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Structure-based drug design against a biosecurity pathogen. Biosciences PhD CASE studentship (BBSRC SWBio DTP funded)


College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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Dr N Harmer , Dr V Gold No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Exeter United Kingdom Bioinformatics Biophysics Cell Biology Epidemiology Microbiology Molecular Biology Other Pathology Pharmacy Virology

About the Project

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance. The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

Project Description:

In this project, you will make the first steps in drug discovery for against a biosecurity pathogen. The project will teach you skills in protein preparation, protein structure determination, microbiology, molecular biology, and molecular modelling. For protein structure determination, the project will provide opportunities to work with experts in X-ray crystallography and single particle cryo-electron 23 / 94 microscopy, with the possibility of using micro-electron diffraction if suitable samples are obtained. The aim of the project will be to determine the mechanisms of key enzymes from the biosecurity threat Coxiella burnetii. This organism makes some unusual chemicals important for pathogenesis that require novel enzymatic activities.

In the project, you will determine the structures of these enzymes; and relate the structure to function using enzymatic approaches and molecular dynamics. Once we have a good description of the enzymes and how they work, you will use these to perform virtual screening of potential drugs as a first stage of drug discovery.
The project will offer a challenging and interdisciplinary PhD in cutting edge research areas. All of these methods are well established in the supervisor’s group and their collaborators. There will be opportunities to also learn associated methods that the laboratories specialise in as the project develops.

The project will also offer considerable opportunities to interact with the partner Dstl, and other collaborators in our wider network. Dstl will host the industrial placement, most likely in the third year of the PhD. This project will be based in the recently established Living Systems Institute in Exeter, which houses a diverse group of leading interdisciplinary researchers. You will join a vibrant group of young researchers with interests across a range of diseases.

Funding Notes

BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2021 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21, on a full time basis.


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