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EASTBIO Elucidating the mechanism of pathogen clearance in fungal infections using biologics tools targeting cell surface proteins.

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

Prof C Munro , Dr D van Aalten , Dr S Palliyil Wednesday, January 06, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Professor Carol Munro (University of Aberdeen)

Dr Daan van Aalten (University of Dundee)

Dr Soumya Palliyil (University of Aberdeen)

Virulence factors are expressed on the fungal cell surface which plays a major role in pathogen:host interactions. In a targeted approach we have isolated recombinant monoclonal antibodies that recognise surface proteins of fungal pathogens with a focus on Candida and Aspergillus species that cause life-threatening invasive fungal infections. These antibodies have huge potential as novel theranostics, to accurately diagnose and treat fungal infections including those caused by multi-drug resistant fungal species. Indeed the risk of developing a severe fungal lung infection is heightened in patients with influenza and Covid-19.

This PhD project will extensively characterise the binding interactions of our lead theranostic candidates using heterologously expressed cell surface proteins, short peptide sequences, and a collection of wild type fungal cells and clinical isolates. At the University of Dundee, the Van Aalten lab has elucidated the structure of several fungal-specific cell surface proteins and will provide expertise in the expression of fungal glycoproteins that will be utilised for the characterisation of antibody binding using biochemical assays (ELISAs) and Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR). In addition, they can provide expertise in protein crystallography to elicit antibody binding to the fungal targets and in silico construction of the 3D structure of these antibodies and target proteins to study the macromolecular interactions through interface predictions and molecular docking. The student will also receive advanced training in antibody engineering by being part of the Scottish Biologics Facility, headed by Dr Soumya Palliyil. Using the latest tools in protein engineering and combining the expertise of recombinant antibody development, this project will also explore the feasibility of generating bispecific formats of the existing antibodies e.g. two different antigen binding arms on the same antibody molecule or potent antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) by biochemically coupling an antimicrobial agent to the selected lead antibody for enhanced pathogen killing.

Application Procedure:

Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison McLeod at . Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to .

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership View Website. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition (limited funding is available to provide international tuition fees). Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject.
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