AstraZeneca PhD Studentship (Fixed Term)

A fully funded AstraZeneca PhD studentship is available, commencing in October 2022. The successful student will become part of a cohort of University of Cambridge-AstraZeneca students who will spend time at both institutions throughout their PhD and come together as a group for training and social events.


"A systems biology approach to the pathogenesis and progression of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease"

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a spectrum of diseases ranging from simple steatosis (hepatic fat accumulation) to steatohepatitis (NASH; hepatic fat accumulation with lipotoxicity, and fibroinflammation), eventually progressing to severe fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The unmet needs in NAFLD research are the lack of non-invasive diagnostic and prognosis biomarkers and validated targets and treatments to modify the trajectory of the disease. We hypothesise that the early mechanisms controlling the transition from NAFLD to NASH offer the best chance to modify the trajectory of the disease and identify targets, diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic response biomarkers.

This PhD project focuses on identifying and validating molecular mechanisms controlling the transitions NAFLD/NASH, bioinformatics approaches for NAFLD data analysis, and integration of multi-omics derived murine and human data.

The student will benefit from training in a critical problem in a highly innovative and competitive multidisciplinary environment. This PhD project predominantly focuses on computing biology and modelling, developing data analysis tools to take advantage of the data generated with the innovative molecular omics technologies to integrate a multi-omic data model that can be interrogated to develop novel hypotheses. The project will be tailored to the interests and preferences of the most talented candidate providing the appropriate balance between dry/wet laboratory activity according to the interests and future competitiveness of the candidate.

This project benefits from a preassembled tested collaborative network with specialised knowledge and expertise in preclinical models of NAFLD/NASH (Vidal-Puig, UCAM), human data from Bionash (Allison, Vidal-Puig. UCAM), and LITMUS (UCAM, AZ, Anstee, Newcastle), data modelling, AI and integration (Petsalaki, EBI, Vidal-Puig UCAM, Belfield AZ), and development of strategies for pharmacological target identification and validation, and identification of biomarkers (Belfield, Bohlooly, Linden, AZ). Professor Vidal-Puig's long-standing collaboration with the EBI centre with Petsalaki (EBI, UCAM) has already successfully mentored a PhD student working on the molecular mechanisms of NASH/NAFLD. This connectivity with EBI is strategically relevant for access to the most innovative approaches for data analysis.

The partners have efficiently collaborated before and more recently as members (UCAM, Newcastle, AZ) of the IMI LITMUS consortium. LITMUS is the most ambitious academic/industry programme of research on NAFLD/NASH ( LITMUS aims to identify and validate NAFLD/NASH diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. LITMUS has generated multiple data sets, opening unique opportunities for mining novel mechanisms contributing to the disease's pathogenesis, progression, and trajectory. This PhD project will capitalise on the availability of these unique preclinical and clinical data resources to generate the knowledge and rationale required to de-risk translational studies, drug development and repurposing.


Applicants should have, or shortly expect to obtain, a minimum of a UK II.i Honours Degree (or equivalent) in a Biological subject. We are looking for highly motivated, enthusiastic and industrious individuals who are capable of thinking and working independently. The studentships are available to students who meet the UK residency requirements. Further information about your fee status can be found at the following website:


Please email a CV and covering letter (max two A4 pages) highlighting (a) your research interests, (b) what you hope to achieve from the programme, (c) your career aspirations beyond the programme, and (d) why you wish to undertake this PhD, before the deadline, to both and

The successful applicant will be required to complete a formal application to the University of Cambridge at Please search in the Course Directory for "Clinical Biochemistry" PhD studentships, selecting a start date of 1st October 2022. A £75 application fee applies.

Funding: A stipend (currently £18,500 pa) will be provided for up to 3.5 years with effect from 1 October 2022. This funding also covers the University Composition Fee and Maintenance, and an allowance for consumables.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3.5 years in the first instance.

Informal queries may be directed to Professor Vidal-Puig ( and Katie Ketteridge-Lowe (

Please quote reference RG29744 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.