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Understanding and Engineering a Natural Herbicide from Cyanobacteria (TRUMAN_J22CASE)

   Graduate Programme

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  Dr A Truman  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Bacteria have an incredible capacity to produce natural products with exquisite bioactivities, which makes these compounds excellent candidates as medicines and agrochemicals. Cyanobacteria are an important source of natural products, although only a limited number are currently used in agriculture or medicine. Working with industrial partner Syngenta, this CASE PhD studentship aims to understand and engineer the production of herbicidal molecules from cyanobacteria. To achieve this goal, this project will involve molecular biology, gene expression, natural products chemistry and cyanobacterial microbiology. 

This multidisciplinary project will be based in the laboratory of Dr Andrew Truman in the Department of Molecular Microbiology at the John Innes Centre, which has world-class facilities for bacterial genetics and natural product biosynthesis. Cyanobacteria expertise is provided by secondary supervisor Dr David Lea-Smith (University of East Anglia), who is an expert in the physiology, biotechnology and genetics of Cyanobacteria. Three months of the project will be spent at Syngenta research laboratories in the UK. 

This project provides an exciting opportunity to understand the biosynthesis of bioactive molecules and develop skills across genetics, mass spectrometry, cyanobacterial physiology and natural products chemistry (such as liquid chromatography and NMR). Applications are welcomed from students across the biological and chemical sciences with a desire to work on a multidisciplinary project.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP CASE students undertake a three to 18-month placement with the non-academic partner during their study. The placement offers experience designed to enhance professional development. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD CASE studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/22 stipend rate: £15,609), plus a CASE Partner stipend enhancement of £2,500 p.a., and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a. plus a CASE Partner RTSG contribution of £1,400 p.a.


1. Eyles, T. H., Vior, N. M., Lacret, R. & Truman, A. W. Understanding thioamitide biosynthesis using pathway engineering and untargeted metabolomics. Chem. Sci. 12, 7138–7150 (2021).
2. Russell, A. H., Vior, N. M., Hems, E. S., Lacret, R. & Truman, A. W. Discovery and characterisation of an amidine-containing ribosomally-synthesised peptide that is widely distributed in nature. Chem. Sci. (2021). doi:10.1039/D1SC01456K
3. Vasudevan, R. et al. CyanoGate: A Modular Cloning Suite for Engineering Cyanobacteria Based on the Plant MoClo Syntax. Plant Physiol. 180, 39–55 (2019).
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