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Identification of Daffodil-Derived Bioactives for Cardiometabolic Health as a Means of Valorising Biomass from the Daffodil Growing Industry

   School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences

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  Prof Cherry Wainwright, Dr G Bermano, Mr M Clarke, Mr K Stephens  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Aberdeen United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Applied Chemistry Biochemistry Biotechnology Cell Biology Immunology Molecular Biology Chemistry Pharmaceutical Chemistry

About the Project

Daffodils are rich in galanthamine, which is used in the production of drugs to manage Alzheimer’s Disease. However, following high yield galanthamine extraction the remaining crude extract is un-used, despite being rich in biologically active molecules that possess broad biological activities (such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, enzyme inhibitory and cytoprotective effects) that could be useful for the management of diet-associated diseases such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease. The UK is a world leader in the commercial production of daffodils, with the majority of crops being used for bulb and flower export for the extraction of galanthamine. There is thus significant potential for increased valorisation of daffodil extracts by exploiting what is currently an "un-tapped” source of valuable chemicals, which would also contribute to the circular economy and progress to a "zero waste" approach to industrial galanthamine production. 

The two industrial partners (Grampian Growers and Agroceutical Products Ltd) have worked in collaboration to develop bio-refining techniques for galanthamine isolation using green extraction techniques, which opens up the opportunity to produce additional commercially valuable bioactives as by-products such as carotenoids and flavonoids. Although the chemical profile of some daffodil varieties is known, their composition in the varieties grown by the partners has not been determined. The ultimate aim of this studentship is to identify what bioactive carotenoids and/or flavonoids in daffodils varieties that have the potential to maintain good cardiometabolic health, and to develop a green downstream process for their extraction alongside the industrial production of galanthamine. The specific objectives are:

  1. To perform metabolomic analysis to characterise and quantify the carotenoid/flavonoid content of crude extracts and the biomass by-product following galanthamine extraction from GGs main daffodil crop varieties. 
  2. To identify potential health benefits of lead chemicals through a systematic review of the literature on their reported bioactivity, efficacy and cellular targets, to identify those chemicals that hold the greatest potential for use as food supplements/nutraceuticals. 
  3. To identify lead chemicals by determining the bioactivity of the extracted chemicals using relevant cell-based assays. 
  4. To establish a downstream process for high yield production of lead chemicals through development and optimisation of the extraction methods. that produces the highest yields, in a form that could be used as a nutritional supplement.

This ambitious, but feasible, project will provide the successful candidate with cutting‐edge training in a cross‐disciplinary project. The student will be based in the Centre for Natural Products laboratories at RGU under the supervision of the lead applicants, who have extensive experience of undertaking projects assessing the bioactivity of natural-product-derived extracts and pure compounds. Here the student will gain experience in extracting essential and relevant information from the literature to guide the direction of the project, and develop practical skills in screening for biological activity of lead compounds in cell‐based and/or in vivo models. The student will also have the opportunity to spend a 2-week placement with Grampian Growers at harvest time to gain experience of how the plant material is collected, processed and stored, and will spend two 3‐month placements at APL, where they will be trained in the principles, and assist in the optimisation, of the extraction of the lead carotenoids/flavonoids. 

This PhD position is therefore ideally suited for candidates who possess (or expect to achieve) a First Class Honours undergraduate degree and/or an excellent postgraduate qualification in biomedical sciences), industrial biotechnology or chemistry with biology. Applications from candidates with experience of metabolomic analysis and/or cell culture are particularly encouraged.


This PhD Scholarship is a 4-year PhD funded through an IBioIC Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP). The IBioIC CTP training programme aims to ensure that students are fully equipped with both the commercial and technical skills required to meet the demanding needs of a career in biotechnology and to significantly contribute to the growth of the industry. Potential candidates are advised to visit the IBioIC CTP website ( to familiarise themselves with what is required as part of the programme. The successful applicant will be awarded a 4-year studentship including full UK tuition fees and a tax-free maintenance stipend (currently £16,264 per annum). The PhD Studentship, which will commence no later than 30th September 2021, will also include mandatory industry placements (minimum total 3 months) hosted by the Industrial Partners Grampian Growers (Angus, Scotland) and Agroceutical Products (Powys, Wales).  

How to apply

Please send enquiries to Professor Cherry Wainwright, School of Pharmacy & Life Sciences, Robert Gordon University ([Email Address Removed]

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