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Directed Evolution of New Enzymes for Sustainable Chemical Manufacture in Microbial Cells (4-year, AstraZeneca EPSRC iCASE PhD Studentship)

  • Full or part time
    Dr S Wallace
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, February 19, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The creation of new enzymes for the synthesis of drug-like molecules has revolutionised chemical manufacture, especially on the industrial scale.[1] However, despite significant advances in this field in recent years, enzymatic replacements for every organic transformation do not exist. Whilst the sequencing of newly-discovered microorganisms and the analysis of environmental metagenomes will continue to populate the biocatalytic toolbox, it seems unlikely that this approach will ever become a general solution to creating a new biocatalyst for any given organic reaction. The design and re-engineering of existing enzymes to perform novel chemical transformations is therefore an important challenge in organic chemistry.[2]

This project will use directed evolution and a mechanistic knowledge of organic chemistry to create a new family of enzymes capable of catalysing reactions that have (to the best of our knowledge) never existed in Nature. These enzymes will then be used as modular components in designer metabolic pathways to produce small molecules of interest to the pharmaceutical industry directly from renewable resources via microbial fermentation.[3]

The highly multidisciplinary nature of this project will allow the student to develop a strong proficiency in a variety of chemical and biological techniques (e.g. recombinant DNA techniques, PCR, directed evolution, microbiology, in vitro assay development, genome engineering, multistep chemical synthesis and spectroscopic analysis).

The successful student will join the newly-established Wallace Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (IQB3) in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh:

Please contact Dr Wallace directly if you have any questions.

Funding Notes

This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years immediately prior to the programme start date).

This is a fully-funded EPSRC iCASE studentship starting October 2019 and will include a 3-month placement at AstraZeneca. Stipend is in line with Research Council funding.

The “Apply online” button on this page will take you to our Online Application elIgibility checklist. Please complete each step and download the checklist which will guide you through the application process.

Closing date is 5pm on Friday 15 February 2019.


[1] Science 2010, 329, 305-309
[2] a) Science 2013, 339, 307-310. b) Science 2016, 354, 1048-1051. c) Nature 2019, 565, 67-72
[3] a) Science 2010, 330, 1355–1358. b) Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 3328-3350

Related Subjects

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

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

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