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Development of covalent peptidomimetics targeting protein-protein interactions in cell division and cancer

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Megan Wright, Prof A J Wilson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In this project you will develop covalent chemical probes to inhibit and study protein-protein interactions. You will target interactions between the protein kinase Aurora A, which regulates cell division (mitosis), and interacting proteins like N-Myc, a master regulator whose over-expression frequently drives cancer. Development of peptidomimetics, compounds that mimic natural peptides, is an active area of drug discovery. Covalent peptidomimetics could offer advantages - they can be more potent and selective than reversible inhibitors, and chemical proteomic methods enable the study of their targets in cells. You will incorporate reactive groups into peptidomimetics to covalently modify AurA. Mass spectrometry, biophysical and biochemical assays will be used to characterize probe-AurA interactions, and design effective inhibitors. Finally, you will apply your probes to study the function of the protein-protein interaction e.g. to visualize AurA in cells and study the impact of inhibition on mitosis.

In this interdisciplinary project you will use synthetic peptide chemistry, biochemistry, mass spectrometry and cell biology. You will join the Wilson and Wright groups with expertise in chemical biology and peptide synthesis and participate in our wider collaborative research e.g. with experts in cancer structural biology (Richard Bayliss). This project would ideally suit a student with a background in chemistry who is excited about research at the chemistry-biology interface.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper-second class honours degree or a MSc degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22.

How to apply:

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • When asked for source of funding please make it clear that you are applying for a "White Rose BBSRC DTP Studentship"
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert. You can be considered for up to 3 projects in total.

If you have any further queries regarding this opportunity, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This opportunity is funded by the White Rose BBSRC DTP and will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £17,668 (based on the 2022/23 rate). The award will also cover academic fees. This opportunity is available to UK and International fee rated applicants. Please note that any expenses related to the relocation of international students to the UK (visa, insurance, NHS fees, flights, etc) would be their responsibility and are not covered by this award.

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