Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Genomic Epidemiology and Public Health Genomics

Programme structure

Students on the programme will embark on a PhD project that fits under at least one of the programme themes.

Theme 1: Genomics for Drug Development and Pharmacogenetics

Drug target discovery, target validation, drug repurposing, enabled with established partnerships with leading pharmaceuticals.

Theme lead: Professor Louise Wain.

Projects currently being studied under this theme include:

  • The genetic epidemiology of lung scarring
  • Understanding the genetic basis of radiotherapy toxicity
  • Assess the contribution of common and rare short tandem repeats (STRs) to the risk of developing Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Fine mapping asthma-susceptibility loci to identify putative targets for drug development 
  • Correlated traits analyses to enhance drug target discovery 
  • Matching the right medicine(s) to the right patient: quantitative prediction of single- or dual therapies using genetics and proteomics (cross-theme with Theme 3)
  • Investigating the genetics of progressive pulmonary fibrosis in multi-ancestry populations (cross-theme with Theme 2)
  • Multi-omic approaches to understand the medium and long-term effects of COVID-19 and identify novel therapeutic opportunities 
  • Using genetic data to identify and characterise subtypes of asthma to inform drug development and precision medicine

Theme 2: Genomics for Precision Medicine in Underserved Populations

Unique opportunities for novel research with our collaborators in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Brazil and India.

Theme lead: Professor Martin Tobin.

Projects currently being studied in this theme include:

  • Individual and combined effects of genomic variation and environment on lung function and COPD in African populations
  • Understanding the relationship between human genetic ancestry, the gut microbiome and of their modulation of chronic infection in Cape Verde
  • Investigating the impact of multiallelic copy number variation on disease-relevant traits in UK and African populations 
  • Utilising under-studied electronic healthcare record phenotypes in genome-wide association studies
  • Investigating the genetics of progressive pulmonary fibrosis in multi-ancestry populations (cross-theme with Theme 1)
  • Predicting disease risk in African populations (cross-theme with Theme 3)
  • Uncovering the genomic landscape of head and neck cancer in the underserved South Asian population 
  • Genetic and environmental factors conferring susceptibility to adverse respiratory impacts of air pollution (cross-theme with Theme 3)

Theme 3: Genetically Informed Causal Inference and Risk Prediction

Methods exploiting genetic data to strengthen causal inference in observational research, and to predict individual risk of disease.

Theme lead: Professor Frank Dudbridge.

Projects currently being studied in this theme include:

  • Utilising genomic data to improve AAA risk prediction models and investigate AAA growth 
  • The genetic contribution of biological age differences in disease risk 
  • Genome association studies to detect genetic determinants of virulence traits of invasive meningococcal disease isolates with age stratification 
  • Matching the right medicine(s) to the right patient: quantitative prediction of single- or dual therapies using genetics and proteomics (cross-theme with Theme 1)
  • Predicting disease risk in African populations (cross-theme with Theme 2)
  • Unravelling the genetic basis of normal and abnormal retinal development 
  • Genetic and environmental factors conferring susceptibility to adverse respiratory impacts of air pollution (cross-theme with Theme 2)

Theme 4: Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genomics and Genomic Epidemiology Studies

Bringing together our expertise in sociology, psychology, health services research, medical law, and ethics.

Theme lead: Dr Tracey Elliott.

Projects currently being studied in this theme include:

  • Must the relatives be told? Legal and ethical issues in relation to the non-disclosure of genetic information by healthcare professionals to relatives
  • Representations of genomics and personalised medicine in UK broadcast media
  • The ethical and legal implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing 
  • Non-invasive prenatal testing in fetal anomaly screening: issues of informed choice and reproductive autonomy 

Routes in the programme

The programme offers two different routes to a PhD:

4-year PhD

Candidates wishing to apply for this route will have the opportunity to select an available project at the time of application, and can select up to three in order of preference.

Projects offered will reflect a wide scope in the areas of health and social sciences.

  • Quantitative projects (Themes 1-3) will be suited but not limited to those with an academic background that included an element of statistics, maths and/or computer science, combined with elements of biological sciences, biomedical sciences and/or genetics. Candidates who wish to undertake a project under Themes 1-3 but may wish or need to develop their quantitative skills can choose to apply to the Programme via the 1+4-year route (see page 9). This provides the opportunity to study a relevant Master’s degree, such as the MSc Medical Statistics, before embarking on the 4-year PhD.
  • Qualitative projects (Theme 4) will be suited but not limited to those with an academic background in law, ethics and social sciences. Candidates who wish to undertake a project under Theme 4 but may wish or need to develop their health research skills can choose to apply to the Programme via the 1+4-year route (see page 9). This provides the opportunity to study a relevant Master’s degree, such as the MRes Applied Health Research, before embarking on the 4-year PhD.

Candidates are welcome to contact the Programme team to discuss their suitability for the 4-year PhD before applying.

Alternatively, candidates may propose their own project. In this case, it is essential that candidates have discussed their proposed project with the intended supervisor before submitting an application.

The 4-year PhD may also be undertaken on a part time basis for students who have family or other commitments (UK applicants only).

Students will receive a PhD fee waiver and a stipend for all four years (or part time equivalent) of the PhD.

1+4-year PhD

Each year, the Programme offers up to two candidates the option to study an MSc Programme for one year and then go on to study their PhD for the subsequent four years.

Candidates wishing to apply for this option should apply for the PhD, and make it clear in their application the wish to pursue this option. There is no requirement to choose a project at this stage, but rather a project will be defined under expert guidance during the course of the 1-year MSc.

MSc Programmes available include:

The 1+4-year route is ideal for but not limited to candidates who:

  • Have not yet studied at Master’s level and wish to develop relevant expertise (e.g. quantitative skills) before embarking on a PhD
  • Hold an Undergraduate or Master’s degree in a maths, physics or computer science field but wish to develop more relevant expertise in health research before embarking on a PhD
  • Hold an Undergraduate or Master’s degree in a biological science, biomedical science or genetics but wish to develop their quantitative skills before embarking on a PhD

Students will receive a postgraduate tuition fee waiver for Year 1, a PhD fee waiver for Years 2-5 and a stipend for Years 2-5. Please note that due to funding limitations, funding for the 1+4 route can only be offered at UK rates, and is therefore not available for candidates requiring an overseas fee waiver.

Hear from Charlotte Fawcett, a current student on the 1+4 year PhD programme

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