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From Structure-Function Studies to High Phytase Crops (HEMMINGSU20DTP)

Project Description

Phytic acid is the major source of inorganic phosphate needed for growth found in the grains, oil seeds and beans of common animal feeds. However, monogastrics cannot digest phytic acid and so feeds are commonly supplemented with engineered bacterial or fungal phytases. These enzymes hydrolyze the phytic acid, improving phosphorous bioavailability as well as reducing the negative impact of inorganic phosphorous excretion to the environment. In this project, an exciting alternative approach will be explored, that of developing new crop lines with high intrinsic phytase activity.

A PhD research studentship is available in the groups of Drs Andrew Hemmings (School of Chemistry), Professor Wendy Harwoood (John Innes Centre) and Charles Brearley (School of Biological Sciences) to generate new high phytase cereal crops. To achieve this the successful candidate will play a central role in attempts to engineer the catalytic and physiochemical properties of purple acid phytases and use these in the generation of gene edited high phytase crops. To achieve this they will receive training in modern methods of enzyme engineering, molecular and structural biology, and plant gene editing. The research will make extensive use of facilities at UEA including the Centre for Structural and Molecular Biochemistry (CMSB) and the crop transformation and genome editing resources of the John Innes Centre.

Suitably qualified individuals will have a strong interest in protein chemistry and/or bioanalytical science and will hold, or expect to hold, a first class honours undergraduate or Masters degree from any of a range of disciplines including, but not restricted to, biochemistry, biological chemistry and biological sciences.

Project supervisor:
Project sponsor: Norwich Research Park Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: 1 October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 4 years


- First degree (2:1 or above) in relevant subject
- English language (IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each section)


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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