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EASTBIO CASE Developing the highly productive cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. 11901 as a commercial biomanufacturing platform

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr A McCormick, Dr Uma Shankar Sagaram  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Overview: This project represents an exciting collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the award-winning biotech startup CyanoCapture ( in Oxford. In this project, you will spearhead the commercial development of the highly productive cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 11901. You will focus on improving our fundamental understanding of metabolism and growth in Syn11901, and will develop synthetic biology tools to progress Syn11901 as a bioengineering platform. Working closely with researchers at CyanoCapture, you will design and test engineered strains in their innovative photobioreactor design for capturing CO2 from flue gas.  

Context: For the first time in 4 million years, atmospheric CO2 levels have surpassed 400 ppm and continue to rise on a yearly basis. Given the key role of CO2 in global climate change, it is vital that carbon-efficient biomanufacturing solutions are developed and implemented. Cyanobacteria are an important part of the global food chain as major primary producers and are unique in their ability to perform oxygenic photosynthesis and CO2 fixation. Many species are naturally transformable and show significant potential as chassis for biological carbon capture and sustainable green biotechnology processes that can contribute to the growing vision of circular bio-based economies. However, slow growth and low biomass productivity has limited their economic competitiveness and commercial expansion. This project aims to overcome these challenges through the development of the recently isolated, fast-growing and highly productive strain Syn11901, a genetically tractable marine species that can reach cell densities and biomass similar to batch-cultured E. coli.  

Project outline and training: This project is an outstanding training opportunity to gain multidisciplinary experience in both fundamental and applied biotechnology research approaches. You will develop screening tools (e.g CRISPRi libraries) to understand the genetic factors underpinning the extraordinary growth phenotype of Syn11901, examine photosynthetic performance using gas exchange and fluorescence techniques, design and implement gene editing and metabolic engineering approaches to rapidly modify Syn11901 (e.g. CRISPR/Cas and inducible gene circuits), and work with an industrial partner to translate you research findings into real-world outputs using pilot-scale photobioreactors. There will also be abundant opportunities for you to present your research at regular meetings, including national and international conferences. Please contact Dr Alistair McCormick ([Email Address Removed]) if you are interested in applying.

[Email Address Removed]

The School of Biological Sciences is committed to Equality & Diversity:

The “Institution Website” button will take you to our online Application Checklist. From here you can formally apply online. This checklist also provides a link to EASTBIO - how to apply web page. You must follow the Application Checklist and EASTBIO guidance carefully, in particular ensuring you complete all the EASTBIO requirements, and use /upload relevant EASTBIO forms to your online application.

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend at UKRI standard rate (£17,668 annually in 2022) and UK level tuition fees. The fee difference will be covered by the University of Edinburgh for successful international applicants, however any Visa or Health Insurance costs are not covered. UKRI eligibility guidance: Terms and Conditions: International/EU:


• Mills et al. 2022. Biomolecules 12:872 (
• Włodarczyk et al. 2020. Commun Biol 3:215 (
• Vasudevan et al. 2019. Plant Physiol 180:39-55 (

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