Prior to starting my PhD, I completed an integrated Masters at University of Leeds. This entailed studying the BSc Pharmacology curriculum and finishing the four year course with both a literature review and lab-based project. These were both focused on novel, rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests, specifically during my lab work, I focused on the use of an enzyme-switch sensor to detect and quantify therapeutic monoclonal antibodies within sera. Although moving away from pharmacology in my final project, I thoroughly enjoyed working on diagnostics, pushing me to apply for PhD projects within the same field.
The standard tests utilised for clinical diagnosis of infectious disease and toxin exposure, have long been limited by their time-consuming and expensive nature. These typical molecular tests, such as enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), require multiple wash steps and can take hours to days to produce accurate results. An alternative to this, is to use an enzyme-switch biosensor construct with a detection and reporter module. The enzyme-switch in question is a β-lactamase – β-lactamase inhibitor protein (BLA-BLIP) switch which currently uses two Affimers (antibody mimetic) as the detection mechanism. Recently, single domain antibodies (sdAb) derived from Camelid and Shark Heavy chain-only antibodies (HcAb), have shown impressive binding abilities, as well as, physical and biochemical robustness. My project will determine how functional sdAbs, among other antibody fragments, are as a detection mechanism within the BLA-BLIP sensor construct.