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Taking back control of the immune system (BEEKMANAU20SCIEC)

Project Description

One of the hallmarks of cancers is their ability to evade the immune system. Most tumours in the body are recognised and destroyed by the immune system, but cancer cells overproduce proteins which turn off the immune system and underproduce proteins which turn on the immune system. Two of the proteins which control this are Programmed Death-1 (PD-1) and Programmed Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1). Being able to control the interaction of these two proteins has led to treatments for many cancers, including lymphoma, melanoma, lung and renal cancer, and the award of the Nobel Prize in 2018. Antibodies are currently used to control this protein-protein interaction, but antibodies are expensive and can trigger undesired immune responses. If small, drug-like molecules could be found which control this protein-protein interaction then this treatment could become more widely available. However, finding small molecules which control massive proteins is very challenging with current techniques. This PhD project aims to use a new technique, developed in our lab, to design small molecules which can control this protein-protein interaction. This chemical biology project will be interdisciplinary, involving training in the computational design and synthesis of peptides and small molecules, the analysis of compounds binding to proteins and their activity in cancer cells. Led by Dr Andrew Beekman and Professor Mark Searcey, there is an opportunity to learn medicinal chemistry, protein biophysics, cellular biology and structural biology, using facilities across the School of Pharmacy and Norwich Research Park. You will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or related area.

Informal enquiries are welcomed: Dr Andrew Beekman () or Prof. Mark Searcey ().

For more information on the project’s supervisor, please visit:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date of project: October 2020
Mode of study: full time
Studentship length: funded for 3 years. NB. 3 year studentships have a (non-funded) 1 year ‘registration only’ period
Location: UEA
Entry requirement: acceptable first degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or related area.
The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is in a competition for a Faculty of Science funded studentship. Funding is available to UK/EU applicants and comprises home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,009 for 3 years. Overseas applicants may apply but they are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (which for 2019-20 are detailed on the University’s fees pages at View Website . Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual increase).

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