Infectious diseases in plant crops present a significant socioeconomic burden globally, as they compromise the safety and reliability of food supply, as well as other agricultural products. As with any disease, early and accurate detection - at the point of need - is key to effective management.
DNA-nanoparticle conjugates, which upon binding to the complementary target DNA results in a visually observable aggregation of the nanoparticles, offers a simple and sensitive method for the sequence-specific detection of pathogens. Indeed, diagnostic kits employing this approach are already marketed in the healthcare sector. These kits are portable, cheap, require no specialist training or laboratory equipment; and are thus ideal for use in the field.
This proposal aims to explore the use of this technology in the agricultural sector. Specifically, it will aim to: (1) test the use of nanoparticle-DNA conjugates for the detection of pathogen DNA from plant tissue and soil samples; (2) develop assay platforms involving nanoparticle aggregation in a chip array format that is compatible with portable image analysis.
This project forms part of an international collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia and the University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus). The successful candidate will join a growing team of multidisciplinary researchers from a range of backgrounds from chemistry, biochemistry and materials engineering. The research group is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (www.mib.ac.uk) and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities.
A successful candidate is expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum of an upper second class honours degree (or the equivalent) in chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, or other related area. Experience in one or more of the following areas would be an advantage but is not compulsory as training will be provided: nanomaterials preparation and analysis, nanolithography, surface analysis, bioinformatics, DNA processing.