Fully Funded Studentship Unprecedented biochemistry from marine microbes (WILKINSON_J14DTP)

John Innes Centre – School of Biological Sciences (UEA)

29 November 2013. Available from 1 October 2014. 

Dr Barrie Wilkinson

The Project:

Natural products made by microorganisms represent a major source of antibiotic and anticancer pharmaceuticals for the treatment of life threatening disease. Indeed, the majority of antibiotics in clinical use are derived from natural products. They are also important as immunosuppressant agents after transplant surgery, for the treatment of parasitic diseases in developing countries and as environmentally benign insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to increase crop yields which can help feed the growing population.

This project is concerned with the biosynthesis of structurally unique natural products called the heronamides which are produced by a marine Streptomyces species isolated from the shallow waters off Heron Island, Australia (see Raju et al., Org. Biomol. Chem. 2011, 8, 4682). The heronamides have unusual biological activity, causing a profound yet reversible change on eukaryotic cell morphology with no apparent detrimental effects. The chemical structures of the different heronamides suggest that completely unprecedented, new from nature pericylic reactions take place during their biosynthesis.

The goal of this studentship is to identify the enzyme(s) that carriy out this unique chemical transformation. The successful candidate will utilise state of the art techniques for molecular genetics, next generation DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, enzymology and natural products chemistry to identify and manipulate the genes responsible for heronamide biosynthesis and decipher the biosynthetic logic governing their assembly. We will collaborate with Professor Rob Capon (University of Queensland, Australia) who discovered the heronamides.

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Entry Requirements:

2:1 or 2:2 plus Masters. English Language – IELTS 6.5 overall with 6 in each category. 


Due to funding restrictions funding for PhD studentships from BBSRC is available to successful candidates who meet the UK Research Council eligibility criteria including the 3-year UK residency requirements. These requirements are detailed in the BBSRC eligibility guidelines: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf.

In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award. Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award. All candidates should check to confirm their eligibility for funding.

The current stipend for 2013/14 is £13,726 per annum.

Making Your Application:

For further information and to apply, please visit the ‘How to Apply’ page on our website via the Apply button below.

Additional Information:

In keeping with the postgraduate training policy of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) all students recruited onto this programme will be required to undertake a three months internship during the second or third year of their study. The internship will offer exciting and invaluable experience of work in an area outside of research, and full support and advice will be provided by a professional team from the UEA.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – a collaboration between the Norwich Biosciences Institutes and the University of East Anglia. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the Studentship Competition. The interview dates will be the 14th and 15th January 2014.

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