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PhD Opportunity - Computational design of DNAzymes as Novel Therapeutic Molecules

University of Essex - School of Biological Sciences (lead) and School of Computing Science and Electronic Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Colchester
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th March 2019
Closes: 6th May 2019
Reference: 11256

A Brief Overview of the Studentship

This studentships is with School of Biological Sciences (lead), School of Computing Science and Electronic Engineering. Gene therapy has become the paradigm of disease treatment. We propose to utilise DNAzymes, short pieces of DNA capable of cleaving RNA, as novel therapeutics to target disease-related transcripts. DNAzymes can be designed to target any disease-causing factor within the cell, blocking its production and inhibiting the pathway. Clinical trials for asthma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma have shown that DNAzymes have a good efficacy and that they are safe. We have made significant progress in the development of a treatment option for prostate cancer. However, the development of DNAzymes has been hampered by the lack of tools to assist with their design. This proposal aims to resolve this lack of tools. The student will develop algorithms and computer tools to the efficient design of DNAzymes. The biological relevance of designed DNAzymes and their efficacy will be evaluated in the lab.


This is a multisciplinary project supervised by academics from two different departments. The primary supervisor will be Antonio Marco, who will oversees the algorithm and program developments, with advice from the other supervisors. Greg Brooke will be mostly involved in the experimental testing of the designed molecules and Luca Citi in the implementation of algorithms to increase the efficiency of the designed molecules. Information about the project supervisors and their research interest can be found at their University web profiles:

Antonio Marco:

Greg Brooke:

Luca Citi:

Please apply online via

Please upload with your application a CV, a covering letter, a personal statement and transcripts of any undergraduate or masters programmes.

Important information! When submitting the application you should write in the section “Proposed research topic or area of interest” the title of this PhD project (Computational design of DNAzymes as novel therapeutic molecules), and in the box “ If you have contacted a potential supervisor to discuss your application or research proposal, please provide the person’s full name” add the name of the primary supervisor (Antonio Marco).

Detailed funding information

The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (see for further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.

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