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Functional mirror-image ribo-regulation tools

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 12, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Dual award PhD in Synthetic and Systems Biology - Manchester and Tsinghua University.

The University of Manchester and China’s Tsinghua University have come together to offer a unique dual degree PhD programme in Synthetic and Systems Biology, with successful applicants spending four life-changing years across Manchester and Beijing. The first-of-its-kind dual award PhD programme brings together two globally-renowned institutions at the forefront of research in this area: the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at The University of Manchester, and the Center for Synthetic and Systematic Biology (CSSB) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Students will spend two years at Manchester and two years at Tsinghua University, with supervisors in both locations. At the end of the four-year full-time programme, you will receive a dual PhD, one award and two certificates.

Project Description:
Despite biology’s seemingly limitless diversity and the vastness of its territories that permeate into virtually every corner of the Earth, at the fundamental level of biochemistry, all known forms of life are narrowly defined by a single version of molecular machinery based on L-amino acids and D-ribose nucleic acids. The fact that no known laws of physics and chemistry preclude biology’s use of either of the two chiral systems, mirror-image twins of one another, has led to an intriguing question as to whether a parallel mirror-image world of biology running on a chirally inverted version of molecular machinery could be found in the universe or be created in the laboratory. In addition to these fundamental origins of life questions, the ability to develop mirror image biological polymers (DNA, RNA, protein), has may potential applications in therapeutics and diagnostics. These mirror-image biological polymers would possess the same type of properties (catalysis and/or information storage) as the natural bio-polymer, but would also have advanced properties such as resistance to proteases and nuclease degradation. In this unique PhD project we aim to realize an efficient mirror-image transcription system with higher transcription efficiency and fidelity, and to implement these capabilities to develop RNA-based tools for sensing applications of therapeutic and diagnostic importance.

Academic background of candidates
Applicants should hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum 2:1 bachelor’s degree (or overseas equivalent), a master’s degree (including an integrated masters degree) or extensive research experience - such as an industry placement - in a relevant discipline. Applicants can be internal or external to The University of Manchester. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5/TOEFL 90.

programme name: synbiodual

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year fully funded studentship covering tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20 while in Manchester, and a commensurate stipend while at Tsinghua). You will also receive an annual Research Training Support Grant towards project running costs/consumables while in Manchester, and flight allowance for travelling to Tsinghua will be covered.


1. Wang M#, Jiang W#, Liu X#, Wang J#, Zhang B, Fan C, Liu L, Pena-Alcantara G, Ling J, Chen J, Zhu TF*. Mirror-image gene transcription and reverse transcription. Chem, 5:848-857, (2019).
2. Liu X, Zhu TF*. Sequencing mirror-image DNA chemically. Cell Chemical Biology, 25: 1151-1156, (2018).
3. Jiang W#, Zhang B#, Fan C#, Wang M#, Wang J, Deng Q, Liu X, Chen J, Zheng J, Liu L*, Zhu TF*. Mirror-image polymerase chain reaction. Cell Discovery, 3:17037, (2017).
4. Xu W#, Jiang W#, Wang J#, Yu L#, Chen J, Liu X, Liu L*, Zhu TF*. Total chemical synthesis of a thermostable enzyme capable of polymerase chain reaction. Cell Discovery, 3:17008, (2017).
5. Wang Z#, Xu W#, Liu L*, Zhu TF*. A synthetic molecular system capable of mirror-image genetic replication and transcription. Nature Chemistry, 8(7):698-704, (2016).

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