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Development of CRISPR/Cas9 Gene-Editing for Raspberry Breeding

Cranfield University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bedfordshire
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £15,609 (stipend) plus fees for 4 years
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 17th November 2021
Closes: 28th February 2022
Reference: SWEE0168

Duration : 4 years

Supervisors: 1st Supervisor: Dr Zoltan Kevei  2nd Supervisor: Prof Andrew Thompson

Sponsored by Edward Vinson Ltd, this studentship will provide a stipend of £15,609, plus fees for 4 years.

A fully-funded PhD studentship is offered through a collaboration between Cranfield University (CU) and Edward Vinson Ltd (EV), a soft fruit breeding company based in Kent. Gene Editing technologies now offer a powerful and straightforward route to crop improvement, providing a step change in opportunities for plant breeders. The UK Government has plans to unlock the power of Gene Editing by creating a more permissive regulatory framework for these technologies following our departure from the EU. The aim of the project is to develop and validate Gene Editing methods that work efficiently in EV’s elite raspberry cultivars.

The aim of the project is to establish CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing in raspberry and to then use this technology to improve key traits. The student will develop two different in vitro transformation protocols to deliver Gene Editing in raspberry: i) Agrobacterium tumefaciens infection of tissue explants; ii) transfection of protoplasts with DNA-free ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex. The latter method prevents foreign DNA from being integrated into the raspberry genome and is more suitable for commercial applications of clonally propagated crops. To test these methods, the student will design and generate CRISPR/Cas9 constructs to target the phytoene desaturase gene as a visible marker of successful Gene Editing. Once the methods are established, target genes for crop improvement in raspberry (e.g. fruit quality and shelf-life) will be selected based on literature and an in-house, high quality genome assembly; these targets will be Gene Edited in the laboratory and then phenotypic effects assessed in CU’s glasshouses.  

The first outcome of the project will be the establishment of a CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing platform in raspberry, expanding the range of tools available for EV’s breeding ambitions and generating new opportunities for crop improvement. Assessment of the Gene Edited lines produced in the project will increase our understanding of the functional role of specific genes in commercially relevant raspberry traits and will lead to peer-reviewed publications; the Gene Edited lines may also be used in EV’s breeding programme to create new cultivars for sale.

On completion of the PhD the student will have a deep understanding of plant molecular biology in general, be a specialist in Gene Editing, and be an expert in raspberry crop science and biology. The student will have developed a strong network within the academic community and with commercial plant breeders, having a full understanding of how commercial soft fruit breeding operates; they will have developed their research and transferable skills.

Entry requirements

First- or second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. Suited to graduates of the Life Sciences and Agricultural Sciences. Practical experience in genetics, molecular biology and/or plant breeding are desirable, but not essential.

Funding

To be eligible for this funding, applicants must be a UK national.

How to apply

For further information: Dr Zoltan Kevei
Email:
z.l.kevei@cranfield.ac.uk
T:
(0) 1234 750111

To apply, please complete the online application form.

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