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The design and development of peptoid-based antimicrobial agents for use in household cleaning products


   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof SL Cobb  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A joint industry-academia project to develop eco-friendly antimicrobial cleaning products by replacing chemical biocides with highly effective antimicrobial peptoids.

The extensive use of antimicrobial cleaning products results on the release into the environment of biocides that can be poorly biodegradable and toxic to aquatic life. To address the need for more environmentally friendly, but still effective, antimicrobial cleaners, this project focuses on the rational design of broad-spectrum antimicrobial peptoids, and the evaluation of their efficacy and stability in household cleaning products.

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have garnered attention as templates for the design of innovative antimicrobial agents. However, AMPs are highly susceptible to degradation by proteinases thereby limiting their potential in industrial applications. Peptoids are peptide isomers that combine many of the features of AMPs with the added advantage that they are highly resistant to proteinases. Given their broad-spectrum anti-microbial properties, their flexible synthesis, and their enhanced stability profile over peptides, peptoids offer a new avenue to develop alternatives to more ecotoxic chemical biocides currently used in cleaning products.

This project has four core objectives:

  • Design and synthesis of novel peptoids
  • Evaluation of the anti-microbial properties against both gram positive and gram-negative bacteria of the peptoids prepared
  • Evaluation of the physical and chemical properties of the peptoids
  • Evaluation of the performance and stability of peptoids in P&G household cleaners under relevant product use conditions

This project provides an outstanding, multidisciplinary training opportunity at the interface of synthetic peptoid chemistry, microbiology, and biophysics, combining both fundamental research with product development towards an industrial unmet need.

The recruited PhD student will receive training in: peptoid design, synthesis, purification, and characterisation (CD, LogD); culture, and handling of microbial organisms; antibacterial testing; bioimaging/ microscopy; bioinformatics & data analysis; high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC); and molecular interaction assays. The student will present new results within the weekly group meetings of Prof. Cobb´s team, and the ECR led forum events/ seminar series run by the Biophysical Sciences Institute (Durham), both of which offer excellent training in scientific presentation skills.

The applicant will also have the opportunity to spend time at P&G´s local Newcastle Innovation Centre working with experienced scientists on the formulation of cleaning products comprising these novel peptoids and on the evaluation of their stability and efficacy.

The PhD project is supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Collaborative Training Partnership with Procter & Gamble and will start in September 2023. The PhD student will be co-supervised by one academic supervisor with extensive expertise in this field of research, and one industrial supervisor with ample experience on the development, testing and regulation of antimicrobial household cleaners, providing a unique training experience to acquire skills for a career in academic or industrial research.

How to apply:

  • Candidates wishing to apply for a studentship must apply directly to this E-mail address [Email Address Removed] by 5th Dec 2022 by sending 4 documents:
  1. Current CV: [maximum 2 pages] – this needs to include qualifications & two references.
  2. A personal statement (maximum 500 words).
  3. A completed BISCOP CTP Equal Opportunities Monitoring form
  4. A cover note indicating which project within the CTP you are applying for as their first choice and whether interested in any of the other projects.
  • Name all the documents with your ‘Name and Type of Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs CV, Joe Bloggs Personal Statement.
  • For more information, please see the Policies & Procedures for applicants.
  • In the meantime, if you have any issues or questions, please contact [Email Address Removed]

More information about the BiSCoP CTP

This studentship is part of the second cohort of the BiSCoP CTP (Bioscience for Sustainable Consumer Products Collaborative Training Partnership), a BBSRC-funded inclusive, collaborative environment for high quality doctoral training that will prepare over 30 students with the knowledge and skills needed for successful careers at the forefront of global bioscience. This will help ensure the UK maintains a leadership position in bioscience with improved translation of frontier research into economic and societal impact.

The BiSCoP CTP will be an outstanding environment for PhD research between Durham, Northumbria, Newcastle and other UK universities, biotech company Prozomix and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. The second cohort of 11 PhD students starting in October 2023 will embark upon a 4-year research training programme with modules in hands-on lean innovation, an Accredited Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice (a Durham University mini-MBA), Intellectual Property, at least a 3-month placement (P&G UK or USA innovation centre or Prozomix UK) and other events.

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