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Chemical Biology of Fabry Disease: structure, inhibition, imaging

Department of Chemistry

About the Project

This 4 Year BBSRC studentship is offered in the laboratories of Gideon Davies, FRS and Lianne Willems at the University of York.

Carbohydrates, glycans, are central to human life. They coat our cells, acting as molecular bar-codes; they are the “language of the cell”. They modulate cellular communication. Yet, frequently these glycan codes are disrupted in disease, high jacked by pathogens and the enzymes involved in synthesis and degradation are frequently linked to genetic disease, including lysosomal storage diseases. But glycans are complex, and precision tools are needed for their study. Your work will enable their development and application.

The PhD project will bring together structural and chemical biology techniques to study the enzymes of the lysosomal storage disease Fabry. You will use molecular biology to clone and express human (and related) galactosyltransferases. Solve their 3D structures and then develop cutting-edge chemical tools to image the enzymes in vivo, you will screen compound libraries, and develop drug like molecules as therapeutic leads. There are potential training opportunities with collaborators in the Netherlands and Spain.

Gideon Davies, FRS and Lianne Willems will provide training in modern structural and chemical biology within the rich and caring PhD training environment of The York Structural Biology Laboratory, including its state of the art equipment and new buildings for X ray, NMR and CryoEM opening in Autumn 2020.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%) unless you require a student visa to study in the UK when you should check the restrictions of your visa as it is very likely you will have to study full time.

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2021. Induction activities will start on 27 September.

For more information about the project, click on the supervisor’s name above to email the supervisor. For more information about the application process or funding, please click on email institution

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Programme in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 full time for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)

International candidates (including EU) will be considered however the fee difference would need to be covered from other sources. International tuition fees for 2021 entry is £22,250.

Not all projects will be funded; a limited number of strong candidates will be appointed via a competitive process.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

HOW TO APPLY: Submit an application for a PhD in Biological Chemistry:
If you are applying for more than one PhD in Biological Chemistry project you do not need to submit separate applications but can list them on the same form. However, if you are applying for a PhD in Chemistry or a PhD in Mechanistic Biology, you will need to submit a separate application

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