Towards new antibacterial drugs to treat infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria: identification and characterization of novel natural product antibiotics

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

About the Project

Antibiotics make possible the treatment and cure of life-threatening bacterial infections. Since their introduction in the middle years of the 20th Century, they have added ~10 years to the human lifespan, and have become a cornerstone of modern medicine. Unfortunately, the utility of these agents is being rapidly eroded as pathogenic bacteria evolve to resist their effects. Compounding the issue, in the last 50 years only two truly novel antibiotic classes have been developed for treating serious bacterial infection. If this problem is not addressed as a matter of urgency, 300 million people worldwide are expected to die prematurely between now and 2050, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will overtake cancer as a cause of death. 

The majority of our existing antibacterial armamentarium derives from microbial products; despite this, most modern antibacterial drug discovery programmes have abandoned the search for novel natural product antibiotics, favouring instead rational synthetic chemistry approaches that have yet to bear fruit. The proposed studentship intends to employ innovative approaches to find novel antibiotic classes produced by microorganisms, and to thereby rejuvenate natural product antibiotic discovery. The ultimate goal of this work is to discover new drugs active against the most problematic types of multi-drug resistant bacteria, including the ESKAPE pathogens (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp.).

Please see the O’Neill lab website for more information about what we do, and links to our published work:


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper-second class honours degree or a MSc degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit someone with a strong background in tissue engineering, cancer biology or closely-related areas. Additional experience of conducting research in a multidisciplinary setting is highly desirable. Upon completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be uniquely equipped for high-demand careers within academia or industry with desirable skills in bioengineering, regenerative medicine and cancer/cell biology.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22.

How to apply:

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).
  • Evidence of funding

To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert

Funding Notes

Please visit View Website


Galarion LH, Mohamad M, Alzeyadi Z, Randall CP, O'Neill AJ (2021). A platform for detecting cross-resistance in antibacterial drug discovery. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 76: 1467-1471
Lee VE & O'Neill AJ (2019). Potential for repurposing the personal care product preservatives bronopol and bronidox as broad-spectrum antibiofilm agents for topical application. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 74: 907-911
Nass NM, Farooque S, Hind C, Wand ME, Randall CP, Sutton JM, Seipke RF, Rayner C, O'Neill AJ. (2017). Revisiting unexploited antibiotics in search of new antibacterial drug candidates: the case of gamma-actinorhodin. Scientific Reports, 7: 17419

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