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The development of new ligands as antiviral and anticancer drugs


Faculty of Medical Sciences Graduate School

, Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Pharmacognosy has previously made a very valuable contribution to the discovery of new medicinal agents and indeed, plants still remain a remarkable natural resource. One of the most limiting features of using natural products that are derived from certain plants is the very long growth cycles involved, particularly with trees, and the low concentration of desired compounds in specific cell types.
However, with the recent advances in plant cell culture techniques and genetic engineering, it is now possible to use plant cell cultures maintained in bioreactors as a source of medicinal compounds. One of the success stories in this area is Paclitaxel (PTX); this chemotherapeutic agent which is used to treat a number of cancers is now produced by cell culture although it was first isolated from the Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia).
As part of this current project, the student will study the anticancer, antiviral and antibacterial activity of lignans derived from different Taxus species as well as optimise their production in cell cultures by modulating the biochemical pathway. The lignans are a structurally diverse group of compounds that in many cases pose a significant synthetic challenge for chemical synthesis, hence the project offers very significant opportunities.
The first phase of the project will utilise established protocols for Taxus baccata and Taxus brevifolia and make use of the excellent cell-culture facilities (currently working with Arabidopsis and tobacco) available in the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering to develop protocols for another ten Taxus species.
In the second phase, work will focus on modulating the biosynthetic pathways by using unnatural amino acids as a feedstock; a large number of unnatural amino acids are commercially available. The resulting lignans, some of which will be novel, will be fully characterised and evaluated in a range of biological screens to assess anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral activities (this work will be conducted in the Faculty of Medical Sciences).
The multidisciplinary nature of this project represents great opportunities for the student and would be particularly suited to a Biomedical Science or Pharmacy graduate and allow them to obtain valuable training in chemistry, computational and molecular biology, plant sciences, and pharmacology. Applicant should hold or expect to hold a 2:1 or 1st class degree. If you are interested in applying, send your CV and covering letter detailing your reasons for applying for this studentship to Postgraduate Student Coordinator at School of Pharmacy at .

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will be expected to provide full funding for Tuition Fees, living expenses and maintenance. Applicants should also be aware that additional research costs are required (in addition to the above Tuition Fees and Living Expenses) for project running and consumables. Details of the full cost of study can be found on our website: View Website. There is no additional funding attached to this project.

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