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Synthetic Virology: Development of gene delivery vectors/synthetic vaccines

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

There is worldwide interest in exploiting our modern understanding of genomics to target gene expression therapeutically via a variety of mechanisms, such as transgene insertion and CRISPR-Cas gene editing. Such approaches require the transport of large genetic cargoes across cell membranes. Laboratory protocols for this transport are not easily transposed to the clinic. Natural viruses accomplish precisely this task by delivering their genomes with significant cell tropism to new host cells. We are repurposing such natural delivery systems to deliver nucleic acid cargoes, primarily RNAs to cells using picornaviruses and alphavirus capsid proteins and information on the multiple RNA packaging signals within their genomes. Production of non-infectious, bespoke virus-like particles (VLPs) is also being used to present stable, neutralising epitopes as the basis of a synthetic vaccine.

Techniques uesd include: gene cloning; synthetic gene construction; cell culture; viral infection assays; VLP purification; electron microscopy; ultracentrifugation; single molecule spectroscopy

Funding Notes

EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for a minimum of 3 years.
The studentship will provide fees and stipend (~£14k p.a) for 3.5 years.
Applicants should have a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level. Please include CV and transcripts with your application (link below).


Patel N, et al. (2017) Rewriting nature’s assembly manual for a ssRNA virus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(46):12255-12260.

Patel N, et al. (2015) Revealing the density of encoded functions in a viral RNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., 112, 2227-32.

Twarock, R. & Stockley, P.G. (2019) RNA-mediated Virus Assembly: Mechanisms and Consequences for Viral Evolution and Therapy Ann. Rev. Biophys, 48, 495-514

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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