About the course
The DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products is a four year programme, led by gene and cell therapy company Oxford Biomedica and run in collaboration with University College London. The programme aims to deliver the next generation of bioscience leaders to advance research on the underpinning bioscience of viral products for future gene therapies and vaccines.
This DPhil course will take a holistic approach to the science underpinning the successful development of new viral vector products including an understanding of the fundamental cell biology, bioprocessing considerations, improving our knowledge of the process/product, understand how these aspects can be translated and advanced in an industrial setting and identify how these fit into the wider regulatory context.
A core component of this training programme is to immerse students in an environment where they are able to apply their fundamental scientific knowledge and research expertise to addressing the current capacity and capability issues in viral vector development.
Throughout your training, you will work in interdisciplinary teams across the cohort, integrate your activities, share your knowledge and disseminate your research findings within the academic/industrial/clinical communities and to the public. All students on this course will undertake a placement with an industrial partner as part of their studies. An example of working across interdisciplinary teams will be ensuring student projects are designed to enable effective leveraging of data, tools and processes across research activities. Experimental and biological data generated from one project will feed into a project focused on employing advanced computational methods, which can then be used to feedback into the original project and inform future experimental design to inform our biological understanding.
You will receive significant subject-specific knowledge and practical training in viral vector development, bioprocessing and production, including methods for virus generation, purification and characterisation. In parallel, you will also receive significant translational training with a focus on business/commercial analysis, understanding of the regulatory framework for advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) and training in Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) including documentation preparation and compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), preparation of a Technology Transfer process, working within stringent Quality Management Systems (QMS) and how to file for a regulatory submission. Additionally the concept of quality by design (QbD) is widely adopted in the industry to build quality and consistency into processes; this concept also aligns with expectations from global regulatory agencies.
Through a recent partnership with Microsoft Research, Oxford Biomedica also recognise that frontier bioscience and the emerging 21st century bioscience landscape necessitates a breaking down of traditional scientific boundaries, towards a model that embraces the emergence of mathematical, computational and data science tools such as AI and ML for the production, management and analysis of research data. You will be trained to grapple with the biological complexity and apply these tools to your respective research activities to extract meaning and enhance understanding from your data. It will also focus on empowering you to learn concise technical writing skills, which form a basis for successful communication and dissemination of data and findings across academia and industry. This is increasingly important as bioscience researchers are often generating large datasets which can benefit from a ‘big data’ approach to data analysis, in addition to using these tools to improve viral vector design, as has been the case with the emergence of ML to improve adeno associated virus (AAV) vector capsid design. Again, this aligns strongly with the collaboration OXB has established with Microsoft Research, making use of AI/ML approaches to gain insights from complex datasets to inform future areas of development/process improvement.
Given recent significant global developments for both viral vectors and vaccine development, the course will be managed in a way that closely monitors and tracks current UK government and international community focus, particularly in the area of vaccine development and production, and will monitor progress with related/adjacent technologies (eg non-viral technologies) that may evolve over the course of your studies.
The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre.
Students will be allocated at least two supervisors, one of whom will be an Oxford academic and one will be from Oxford Biomedica. Students will usually meet their primary supervisor weekly or fortnightly in the early stages of their project. There will be many opportunities for collaboration with additional research groups throughout the studentship.
All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of six terms as a PRS student you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.
A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require the submission of a report on progress to date on research and future plans. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within ten terms of admission, to show that your work continues to be on track.
Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.
You will be expected to submit an original thesis of up to 50,000 words within a maximum of four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.
The DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products launched in 2022, and is now accepting applications for its third year intake. The programme aims to equip graduates to advance their careers and to take up leadership roles in fields such as Immunology, Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, Microbiology, Pharmaceuticals, and Synthetic Biology.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant discipline such as biology, biochemistry, or medicine, although those who have not achieved this level of qualification will be considered if they show strong performance in a master’s course.
A previous master's degree is not required.
We are looking for strong academic credentials but we recognise that some applicants may not have followed the traditional academic route. Substantial professional experience may be a substitute for a lower grade at undergraduate level. We would encourage you to speak to the supervisor of your chosen project who will be able to discuss this with you
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Evidence of a prior interest in the area of research proposed is likely to advantage your application.
