Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.

Research centre


Professor Kirsten Spann
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health
Associate Professor Yi-Chin Toh
Associate Professor
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Engineering


Respiratory infections such as influenza, SARS-COV-2, COVID-19, and MERS are increasingly prevalent. Complications and related deaths arising from these infections are often the result of a “cytokine storm”, whereby there is an over production of proinflammatory soluble factors by immune cells, which dictates symptoms severity and mortality risk.

Recent works showed that immunomodulatory therapy, with or without antiviral agents, may improve recovery outcome. However, the screening of suitable immune-modulatory and antiviral agents relies heavily on animal models which can't capture all aspects of the human immune and respiratory systems’ reaction during infection and therapy.

Microfluidic Organ-on-Chips (OOC) have shown great promise in mimicking the human tissue microenvironment while utilising smaller sample amounts and improving scale and throughput of drug screenings.

The goal of the project is to develop a compartmentalised microfluidic device hosting lung / nasal epithelium and immune cells, which can recapitulate cellular processes involved in the crosstalk between airway epithelium and the immune system.

Research activities

As part of this research project, you'll be involved in:

  • fabricating a microfluidic coculture chip
  • culturing and differentiating of primary nasal or airway epithelial cells
  • characterising nasal or airway epithelial cells by immuno-fluorescence or confocal microscopy, RT-PCR, ELISA
  • characterising immune cell functions by live-cell imaging (track cell migration) and ELISA
  • drug testing.


This project will establish an Airway Epithelium-Immune Cell Chip, which can measure immune cell recruitment and activation following infection of the airway epithelium, for screening immunomodulatory drugs used to treat respiratory infections.

Skills and experience

To be considered for this project, you should have working knowledge of microfluidic organs-on-chip and tissue engineering.

Experience in mammalian cell culture is beneficial but not necessary. However, you should have an interest in acquring these technical skills.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships


Email Associate Professor Yi-Chin Toh for more information.