wellcome Trust award with our clinical collaborator Professor Jaclyn Smith in Manchester and takes a translational approach to answer these questions.

Imperial College London provides excellent opportunities for research students' training. All students benefit from a full programme of training in research and transferable skills organised through the Graduate School, the quality of which has been recognised several times at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards.

The student will be based in the National Heart and Lung Institute which provides an exciting environment, with state of the art facilities and excellent opportunities for PhD student training including research seminars and journal clubs. In addition, the Institute provides extensive collaborative opportunities with other research groups.

How to Apply

Applicants must hold, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second-class undergraduate degree or UK equivalent, along with a Master's, both in an appropriate subject from a recognised academic institution.

To apply please email the following information to to Professor Maria Belvisi or Dr Mark Birrell by email on or

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • One page personal statement
  • Name, address, telephone number or email of at least two academic referees. 

Application deadline: Now closed.

Please note that candidates must fulfil College admissions criteria.

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