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Exploiting genetically encoded unnatural amino acids to develop novel diagnostics (SACHDEVAU15SCI)

   School of Chemistry

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  Dr A Sachdeva  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Proteins are polymers made up of 20 naturally occurring amino acids that from the basis for most life forms on our planet. However, naturally occurring amino acids lack numerous chemical functional groups, such as aldehydes, ketones, alkenes and alkynes. Introducing such functional groups into the genetic code can lead to development of proteins with novel functions for applications in biochemistry, biotechnology, medicine and biofuels. Recently, methods have been developed to generate proteins containing multiple unnatural amino acids in live cells to address important biological questions (ref. 1-5). Despite their potential in widespread applications, the use of unnatural amino acids to create new biomolecules is largely unexplored. The aim of this PhD project is to develop such biomolecules for applications in medical diagnosis. The success of the project will have far reaching impact in medicine.

The successful applicant will be a talented biochemist or chemist with enthusiasm for chemistry, chemical biology, and molecular biology. They will work at the forefront of chemical and synthetic biology and will develop advanced skills in chemical synthesis, various molecular biology and analytical techniques, including molecular cloning, protein expression and purification, gel electrophoresis, western blotting, HPLC, Circular Dichroism (CD) spectroscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy. The research work will be performed in the Chemical and Synthetic Biology laboratories housed in the School of Chemistry, University of East Anglia under the supervision of Dr Amit Sachdeva.

Applicants should have a minimum of a 2.1 degree in Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology or Chemistry.

Funding Notes

This 3 year PhD studentship is funded by the Faculty of Science. Funding comprises home/EU tuition fees, an annual stipend of £14,057 and £1000 per annum to support research training. Overseas applicants may apply but they will be required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas fees (in 2015/16 the difference is £12,648 but fees are subject to an annual increase)


1. J.W. Chin. (2014) Expanding and reprogramming the genetic code of cells and animals. Annual Reviews of Biochemistry, 83, 379.
2. A. Sachdeva, K. Wang, T.S. Elliott and J.W. Chin. (2014) Concerted, rapid, quantitative and site-specific dual labeling of protein. Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), 136, 7785.
3. K. Wang*, A. Sachdeva*, D.J. Cox, N.W. Wilf, K. Lang, S. Wallace R.A. Mehl and J.W. Chin. (2014) Optimized orthogonal translation of unnatural amino acids enables spontaneous protein double labelling and FRET. Nature Chemistry, 6, 393. (*=Co-first authors)
4. T.S. Elliott, F.M. Townsley, A. Bianco, R.J. Ernst, A. Sachdeva, S.J. Elsässer, L. Davis, K. Lang, R. Pisa, S. Greiss, Kathryn S. Lilley and J.W. Chin. (2014) Proteome Labeling and Protein Identification in Specific Tissues and at Specific Development Stages in an Animal. Nature Biotechnology, 32, 465.
5. D.T. Rogerson, A. Sachdeva, K. Wang, T. Haq, A. Kazlauskaite, S.M. Hancock, N. Huguenin-Dezot, M.M.K. Muqit, A.M. Fry, R. Bayliss and and J.W. Chin. (2015) Efficient genetic encoding of phosphoserine and its non-hydrolyzable analog. Nature Chemical Biology, in press.
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