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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Drug discovery to control C. difficile infections by targeting sporulation

Project Description

Interested in a PhD studying antibiotic resistant bacteria and explore new ways to treat drug-resistant infections? In this PhD, you will use a range of biochemistry, biophysical and structural techniques, together with molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology approached to develop new therapeutics targeting C. difficile.

C. difficile is the most frequent cause of hospital acquired infections across Europe. This highly antibiotic resistant pathogen relies on these drugs disrupting the gut microbiota to cause disease. We urgently need to develop species-specific antimicrobials that kill C. difficile without further disruption to the gut microbiota.
C. difficile infectious agent is a dormant cell form, the spore, that is resistant to physical and chemical agents, making it extremely hard to remove from the environment. Sporulation is a promising but unexploited target for new therapeutics against C. difficile. Our work focusses on proteins that we have shown to be essential for spore formation. Targeting dormant cells, less prone to the evolutionary pressure of antibiotic drugs, will carry a reduced risk of development of new resistance mechanisms by the bacteria. This approach will decrease transmission and environmental contamination, which would be of great societal benefit.

You will join our multi-disciplinary team between Dr Paula Salgado and Dr Julia Hubbard at Newcastle University. You will work alongside other students and postdoctoral scientists at the Newcastle University studying proteins involved in C. difficile sporulation to validate engulfment as a potential therapeutic target and initiate a drug discovery pipeline with initial fragment and site screening leading to development and testing of potential lead molecules.

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:
This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.
We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.

Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:
Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs
Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
Tuition fees
Research training and support grant (RTSG)
Travel allowance
Studentships commence: 1st October 2020.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here: View Website

Good luck!

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