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Biochemistry of cell-cell communication: revealing how signalling proteins move and interact in the extracellular space

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Richter
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Cell-cell communication is vital to all multicellular life and key in diseases such as cancer. In this PhD project, you will devise new strategies to design advanced biomaterials that guide cell-cell communication for tissue repair or to interfere with diseases such as cancer metastasis or chronic inflammation. This is a formidable challenge that requires multiple disciplines – biology, chemistry, physics and materials sciences – to work hand in hand.

A key factor in this process is signalling proteins (such as chemokines and growth factors) which carry information from one cell to another. The extracellular matrix (ECM) binds these proteins and tightly controls their distribution. In this project, you will combine synthetic biology and advanced bioconjugation techniques to create models of ECM. In a multidisciplinary environment, you will analyse how signaling proteins diffuse and distribute in the ECM at the level of single biomolecules and bonds using biophysical techniques. By combining experiments on well-defined ECM models and on cells, the project will provide new insight into how cells communicate.

Suitable candidates would have a background in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, or a closely related field, and keen interest in multidisciplinary work. Experience in protein chemistry, cell biology or surface biofunctionalization is an advantage.

Biological Sciences and Physics at Leeds

The University of Leeds operate “low-wall” principles with the aim of encouraging cross-disciplinary approaches to big science questions. This project will take place at the Faculty of Biological Sciences (http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk) in tight collaboration with the Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group (https://www.physics.leeds.ac.uk/research/groups/molecular-and-nanoscale-physics-group.html). The Faculties offer superb facilities, provide a high quality research training environment and deliver an exceptional student education.

Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is appointed. Please APPLY online, and include a CV, transcripts of your university record and contact details of two referees in your application. You do not need to provide a research proposal at this stage, but a motivation letter on why you want to join the project is desirable.

Funding Notes

The studentship is for 3 years, extendable by 1 year, and covers academic fees and a stipend of £14,296 p/a. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, an undergraduate degree of at least 2.1 Hons level (or equivalent). A masters degree is an advantage.

For questions about the project, please contact Dr. Ralf Richter ([email protected]). For questions related to the application process and eligibility, please contact Martha Smith ([email protected]).


1. F. Bano, S. Banerji, M. Howarth, D. G. Jackson and R. P. Richter 2016. A single molecule assay to probe monovalent and multivalent bonds between hyaluronan and its key leukocyte receptor CD44 under force. Sci Rep 6:34176.

2. Migliorini, E.; Thakar, D.; Kuhnle, J.; Sadir, R.; Dyer, D. P.; Li, Y.; Sun, C.; Volkman, B. F.; Handel, T. M.; Coche-Guerente, L.; Fernig, D. G.; Lortat-Jacob, H.; Richter, R. P. 2015. Cytokines and growth factors cross-link heparan sulfate. Open Biol 5:150046.

3. Weber, M.; Hauschild, R.; Schwarz, J.; Moussion, C.; de Vries, I.; Legler, D. F.; Luther, S. A.; Bollenbach, T.; Sixt, M. 2013. Interstitial dendritic cell guidance by haptotactic chemokine gradients. Science 339:328-32.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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