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Discovery of novel pharmaceuticals from marine and desert microorganisms

Department of Chemistry

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Prof M Jaspars , Dr R Ebel Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Microorganisms from extreme environments such as the deep seas, cold seas and hyper arid deserts have been shown to produce a range of complex natural products with high biological activity. In this project you will investigate the chemistry of these compounds and their potential for treating a range of diseases. Via collaborations we obtain desert and marine samples from which you will isolate unique bacterial and fungal strains. Cultivating these under different conditions gives rise to varied metabolic profiles. We have new facilities for cultivating bacteria at very high pressures to mimic deep sea environments. You will use a range of chromatographic techniques to isolate the compounds from these cultured microbes. The next step will be to identify their chemical structures using spectroscopic techniques followed by testing the compounds in a range of biological assays to ascertain their biological activity and potential for use against human diseases.

As part of this project you will gain skills in microbiology, natural product chemistry and biological testing. You will work in a committed group of scientists interested in investigating natural resources for their potential to treat disease. The group is located in the Marine Biodiscovery Centre which houses state-of-the-art facilities and scientists with skills in microbiology, molecular biology, chemical analysis and natural product chemistry.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry, biochemistry or pharmacy with knowledge of Organic Chemistry and Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor M Jaspars ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Chemistry. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance along with Additional Research Costs of £6,000 per annum. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT.


1. “Simplified immunosuppressive and neuroprotective agents based on gracilin A” Abbasov, ME; Alvarino, R; Chaheine, CM; Alonso, E; Sanchez, JA; Conner, ML; Alfonso, A; Jaspars, M; Botana, LM; Romo, D., Nature Chemistry 2019, 11, 342-350
2. “Asenjonamides A-C, antibacterial metabolites isolated from Streptomyces asenjonii strain KNN 42.f from an extreme-hyper arid Atacama Desert soil”, Abdelkader, MSA; Philippon, T; Asenjo, JA; Bull, AT; Goodfellow, M; Ebel, R; Jaspars, M; Rateb, ME, Journal of Antibiotics 2018, 71, 425-431
3. “Zebrafish-Based Discovery of Antiseizure Compounds from the Red Sea: Pseurotin A2 and Azaspirofuran A”, Copmans, D; Rateb, M; Tabudravu, JN; Perez-Bonilla, M; Dirkx, N; Vallorani, R; Diaz, C; del Palacio, JP; Smith, AJ; Ebel, R; Reyes, F; Jaspars, M; de Witte, PAM, ACS Chemical Neuroscience 2018, 9, 1652-1662
4. “Antimicrobial Activity of Monoramnholipids Produced by Bacterial Strains Isolated from the Ross Sea (Antarctica)”, Pietro Tedesco, Isabel Maida, Fortunato Palma Esposito, Emiliana Tortorella, Karolina Subko, Chidinma Christiana Ezeofor, Ying Zhang, Jioji Tabudravu, Marcel Jaspars, Renato Fani and Donatella de Pascale, Marine Drugs, 2016, 14, 83
5. “Chaxapeptin, a Lasso Peptide from Extremotolerant Streptomyces leeuwenhoekii Strain C58 from the Hyperarid Atacama Desert” Somayah S. Elsayed, Franziska Trusch, Hai Deng, Andrea Raab, Ivan Prokes, Kanungnid Busarakam, Juan A. Asenjo, Barbara A. Andrews, Pieter van West, Alan T. Bull, Michael Goodfellow, Yu Yi, Rainer Ebel, Marcel Jaspars, and Mostafa E. Rateb, J. Org. Chem. 2015, 80, 10252
6. “Legonaridin, a New Member of Linaridin RiPP From a Ghanaian Streptomyces Isolate” Mostafa E. Rateb, Yin Zhai, Emmanuelle Ehrner, Christopher M. Rath, Xiaoling Wang, Jioji Tabudravu, Rainer Ebel, Mervyn Bibb, Kwaku Kyeremeh, Pieter C. Dorrestein, Kui Hong, Marcel Jaspars and Hai Deng, Org. Biomol. Chem. 2015, 13, 9585

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