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Metabolic engineering of yeast for the production of methyl methacrylate and its precursors

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof C French  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Second Supervisor: Dr. Leonardo Rios Solis, Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering

This project is sponsored by Mitsubishi Chemical and focusses on the development of sustainable processes for manufacturing methyl methacrylate (MMA). Mitsubishi Chemical are world leaders in the manufacture of MMA; the building block of poly-methyl methacrylate (PMMA, Perspex®, Plexiglas®) and a key ingredient of paints, surface coatings, automotive components and synthetic bone/joint replacements.  

Global demand for MMA is estimated at ~4 million tonnes per year. Mitsubishi Chemical’s ‘KAITEKI’ vision demands the rapid realisation of sustainable manufacturing practices to resolve environmental issues that affect people, society and our planet. To this end, Mitsubishi Chemical have an active biotechnology programme aimed at developing sustainable processes for manufacturing MMA.

This PhD project will explore the feasibility of producing key intermediate chemicals via yeast-based fermentation, which can subsequently be converted to MMA using established technologies. The successful candidate will be based at The University of Edinburgh and develop expertise in advanced synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. The student will also undertake a placement (approximately 3 months) at local biotechnology company Ingenza (, to carry out microbial fermentation work in state-of-the art commercial laboratories.  

Key skills which will be developed in this project include bioinformatics approaches to metabolic pathway design, DNA assembly, engineering of pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, small and pilot scale fermentation processes, and analytical methods. The student will also gain experience in working with the biotechnology industry to develop new processes with strong commercial potential. This project is highly suitable for a student interested in a career in synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology, either in academia or in industry. The project is funded for 3.5 years, and costs of the industry placement will be met by the industrial partner.

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The “Institution Website” button on this page will take you to our Online Application checklist. Please complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process. Application Deadline is 1 April 2021.

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year fully-funded EPSRC CASE studentship.
Applications will only be accepted from candidates meeting EPSRC eligibility requirements: UK candidates or EU candidates with residency/(pre)settled status.


Webb JP, Arnold SA, Baxter S, Hall SJ, Eastham G and Stephens G (2018) Efficient bio-production of citramalate using an engineered Escherichia coli strain. Microbiology. 164:133-141 (doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000581)

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