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University of Kent Graduate Teaching Assistantship PhD

Development of a rapid, sensitive and non-invasive vitamin B assay

Supervisor/s: Profs. Martin Warren and Mark Smales

Vitamin B12 plays diverse roles in the biology of prokaryotes, including newly defined activities in reductive dehalogenation and non-enzymatic functions such as light-sensitive control of gene expression. The biosynthesis of B12 involves up to 30 different enzyme-mediated steps and only occurs in bacteria. Thus, most eukaryotes require an external source of B12, and yet it appears to have only two functions in eukaryotes: as a cofactor for the enzymes methionine synthase and methylmalonylCoA mutase. These two functions are crucial for normal health in humans, and in particular, the formation of methionine is essential for providing methyl groups for over one hundred methylation processes. Interference with the methionine synthase reaction not only depletes the body of methyl groups but also leads to the accumulation of homocysteine, a risk factor for many diseases. The syndrome pernicious anaemia, characterised by lack of intrinsic factor, leads to a severe, sometimes fatal form of B12 deficiency. However, there is no sharp cut-off for B12 deficiency; rather, there is a continuous inverse relationship between serum B12 and a variety of undesirable outcomes, including neural tube defects, stroke and dementia. The brain is particularly vulnerable; in children, inadequate B12 stunts brain and intellectual development. Suboptimal B12 status (serum B12 < 300 pmol/L) is very common, occurring in 30-60% of the population, in particular in pregnant women and in less-developed countries. Thus, many tens of millions of people in the world may suffer harm from having a poor B12 status and there is a requirement for a sensitive and rapid assay system to monitor B12 levels.

The aim of this project is to develop a lateral-flow strip assay for B12 using small volumes of blood. In this project we will work with Mologic to help enhance this lateral-flow assay system so that B12 levels can accurately and rapidly be evaluated. The project will involve the development and characterisation of vitamin B12 binding proteins and will provide a broad training to the student in the area of biochemistry and immunology.

THE CANDIDATE:
The successful candidate is expected to be a highly motivated student. He/she will be expected to have a minimum of an upper 2nd class degree in an appropriate field. Informal enquiries can be addressed to: Prof Martin Warren

Funding: The Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) provides a postgraduate research student with financial support in return for 96 hours per year of teaching. The stipend paid equals the full UK Research Council rate of £14,777 (rate for 2018/19) plus tuition fees at the home/EU rate. International applicants should make provision to meet the difference between Home /EU and International fees.
For further information on the Graduate Teaching Assistantship scheme go to: https://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/search/FNADGTA00001

HOW TO APPLY:
Applications can be made using the online University application page where the project title should be entered as the proposed area of research and Prof Martin Warren as supervisor. Please include a CV and a cover letter. Applications must be received by 20 June 2018.

 

University of Kent Global Challenges Doctoral Centre PhD opportunities for September 2018

Development of New Vaccine Manufacturing Platforms

University of Kent Global Challenges Doctoral Centre

GCRF 3.5 years funded PhD Position in Development of New Vaccine Manufacturing Platforms

Supervisors: Profs Mark Smales and Colin Robinson, School of Biosciences

Biological based medicines (e.g. vaccines, recombinant protein based drugs) have provided us with the ability to prevent, treat and cure a multitude of both communicable (infectious diseases) and non-communicable (non-infectious) diseases globally. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that immunization with appropriate vaccines prevents 2-3 M deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles but that a further 1.5 M deaths could be avoided if global vaccination and production was improved. With regard to vaccines, some such as rotavirus and rabies cannot currently be produced at sustainable costs for lower and middle income countries whilst the recent outbreak of yellow fever in central Africa resulted in an increased demand for the vaccine and an exhausting of the global supply which must be secured. For seasonal viruses such as influenza we are poorly equipped to adapt to the evolution of the virus whilst for re-emerging or new viruses we do not have the production capacity or expertise to rapidly respond to these by rapidly generating new vaccines to protect key workers and the wider general population. Animal welfare, and hence farmer return, can also be massively impacted (particularly in lower and middle income countries) by the manufacture of low cost but effective vaccines that prevent diseases that can be catastrophic to individual farmers, countries and regions.

