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Cell-Free Synthetic Biology for High-Value Drug Synthesis

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Natural products from microbes and plants have provided a rich arsenal of anti-tumour agents and antibiotics. While some drugs can be obtained through chemical synthesis, this can require multiple steps with low-yields. Instead, microbial cell fermentation is often used to provide a green solution from low-cost precursors, however, this itself can present problems such as toxicity and genetic instability. Alternatively, cell-free systems provide an enticing compromise to interrogate biosynthetic dexterity without the complications associated with whole-cell systems. Target compounds that are high-value and toxic to cell growth are particularly of interest.

Cell-free synthetic biology is a rapidly developing research area for the rapid prototyping of gene expression and metabolic pathways using automation and design of experiments approaches (1). Cell-free systems as cell-extracts or purified enzymes can perform multi-step (>15) enzyme pathways within a “one-pot” reaction to synthesize complex natural products at yields surpassing chemical synthesis. In particular, the use of crude cell-extracts provides the enzymes from central metabolism to generate energy, reducing equivalents for cofactor regeneration and precursors for entry into natural product biosynthetic pathways. This PhD position will particularly investigate the use of a recently developed cell-free system (2) to explore the synthesis of challenging enzymes for the biosynthesis of a high-value drug in a cell-free bioreactor. For further information, informal enquiries can be addressed to the project supervisor Dr Simon Moore –

For further information on the studentship go to:
The studentship is funded by the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), which provides financial support in return for 96 hours of teaching per year.

The candidate: We are looking for a highly motivated student with a minimum of 2:1 degree in biological or chemical biology related subjects, such as biology, biochemistry, biomedical science and microbiology subjects.

How to apply: Applications can be made using the online University application page where the project title should be entered as the proposed area of research and Dr Simon Moore as supervisor. Please include a CV and a cover letter. Applications must be received by 30th April 2019. The start date is September 2019
Scholarships will be offered at the standard UK Research Councils’ rate and administered under the Graduate Teaching Assistant Scheme (GTA), for further details see:

Funding Notes

The stipend paid equals the full UK Research Council rate of £15,009 (rate for 2019/20) plus tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. International applicants should make provision to meet the difference between Home/EU and International fees.

UK, EU and overseas fee paying students are invited to apply. International applicants should make provision to meet the difference between Home /EU and International fees. Please note that overseas students must have the appropriate documentation to evidence eligibility to work in the UK.

How good is research at University of Kent in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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