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  Discovering and characterising new protein antimicrobials

   Department of Biomedical Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Antibiotic resistant infections are spreading globally and becoming a leading cause of death worldwide, already surpassing malaria and HIV. In parallel, the rate that new antibiotics have been developed has drastically slowed over the last few decades. New approaches and strategies to fight infection are urgently needed. One major strategy has come from looking directly at bacteria which, in addition to traditional small molecule antibiotics, make a wide range of antimicrobial proteins. Protein antimicrobials are potent and highly specific, meaning they only target the disease-causing bacteria whilst leaving the remaining bacterial community untouched. They have the potential to be produced cheaply and in large quantities and, importantly, their modular protein structure allows for much easier modification of delivery and targeting than traditional antibiotics. Developing protein antibiotics could provide not just a single antibiotic, but a designable, modular toolkit of antibiotics. We aim to expand the repertoire of protein antimicrobials to target emerging pathogens.

In this project you will:

·        Design and use bioinformatic tools to identify novel protein antimicrobials in the genomes of emerging pathogens

·        Express and test proteins for activity and spectrum

·        Use experimental evolution and high-throughput molecular methods to uncover the mechanisms of novel protein antimicrobials

This PhD project will provide the applicant with training in bioinformatics, genomics, molecular microbiology, protein engineering and experimental evolution. In addition, the project offers an opportunity to research the globally significant problem of antimicrobial resistance.



School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading:

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport. 

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities.

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills.

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically.


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in Biomedical Sciences or a strongly-related discipline. Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. With a commitment to improving diversity in science and engineering, we encourage applications from underrepresented groups.

How to apply:

Submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at


Further information:



Dr. Connor Sharp, email:

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Sharp C, Bray J, Housden NG, Maiden MCJ, Kleanthous C. Diversity and distribution of nuclease bacteriocins in bacterial genomes revealed using Hidden Markov Models. PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Jul 17;13(7):e1005652. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005652.
Atanaskovic I, Sharp C, Press C, Kaminska R, Kleanthous C. Bacterial Competition Systems Share a Domain Required for Inner Membrane Transport of the Bacteriocin Pyocin G from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. mBio. 2022 Apr 26;13(2):e0339621. doi: 10.1128/mbio.03396-21

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