A study into improving virus-load measurement and preventing false negative in detection

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees

Duration: Full-Time (42 months)

Application deadline: 30th October 2020

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: January 2021

For further details contact Professor Sebastien Farnaud

Project Details

False-negative testing in virus screening is a common challenge, as reminded with SARS-CoV-2 testing, which has a highly variable false-negative rate. The causes for these negative results are multifold, including the ability to perform the test and the choice of the method used where thermal and chemical inactivation can affect the integrity of the infected sample; for PCR-related tests, which detect the virus through its genome, the main factor seems to be the stability of the virus nucleic acid. Several media have been proposed to transport the viral load while preserving viral integrity, but there is no established consensus. Public Health England (PHE) is currently using physiological saline to transport naso-pharangyl swabs to validated facilities for testing for Covid19 virus. However, it is recognised that physiological saline is not the most suitable medium to maintain cells in a viable state for up to 48 hours.  Maintaining cells in a viable state is very important since any lysis of cells will result in the release of nucleases, which will affect the integrity of the virus RNA, leading to very low signal at time of testing, therefore preventing its detection and leading to false negative results.

It is therefore the aim of this project to develop specific media suitable for viral-load handling and preservation, which will prevent a high rate of false negative testing. Such media will be suitable not only for SARS-Cov-2 testing but also other viral infected samples, therefore to be used globally by PHE and other health-related organisations.


This is a fully-funded PhD studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend/bursary
  • Additional allowances


Training and development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Additional requirements

  • High-calibre student, BSc/MSc 1st or 2:1 in cellular biology, immunology, molecular biology, or other relevant bioscience degree;
  • With knowledge and understanding in cell culture, immunology, capable of conducting laboratory experiments;
  • Experience in cell culture and / or virology is strongly desirable.

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

To find out more about the project please contact Professor Sebastien Farnaud

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