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EASTBIO Nutritional strategies to stimulate endogenous antimicrobial peptides in poultry: A promising alternative to antibiotics with a smart solution for safe and sustainable poultry farming.


   PHD Opportunities

  Dr Farina Khattak, ,  Thursday, December 16, 2021  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Increasing antimicrobial resistance is a global concern for consumers, public health authorities, farmers and food standard agencies. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are emerging as an effective non-antibiotic tool to combat infectious diseases in poultry. However, the prophylactic application of synthetic AMPs is limited due to their higher production cost and product stability issues. Nutritional manipulation to induce and regulate the expression of endogenous AMPs can be a smart solution to tackle the strategic challenge of producing sustainable, resilient and safe poultry. 

This PhD project aims to identify the ability of novel feed additives (β-glucan and oligosaccharides derived from yeast and cereal) to stimulate host AMPs in situ and to reveal how nutritional supplementation of feed additives can manipulate the expression of avian host AMPs in the gut under mild sub-clinical disease conditions. The main objectives of the study would be 1) Optimisation of β-glucan structure and function to maximise broiler immune and metabolic responses in antibiotic-free diets 2) Identification of the mode of action of these host AMP’s in the gut in order to establish a diagnostic marker to aid in promoting consistency in the commercial application of these novel feed additives, and 3) Develop a link between the concentration and inhibitory abilities of these host AMPs against bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens in the avian gut.

The student will be registered at the University of Edinburgh and based at Monogastric Science Research Center (MSRC) of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC; near Edinburgh, UK). In vivo studies will be conducted at the SRUC’s new state of art poultry research facility, which is the UK’s largest facility dedicated to fostering world-leading research to benefit agricultural food safety and security, animal health and welfare, public health, and environmental impact/climate change by trialling innovative ideas under near-commercial conditions. 

The project will partner with AB Vista, an animal nutrition and technology company that is one of the largest feed additives suppliers globally. The student will work very closely with AB Vista, including an industrial placement of no less than 12 weeks. During placement, the student will be trained and supported by Dr Mike Bedford at AB Vista, Marlborough, UK. At this site, the student will obtain detailed practical knowledge of the sector by working with global team members with a range of expertise, including industrial production of feed additives, nutrigenomics, R&D development, manufacturing operations, financial management and communication skills (both academic and non-academic).  

 Additionally, at SRUC and University of Edinburgh, skills training will be provided in personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and team working, study design, molecular biology, metataxonomics (16S rRNA gene sequencing), metagenomics (whole shotgun metagenomic sequencing) and career management.

This project is multidisciplinary and combines nutritional, immunology, molecular, genomic and statistical science to provide insight into the effect of novel feed additives as an alternative to antibiotics. The supervisory team brings the necessary complementary expertise in each of these fields and will support the student in developing academic skills within each discipline. The combination of on-farm training, lab skills, and exposure to world-leading companies will ensure that the student is well prepared for a career in academia or industry.

SRUC and its associated partner organisations aim to create a community that is innovative, inclusive and collaborative, in which everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, and we encourage applications from a diverse range of qualified applicants. 

Application Process:

Please visit this page for full application instructions http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0

1)     Download and complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey.

2)     Download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form.

3)     Submit both to SRUC, .

Completed applications must include the following documents:

-         Completed EASTBIO application form

-         2 References (to be completed on the EASTBIO Reference Form, also found on the EASTBIO website)

-         Academic Qualifications

-         Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey

Unfortunately due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please make sure your application is complete by the 16th December 2021. Please ask your referees to submit your references directly to .

We anticipate that our first set of interviews will be held 7th – 11th February 2022 with awards made in the following week.


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 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.

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