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PhD Studentship: Chemistry to Control the Immune System and Cancer (BEEKMANA_U24SCI50)

University of East Anglia - School of Pharmacy

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Fully funded
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 29th January 2024
Closes: 26th February 2024
Reference: BEEKMANA_U24SCI50

 Project description

Primary supervisor - Dr Andrew Beekman

One of the hallmarks of cancers is their ability to evade the immune system. Most tumours in the body are recognised and destroyed by the immune system, but cancer cells overproduce proteins which turn off the immune system. Two of the proteins which control this are Programmed Death-1 (PD-1) and Programmed Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1). Being able to control the interaction of these two proteins has led to treatments for many cancers, including lymphoma, melanoma, lung and renal cancer, and the award of the Nobel Prize in 2018. Antibodies are currently used to control this protein-protein interaction, but antibodies are expensive and can trigger undesired immune responses. If small, drug-like molecules could be found which control this protein-protein interaction then this treatment could become more widely available. However, finding small molecules which control massive proteins is very challenging with current techniques.

This PhD project aims to use a new technique, developed in our lab, to design small molecules which can control this protein-protein interaction. This chemical biology project will be interdisciplinary, involving training in the computational design and synthesis of peptides and small molecules, the analysis of compounds binding to proteins and their activity in cancer cells. Funded by LILAC (Ladies in League Against Cancer) in support of Big C Cancer Charity; and the UEA Science Faculty, and led by Dr Andrew Beekman and Professor Mark Searcey, there is an opportunity to learn medicinal chemistry, protein biophysics, cellular biology and structural biology, using facilities across the School of Pharmacy and Norwich Research Park.

Informal enquiries are welcomed - Dr Andrew Beekman 

Entry requirements

You will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or related area.

Funding

This 4 year PhD is jointly funded by the Faculty of Science and Big C studentship.  Funding is available to UK applicants only and comprises ‘home’ tuition fees and an annual stipend of £18,622 (for a maximum of 4 years).  

References

  1.    Beekman, O’Connell & Howell, Angew. Chem. 2017, 56, 10446
    2.    Beekman, Searcey et al., Chem. Sci. 2019, 10, 4502
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