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Identification and mechanistic understanding of enzymes optimised for high pH detergent environments


   Department of Applied Sciences

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  Dr Jose Munoz, Dr Leonardo Rios-Solis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Northumbria and Newcastle Universities are collaborating with Procter & Gamble (P&G) to identify new, sustainable ways of improving detergency and breakdown of dirt on clothes under challenging conditions.

P&G develops and markets iconic fabric care brands such as Ariel, Bold, Tide, Lenor and Fairy. We are hence very excited to open the call for a UKRI-BBRSC funded four-year PhD candidate, to operate at the interface of industrial and academic research to guide the innovation of new sustainable cleaning technologies - with potential to touch the lives of millions of consumers.

Enzymes catalyse the breakdown of soils that contribute to consumer washing failures on clothing textiles and cookware. Beyond soil/surface binding constants and temperature stability, pH profiles are also important to help determine how suitable an enzyme is for use in certain cleaning detergents. Engineering options are available, but such approaches can take years and usually require detailed structural knowledge of the protein, which is not readily available, especially for new enzymes of interest. In most dry laundry and automatic dishwashing detergents, enzymes are required to operate at higher pH conditions (>10.5). Introduction of enzymes that naturally perform at such conditions would be a great way to maximise detergent performance whilst minimising the carbon footprint of detergent and cleaning. The aim of this project is to find enzymes that are suitable for detergents in high pH conditions.

The project will leverage state-of-the-art techniques in the enzymology field such as: screening of metagenomic libraries, gene cloning of enzyme sequences, protein engineering, protein expression and purification of selected enzymes and their variants for application testing. The project will also develop and use novel synthetic biology toolkits to manipulate alkaliphilic microorganisms. Furthermore, there will be opportunities to acquire training in the areas of aerobic and anaerobic microbiology, microscale bioreactors, synthetic/engineering biology, and a whole range of analytical techniques such as HPLC, GC-MS and LC-MS.

A key challenge of the project will involve the screening and deciphering of mechanisms behind these enzymes, using state-of-the-art techniques in the enzymology/synthetic biology fields. The student will be learning first hand, metagenomics, cloning and protein purification methods. They will also be using emerging techniques in the protein engineering and bioinformatics areas (I.e., AlphaFold/DALI, structure-based mutagenesis and molecular docking). The student will also be trained to use novel synthetic/engineering biology tools to manipulate the genome of industrial microorganisms as well as working first hand with industrial partners and collaborators to apply learnings to guide IP strategy, R&D innovation pipeline and publish papers. As part of this project, the applicant will have the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time at P&G’s local Newcastle Innovation Centre, prototyping the enzymes/bacteria developed throughout the project.

Northumbria also offer a broad range of training courses to develop other professional skills through scientific writing retreats, teaching career development, and lab management opportunities. This is hence a great opportunity for an ambitious and innovative applicant to work in a strategic area of sustainable industrial biosciences, whilst developing a unique skill set.

How to apply:

  • Candidates wishing to apply for a studentship must apply directly to this E-mail address [Email Address Removed] by 5th Dec 2022 by sending 4 documents:
  1. Current CV: [maximum 2 pages] – this needs to include qualifications & two references.
  2. A personal statement (maximum 500 words).
  3. A completed BISCOP CTP Equal Opportunities Monitoring form
  4. A cover note indicating which project within the CTP you are applying for as their first choice and whether interested in any of the other projects.
  • Name all the documents with your ‘Name and Type of Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs CV, Joe Bloggs Personal Statement.
  • For more information, please see the Policies & Procedures for applicants.
  • In the meantime, if you have any issues or questions, please contact [Email Address Removed]

More information about the BiSCoP CTP

This studentship is part of the second cohort of the BiSCoP CTP (Bioscience for Sustainable Consumer Products Collaborative Training Partnership), a BBSRC-funded inclusive, collaborative environment for high quality doctoral training that will prepare over 30 students with the knowledge and skills needed for successful careers at the forefront of global bioscience. This will help ensure the UK maintains a leadership position in bioscience with improved translation of frontier research into economic and societal impact.

The BiSCoP CTP will be an outstanding environment for PhD research between Durham, Northumbria, Newcastle and other UK universities, biotech company Prozomix and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. The second cohort of 11 PhD students starting in October 2023 will embark upon a 4-year research training programme with modules in hands-on lean innovation, an Accredited Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice (a Durham University mini-MBA), Intellectual Property, at least a 3-month placement (P&G UK or USA innovation centre or Prozomix UK) and other events.

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