Development of a leukocyte activity assay to predict COVID-19 disease severity

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

Funding details: Bursary, tuition fees and generous consumables allowance

Duration: Full-Time (42 months)

Application deadline: 30th October 2020

Interview dates: Interview date will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: January 2021

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Derek Renshaw

Project details

There is an emerging pattern of high COVID-19 disease severity and mortality in patients who are male gender, are obese, have type II diabetes mellitus, BAME and increasing age. This application will endeavor to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, which increase disease severity in these at risk groups.

A common feature of increased mortality in COVID-19 patients is an over-reaction of the patients innate immune system, the so called ‘cytokine storm’ part of the acute phase response to this viral infection. This feature is the body’s response to an infectious agent and leads to systemic blood clotting, organ failure and increased mortality risk.

The body’s defense against this is led by the counter regulatory immune system comprising of glucocorticoids and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This system represents our natural protection against over reaction of the innate immune system and is attenuated in obesity.
This project will develop a biological activity test to measure immune system activity in response to a safe, model coronavirus using white blood cells taken from participants in these high risk groups.

The results of this project will allow us to develop a simple blood test that will predict an individuals risk of innate immune system over reaction to a future Coronavirus infection.


This is a fully-funded PhD studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend/bursary
  • Additional allowances


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.

Candidate specification

  • 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)

For further details see: 

Additional requirements:

  • High-calibre student, BSc/MSc 1st or 2:1 in biological/biomedical sciences or other relevant bioscience degree involving an immunology component.
  • Experience of working with leukocyte extraction techniques and biological laboratory skills would be an advantage.
  • A good knowledge of statistical techniques to analyse relevant data sets.

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 Derek Renshaw.

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