• Room 0G.010 - The Graduate School

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Open to PhD applications in the field of nano-drug delivery, biopharmaceutics, vaccine technology, repurposing of phosphate-based drugs, nucleic acid therapies and bone repair.

- Development of nanomedicines for cancer
- Design of non-viral delivery systems


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


Prof McCarthy’s research team have focused on the development of non-viral delivery systems for nanomedicine applications in the School of Pharmacy. These biomimetic peptide systems are designed to overcome the extra and intracellular barriers, so that the macromolecular payload can be delivered at the destination site in order to exert the optimal therapeutic effect. Helen has designed and patented several nucleic acid delivery systems. Current research projects involve gene therapy for metastatic deposits; miRNA therapeutics for oncology and wound healing applications; mRNA and DNA vaccination strategies; and regeneration of bone by increasing the bioavailability of ceramics. The wide-spread utility of these delivery systems has led to a spin-out company Phion Therapeutics www.phiontx.co.uk. This has led to a pipeline of internal development products funded by Innovate UK which include: a Therapeutic  mRNA Vaccine for HPV, a multi-antigenic mRNA Vaccine for Covid-19 and a therapeutic vaccine for Ovarian Cancer all funded by Innovate UK. Phion also has several commercial partners which includes Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult for ex vivo applications of our technology, Medicines Discovery Catapult, Aptus Clinical and Alembia IP.

Helen has published over 130 scientific publications, edited a book and has given many conference presentations. Helen has also been the recipient of research grant income from the National Science Foundation, Invest Northern Ireland, Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, The Royal Society, BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, and Versus Arthritis. Helen currently sits on the Research Awards Committee for Prostate Cancer UK and is an Expert panel member for the Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator. Helen also sits on the editorial board for Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology and is a member of Alderley Park Science Innovation Centre.


Research Statement

Prof McCarthy's Research interests include:

Delivery of Nucleic Acids

Cancer Gene Therapy 

Bio-inspired Delivery systems

DNA & mRNA Therapeutic Vaccines

Bone Regeneration


Biomaterials with Genetic Cargo

Transcriptional Targeting

Prostate Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer


Current Funding:

Invest NI

Prostate Cancer UK

Versus Arthritis


Phion Therapeutics


Teaching and delivery on 3 Modules on the MPharm Pathway (Yr 1, 3 & 4) and 3 Modules on the on the BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway and BSc Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in QUB and China Queen’s College.


Assistant Module Co-ordinator for PMY3176 (MPharm) and PMY3276 (BSc) ‘Advanced Delivery Systems for Large and Small Molecules’. 

Assistant co-ordinator for PMY4005 Project module on the MPharm degree.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


Dive into the research topics where Helen McCarthy is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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