- Prior publications are not required, but research experience and a track record demonstrating an interest in research may be an advantage.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
Please note, in considering applicants’ achievements and their suitability for a place on this course, the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre takes a holistic approach and a range of contextual factors, looking at each applicant’s individual circumstances, will be taken into account.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.0||6.5|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
Candidates who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. Shortlisting will be based solely on the criteria given above. There will be a minimum of two to three academics on the interview panel. By preference, interviews will be conducted in person, but when this is not possible we will use telephone or video conferencing software and ensure that applicants are not disadvantaged by using these forms of communication. Normally the interview will consist of a five-minute presentation of previous project work by the applicant, followed by 15-25 minutes of questioning from the panel.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Initiatives to improve access to graduate study
This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.
For this course, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. Further information about how we use your socio-economic data can be found in our page about initiatives to improve access to graduate study.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.
As a student on this course you will have access to experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research. IT support will be provided from both the department hosting your research and University IT Services. You will also have access to library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library.
The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor and host department during the planning stages for the research project. You will be based in various units, buildings and campuses around Oxford with the department supporting a wide range of clinical services located in Oxford’s John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals.
Workspace will be allocated according to individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, you will be provided with bench space in a laboratory. If undertaking theoretical research, you will have shared office space. You will also undertake a training placement at Oxford BioMedica or other commercial partner organisation, and will become part of a growing Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products cohort of students with regular training opportunities and cohort building activities.
Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre
The Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (MSDTC) accommodates the interdisciplinary, cross-departmental DPhil programmes in medical sciences.
Most are structured DPhil programmes, which provide students with the opportunity to undertake two or three 'rotation' projects and relevant course work in their first year of each four-year structured programme The main doctoral project starts in the second year of each programme. Most of our programmes receive external core-funding, and currently from the Wellcome Trust (WT), British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and EPSRC.
The MSDTC also accommodates the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars’ Programme, the DPhil in Cancer Science programme funded by CRUK which welcomes applications from clinicians, basic scientists, and medical undergraduates, and the new DPhil in Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease which is funded by the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and is open to Oxford University medical students wishing to undertake DPhils in the fields of musculoskeletal disease, inflammation and immunology.
The department also offers an exciting new programme (the DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products) run in collaboration with Oxford Biomedica, which aims to deliver the next generation of bioscience leaders to advance research on the underpinning bioscience of viral products for future gene therapies and vaccines.
Each programme has a distinctive intellectual flavour, designed to nurture independent and creative scientists. Students are supported in their development through:
- supervision and mentoring by world-class academics training in a wide range of research techniques
- development of student resilience and maintenance of mental health and wellbeing from the start and throughout each programme.
Four fully-funded studentships are available for students who start the DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products (ABViP) at the University of Oxford in October 2024. These four BBSRC CTP ABViP Studentships are available to UK and Overseas (including EU) students. Full maintenance (stipend and fees) is available to UK and Overseas students for the duration of the four-year DPhil programme. Additional funds will be made available for research consumables. Note that up to a maximum of one fully-funded studentship allocation is available for Overseas students across the four University of Oxford ABViP places being offered in 2024-25. The annual tax-free stipend will be paid at the standard UKRI stipend rate, which from 2 May 2023 is £18,622 per annum (for students who enrol in 2023-24). Each student will also receive a top up to their stipend of £2,000 per annum, funded by Oxford Biomedica.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products:
Before you apply
We strongly recommend you consult the Medical Sciences Graduate School's research themes to identify the most suitable course and supervisor.
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
For your application to be assessed, you must select at least one specific project and a maximum of three, from the list of available projects published on the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre website. You are strongly encouraged to contact the potential supervisors listed alongside each project name, to discuss the projects with them prior to application. Please make direct email contact in the first instance.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You will not be asked to upload a separate document.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under 'Proposed field and title of research project' enter the advertised project number(s) (eg ABViP 2022/5) of your chosen supervisor(s), in order of preference or indicating equal preference.
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the supervisor(s) you are applying to, listing them in order of preference or indicating equal preference.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Academic references are strongly encouraged, though you may use up to one professional reference provided that it is relevant to the course.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words
You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying;
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
- capacity for sustained and focused work; and
- understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.
It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their studies, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.