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PhD Studentship: Induction of lysosomal biogenesis in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) as a novel treatment for Stargardt disease

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Location:  Southampton General Hospital
Closing Date:  Thursday 30 June 2022
Reference:  1823722FC

Main Supervisor: Dr J. Arjuna Ratnayaka

Other members of the supervisory team: Professor Andrew J. Lotery and Dr David A. Tumbarello 

Amount of stipend and fees:  Stipend at £16,062.00 and full fees increasing yearly for 3 ½ years (42 months) from 1st October 2022 – 31st March 2026 full time.

Project description: Applications are invited for an exciting new PhD studentship by the Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust and partly funded by the Gift of Sight Appeal. Stargardt disease is an autosomal recessive disorder and the most common macular dystrophy, with onset from childhood, in early or late adult life. It results in the irreversible loss of vision and is solely caused by mutations in the ATP-binding cassette subfamily-A member 4 (ABCA4) gene. Although ~1200 ABCA4 variants are linked with disease, all patients share a common feature, where toxic intracellular macromolecules called lipofuscin accumulates within retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells that maintains photoreceptors. The build-up of lipofuscin results in the atrophy of RPE cells and overlying photoreceptors, which has no effective treatment. The project will first develop an in-vitro RPE cell model of Stargardt disease to understand the pathophysiology of this condition. Next, the student will use Stargardt RPE cell-lines to test an altogether novel therapeutic strategy to remove lipofuscin by triggering the biogenesis of new/healthy lysosomes. Potential findings could lead to a new treatment for patients. The successful applicant will join a dynamic research team consisting of undergraduate/PGR students and postdocs. The candidate is expected to be highly motivated with an excellent work ethic. 

Please contact:  Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka (

Person Specification here

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Funding information:
Fees and stipend for UK applicants for the duration of the project (42 months). The project is available on a full-time basis only and funded by Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust and partly funded by the Gift of Sight Appeal.
Non-UK applicants need not apply.

 Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

You should enter Dr J. Arjuna Ratnayaka as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Dr J. Arjuna Ratnayaka (

Closing date: Thursday 30th of June 2022

Interview date: Monday 18th of July 2022 

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