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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.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry, biochemistry or pharmacy.

Formal applications can be completed online:

• 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, Personal Statement/Motivation Letter and Intended source of funding

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 PhD project has no funding attached and is therefore available to students (UK/International) who are able to seek their own funding or sponsorship. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting


1. “Whole Genome Sequence of Dermacoccus abyssi MT1.1 Isolated from the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench Reveals Phenazine Biosynthesis Locus and Environmental Adaptation Factors” Abdel-Mageed, WM; Juhasz, B; Lehri, B; Alqahtani, AS; Nouioui, I; Pech-Puch, D; Tabudravu, JN; Goodfellow, M; Rodriguez, J; Jaspars, M; Karlyshev, AV Marine Drugs 2020 18 131
2. “Downsizing Class II Lasso Peptides: Genome Mining-Guided Isolation of Huascopeptin Containing the First Gly1-Asp7 Macrocycle” Cortes-Albayay, C; Jarmusch, SA; Trusch, F; Ebel, R; Andrews, BA; Jaspars, M; Asenjo, JA Journal of Organic Chemistry 2020 85 1661
3. “Heterologous Expression of a Cryptic Gene Cluster from Streptomyces leeuwenhoekii C34(T) Yields a Novel Lasso Peptide, Leepeptin” Gomez-Escribano, JP; Castro, JF; Razmilic, V; Jarmusch, SA; Saalbach, G; Ebel, R; Jaspars, M; Andrews, B; Asenjo, JA; Bibb, MJ Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2019 85 e01752-19
4. “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
5. “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
6. “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
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