Recent years have witnessed tremendous developments in a field of biology that studies microbial immune systems, which protect bacteria and archaea from viruses (bacteriophages), plasmids and other selfish mobile genetic elements (MGEs). These systems are the origin of human immune functions and fascinating models for the evolution of complexity. In the past 5 years, >100 new immune systems have been discovered. Some bacterial defence systems, such as CRISPR-Cas9 and restriction-modification, have revolutionised genome editing and molecular cloning, which turned into a global multi-million dollar industry. However, the evolutionary and ecological implications of these discoveries are only now beginning to unfold.
In this PhD project, you will combine classical microbiology, microbial genetics and single cell microscopy to determine how bacterial defences evolve, and how they shape the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). You will identify primary defence barriers for mobile genetic elements and trade-offs between genome protection and AMR acquisition. This project will advance our understanding of the importance of defences for the spread of AMR, a slow-moving pandemic, identified by the WHO as a top 10 threat facing humanity. Results from this work will pave the way for personalised medicine based on pathogen genotypes and phenotypes, leveraging incomplete defences of multidrug resistant pathogens for phage therapy. This work can also help to predict and manipulate the risks of AMR spread in natural, medical or industrial contexts.
You will be embedded in a BBSRC-funded consortium of 12 research teams across the UK, which will increase the impact of your work, and will offer additional benefits with regards to training and networking. In addition, you will be embedded in the Exeter Microbes & Society network, to facilitate exposure to interdisciplinary ways of working.
For more information or to apply please visit: Award details | Funding and scholarships for students | University of Exeter