This project will work with our GCRF partners in Thailand to develop new cell based (bacteria and mammalian cells) vaccine manufacturing platforms for the low cost, rapid development of animal and human vaccines. With regard to mammalian systems, although there are established mammalian cell lines for vaccine production (e.g. Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK), HEK and Vero cells) these were not specifically developed for this manufacturing purpose and are not widely adopted commercially due to limited production capacity. With new genome scanning and editing approaches now established and available we have the capacity to engineer or tailor cells specifically to the needs of vaccine production, and even for specific target vaccines. The objectives will be to use cell engineering and CRISPR/Cas9 genome scanning and editing approaches to identify targets that impact on vaccine production using model Vero, HEK, and as an alternative, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO), cell expression systems and then manipulate the target genes that show positive impact on viral vaccine production to generate stably engineered novel hosts for expression of viral and bacterial vaccines. The project will also investigate the controlled manufacture of virus like particles (VLPs) for developing vaccines and presenting antigens against many existing and potentially new threats, undertaking targeted genetic engineering of HEK cells to enhance production of the individual viral protein structural components of VLPs in a more optimised stoichiometry to deliver new host HEK cell lines with the ability to deliver overall higher production amounts of VLPs. We will also investigate new technology developed at Kent in E.coli cells for expression of target antigens for vaccine development. Targets will include those relevant to Thailand and other Lower Middle income countries and the developed technology will be transferred and validated to our partners in Thailand.

For further information please contact Prof Mark Smales. Applications will be considered until the deadline of 18 May 2018. Interviews will be held at the Kent site in the week of 21 May 2018.

To apply please go to the University online application page: https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/how-to-apply/

Background Information

Kent has established a Global Challenges Doctoral Centre (GCDC) dedicated to doctoral research addressing the challenges of economic development and well-being faced by developing countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.
The GCDC will become the nucleus of Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) activities at Kent and provide a virtual and physical “location” to discuss and undertake research which identifies solutions to global challenges.
The University is delighted to be able to offer its first GCDC doctoral scholarships commencing in the 2018/19 academic year. GCDC scholars will receive the following:

  • Annual stipend at UKRI rates (£14,777 for 2018/19)
  • Annual tuition Fees at UKRI Home/EU rates (£4,260 for 2018/19)
  • A minimum research training support grant of £3500 per annum
  • Specialised interdisciplinary GCDC cohort training activities

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Kent has been extremely successful in attracting GCRF funding. It was one of only two universities nationally to have both of its proposals funded in the first RCUK Collective Fund round (2016), with projects led by Professor Elena Korosteleva, School of Politics and International Relations (GCRF COMPASS project on capacity-building in Belarus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan & Tajikistan) and Professor Colin Robinson, School of Biosciences (GCRF project on the establishment of biopharmaceutical and animal vaccine production capacity in Thailand and SE Asia).

 

GCRF PhD Position in Recombinant Protein Production or Microalgal Biotechnology

University of Kent Global Challenges Doctoral Centre

Supervisors: Profs Colin Robinson and Mark Smales, School of Biosciences

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by a recently-established Global Challenges Doctoral Centre at the University of Kent. The work will complement ongoing research by Profs Robinson and Smales, who are working with South East Asian groups in a £4.9 million Global Chellenges Research Fund project:

https://research.kent.ac.uk/gcrfbiopharma/

The successful applicant will undertake one of two distinct projects.

1. Production of animal vaccines and biotherapeutics. The above GCRF project involves the enhancement of recombinant protein production technology in SE Asia, with a focus on collaboration with key groups in Thailand. This PhD project will involve a new collaboration with groups based at the University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, to develop effective, low-cost methods for the production of animal vaccines and biotherapeutics in Malaysia. The research will focus on the production of subunit vaccines and simpler forms of biotherapeutic in E. coli, and will involve optimising expression, development of novel downstream processing protocols and detailed analysis of the final purified products. Targets will include those relevant to SE Asian countries countries and the developed technology will be transferred and validated to our partners in Malaysia. The project will involve annual secondments to collaborating groups in Kuala Lumpur and the research will benefit from interaction with a range of postdocs and PhD students working on related topics in the Robinson and Smales groups.

