Function of P2X7 in healthy and diseased skin

Prof. Catherine Harwood. Blizard Institute, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Shaun McNulty, Biosceptre UK Limited

Project Description

P2X7 is a purinergic receptor that responds to high extracellular ATP concentrations by opening a fast ligand-gated cation channel or, on prolonged stimulation, by opening a pore permeable to large organic cations, which can initiate cellular apoptosis. High extracellular ATP concentrations occur upon injury and in the cancer microenvironment. Biosceptre has identified a novel form of P2X7, lacking pore function that is specifically expressed in many cancers and acts as a calcium channel promoting cell survival and driving metastasis.

This novel form of P2X7 represents an attractive target for therapeutic intervention and Biosceptre has developed antibodies specific to P2X7 which form the basis of a topical therapeutic that has shown indications of efficacy in treating squamous (SCC) and basal (BCC) cell carcinoma of the skin.

The project will use a spectrum of cell signalling and pharmacological technologies to explore P2X7 function in normal and SCC keratinocytes. These will include siRNA and antibody mediated blockade of downstream signalling function in sophisticated 3D model systems and will place particular emphasis on apoptotic pathways and how these can be exploited as a therapeutic strategy to treat skin cancer.

This project is in partnership with Biosceptre located on the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge and Sydney, Australia and incorporates an industrial training placement. This project has the potential to make significant contributions to this exciting and emerging field examining the role of P2X7 in normal and diseased tissue and its potential as a therapeutic target in cancer. We are therefore seeking a highly motivated graduate student with an interest in cell biology and cancer therapeutics to join our group


Applicants must hold, or be expected to achieve, a first or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree or equivalent (for example BA, BSc, MSci) or a Masters degree in a relevant subject. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Catherine Harwood ( in advance of the deadline, 20th January 2017 at 5pm.

To apply you will need to send the following documents in a single email to: All documents must be submitted in unprotected PDF format.

  • Completed Application Form (Sections A and B) including details of two Academic References
  • The disability and ethnic origin monitoring form
  • Official Final Transcripts from Completed Programmes of Study
  • Official Interim Transcripts from On-going Programmes of Study
  • English Language Qualification (if required, please see below)
  • Academic CV
  • Copy of Passport

Please click the relevant links below to download a zipped folder of application documents in your preferred format.
Application Pack (Word).zip
Application Pack (PDF).zip