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PhD Studentship: Exploring the potential for drug repurposing to enhance muscle mass and function in older adults.


UK Other

Closing Date
Friday 26 July 2024


PhD title: Exploring the potential for drug repurposing to enhance muscle mass and function in older adults. 

Principal supervisor:  

Prof Philip Atherton (School of Medicine) –  

Funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust ( as one of their Multiple PhD Studentship Awards, we have a fully funded (stipend at UKRI rates, PhD fees (for UK nationals only) and research costs) three-year full-time PhD available to start on the 1st October 2024.  

The overall theme of this PhD programme is  enhancing the physiological resilience of older adults, with a specific focus on skeletal muscle. The successful candidate for this specific PhD will join two other students as part of this programme, with the programme designed to offer peer-support and encourage multi-disciplinary, translational research.

Programme description: Loss of resilience describes enhanced vulnerability to, and impaired recovery from stress events when compared to a robust [youthful/healthy] state; and is commonly encountered with advancing age. With ageing populations around the world, and the associated rise in years spent in ill-health, there is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms underpinning this loss of physiological resilience, and potential strategies to mitigate these declines. Although a recent national GIRFT (Getting It Right First Time) report suggests that improving frailty management could save the NHS >£600-million/year, furthering understanding of the biological mechanisms driving reduced resilience to inform on precision mitigation strategies (i.e., for the right people at the right time) could in fact have a much bigger impact. This impact would favour not only healthcare systems but also older individuals, their support networks and society as a whole. Evidence suggests that skeletal muscle deterioration, including metabolic and functional decline, is a core driver of reduced resilience in older adults both with and without disease. Indeed, skeletal muscle weakness is at the fore of both frailty (the clinical term encompassing loss of resilience) and sarcopenia (age-associated losses of muscle mass and function) definitions. A devastating consequence of reduced resilience is that the time people spend in good health (their health-span) is now much shorter than overall lifespan; an issue that we aim to help address through this collection of PhD’s.

PhD description:

Drug repurposing is an emerging avenue of research in the field of Geroscience; a field whose stated aim is to “accelerate research into the basic mechanisms driving ageing which could lead to improved clinical interventions”. Based at the University of Nottingham Medical School at Derby (UNMSD; Royal Derby Hospital Centre), this PhD is focussed on exploring the impact of an already-licensed mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor (which has been shown to attenuate sarcopenia in animal models of ageing) on muscle growth and function in both community-dwelling older adults and orthogeriatric patients. Results from this PhD will inform on the potential of mTOR inhibition to enhance the resilience of older adults, not only in relation to skeletal muscle but also other organ systems for which favourable pre-clinical data is emerging (i.e., the immune system). All these PhD’s will benefit from the expertise and experience of multi-disciplinary supervisory teams comprised of discovery scientists and clinical academics. Further, all these PhD’s will also provide training in a broad range of topic-specific skill sets (e.g., human physiology assessments through to ‘wet-lab’/molecular analysis) as well as more generic career-development opportunities (e.g., patient and public involvement and engagement (PPI-E), dissemination, statistics).

Further information:

Applicants should have either:

  • a minimum of a 2.1 in a relevant undergraduate degree (e.g., Exercise Science, Physiology, Biology, Biomedical Sciences (non-exhaustive list)), OR
  • a minimum of a 2.2 undergraduate degree and a relevant Master’s degree.

The ideal candidate will also have experience of human physiology and/or laboratory research, and an understanding of ageing physiology.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to the programme lead: Prof Bethan Phillips ( or the principal supervisor for this PhD.

To apply, candidates should send their CV and a short cover letter (<1000 words) outlining why they are applying to be part of this PhD programme and what they believe they can offer to: The email subject line should be: “DMT PHD APPLICATION - RAPA”. Candidates should also provide the contact details for 2 referees, one of whom should be their most recent academic supervisor (or line manager in relevant employment, if applicable). Please note, offers of study will be subject to 2 satisfactory references being received.

Closing Date for Applications: Friday 26th July 2024, 5pm (UK time) 

Provisional Interview Date: 13th August 2024

If you will not be able to attend an interview at the University of Nottingham Medical School at Derby on this date, please make this known when you email your application to Prof Bethan Phillips so alternative arrangements can be considered if possible.

PhD Start Date: 1st October 2024, or as soon as possible thereafter.

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