2. Microalgal-based antiviral approaches for protection of aquaculture industries in Thailand.
The Thai cultivated prawn industry produces 400,000 tons of cultivated prawn annually and it is one of Thailand's biggest export earners. However, production is hampered by severe outbreaks of two prawn-specific viral diseases, caused by Yellow Head Virus (YHV) and White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV). In a novel approach to combatting infection, the Vanvimon Saksmerprome group based in Bangkok has developed a strategy that involves feeding prawn larvae with double stranded interfering RNA (dsRNA) to block viral replication. The dsRNA is produced in the chloroplasts of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and a preliminary collaborative study by the Robinson and Saksmerprome groups has shown that feeding the algal transformants to prawn larvae is highly successful in reducing YHV infection rates. However, these first generation transformants produce relatively little dsRNA, and the aim of this project will be to engineer C. reainhardtii to produce much higher levels, using new transformation technology, and to produce transformants that can block WSSV infection as well as YHV. The aim is to develop an antiviral strategy that will be widely adopted by the Thai prawn production industry, and the work has considerable potential impact.

For further information please contact Prof Colin Robinson direct.. Applications will be considered until the deadline of 10 June 2018. Interviews will be held at the Kent site in the week of18 June 2018.

To apply please go to the University online application page: https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/how-to-apply/

Background Information
Kent has established a Global Challenges Doctoral Centre (GCDC) dedicated to doctoral research addressing the challenges of economic development and well-being faced by developing countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.
The GCDC will become the nucleus of Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) activities at Kent and provide a virtual and physical “location” to discuss and undertake research which identifies solutions to global challenges.
The University is delighted to be able to offer its first GCDC doctoral scholarships commencing in the 2018/19 academic year. GCDC scholars will receive the following:

  • Annual stipend at UKRI rates (£14,777 for 2018/19)
  • Annual tuition Fees at UKRI Home/EU rates (£4,260 for 2018/19)
  • A minimum research training support grant of £3500
  • Specialised interdisciplinary GCDC cohort training activities

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Kent has been extremely successful in attracting GCRF funding. It was one of only two universities nationally to have both of its proposals funded in the first RCUK Collective Fund round (2016), with projects led by Professor Elena Korosteleva, School of Politics and International Relations (GCRF COMPASS project on capacity-building in Belarus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan & Tajikistan) and Professor Colin Robinson, School of Biosciences (GCRF project on the establishment of biopharmaceutical and animal vaccine production capacity in Thailand and SE Asia).

 

 

Full jointly funded PhD, EPSRC and School of Biosciences

Using Global Data to Identify Hotspots for Newly Emerging Infectious Diseases

PhD in Computational Biology
Supervisor: Dr Jeremy Rossman / Prof Julio Hernandez-Castro

The past 20 years have seen the emergence of multiple new pathogenic viruses around the world. Some are existing pathogens that have emerged in new forms or in new locations, whilst others are new organisms that have never been seen before. The global health community is able to rapidly identify and frequently contain outbreaks of known pathogens in expected locations; however, surveillance for and containment of unknown pathogens in unanticipated locations is much more challenging. As a result, outbreaks of newly emergent pathogens often spread rapidly, leading to significant loss of life.

This PhD project will determine the pre-existing ecological, meteorological, geological and socioeconomic factors that correlate with the emergence of novel infectious viral diseases, and analyse these data using cutting-edge machine learning algorithms in order to predict hotspots for the next emerging viral disease, thus facilitating enhanced surveillance and rapid containment. This is a collaborative project between the Schools of Biosciences and Computing and students with degrees in either biology- or computing-related fields are welcome to apply, however, a basic familiarity with programming languages is required.

Funding: The studentship will pay an annual stipend at the UK Research Council rate of £14,777 (rate for 2018/2019) and cover tuition fees at the rate for UK/ EU students.. To be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme (for EU applicants this includes time spent studying)

HOW TO APPLY:
Applications can be made using the online University application page where the project title should be entered as the proposed area of research and Dr Jeremy Rossman as supervisor. Please include a CV and a cover letter.

Applications must be received by 31 May 2018

Further scholarship details can be found at: https://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/search/FNADEPSRCS02

 

 

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Enquiries: Phone: +44 (0)1227 823743

School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NJ

Last Updated: 21/05/2018