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Dynamic protein biosynthesis via an integrated cell-on-a-chip platform device

   Institute of Chemical Biology

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  Dr N Kamaly, Prof O Ces, Dr Y Elani  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is sponsored by the Institute of Chemical Biology EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training


Dr Nazila Kamaly (Department of Chemistry, ICL)

Professor Oscar Ces (Department of Chemistry, ICL)

Dr Yuval Elani (Department of Chemical Engineering, ICL)


Producing a target protein in living microorganisms using biotechnological approaches can be laborious, and limitations associated with ‘living’ biochemical factories are proving to be bottlenecks in many bio-manufacturing processes. In this project we aim to develop the underlying technologies to remedy this, by developing a microfluidic analogue of a living cell: a cell-on-chip. Our proposition is that cell-free lab-on-a-chip devices have the potential to act as robust microreactors where synthetic microcompartments can be designed and tuned to work in an integrated manner, in order to perform specific biological outputs including gene expression, protein synthesis, post-translational modifications and energy generation. These features are all integrated biological outputs that can eventually enable cell-cell signalling leading to cell differentiation and higher-order biological entities.

In this project, we aim to utilise a multidisciplinary approach to realise such cell-on-a-chip devices with compartmentalised organelle-like environments that are connected via microfluidic valves. The final goal of this project is to create a microscale synthetic cell-on-chip for dynamic and precision protein synthesis and bioprocess engineering. The miniaturisation of expression systems can enhance production capacity and also offer a novel manufacturing process that can lead to substantial space-time yields and short development times. It will have gamechanging implications for the biopharmaceutical market and beyond, and will also serve as platform to explore the rules underpinning cell biology.

Recruitment will continue until the post is filled.


The entry requirement is a degree in the physical sciences with a minimum 2.1 or above (or equivalent).

Chemistry, physics, mathematics and engineering graduates who wish to learn how to apply their physical sciences skills to biological problems. Students from biological or medicinal backgrounds are usually not eligible. If in doubt, please contact us

We are only able to accept candidates with both ‘Home’ fee status applicants for this project. Please see our Eligibility Criteria webpage for more detailed information.

About the ICB CDT

Successful applicants to this project will be part of 2023 entry cohort of the EPSRC CDT in Chemical Biology: Innovation for the Life Sciences. The aim of the ICB CDT, one of the longest standing CDTs in the UK, is to train students in the art of multidisciplinary Chemical Biology research, giving them the exciting opportunity to develop the next generation of molecular tools and technologies for making, measuring, modelling and manipulating molecular interactions in biological systems.

Applicants to this programme will enrol on a 1 year MRes in Chemical Biology and Bioentrepreneurship, followed by a 3 year PhD, building on the research project from the MRes. For further information, please see our studentship webpages.

Successful applicants, both Home and International, will be awarded a fully funded studentship. This includes:

  • Annual National Minimum Doctoral Stipend, currently £17,668 + £2000 London allowance for 2022/23
  • Annual Tuition fees at either the Home or Overseas fee rate for both the MRes and PhD years
  • A Research Training Support Grant for laboratory consumable costs of £3,500 per year
  • Funding to attend conferences
  • Transferable skills training

How to apply

To apply for this project, please submit an application on the Imperial College Gateway (please see our How to Apply page for more detailed guidance).

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