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PhD studentship: Development and application of recombinant antibodies to map pathology-related changes in glycosaminoglycans on breast cancer cells

Veterinary Medicine & Science

Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Wednesday 14 August 2024
Reference:  MED2008

Project title: Development and application of recombinant antibodies to map pathology-related changes in glycosaminoglycans on breast cancer cells

Principal supervisor: Professor Kevin Gough

Other supervisors: Professor Cathy Merry, Dr Cinzia Allegrucci, Dr Jennifer Ashworth, Dr Kieran Pitchers

Background: The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science undertakes a wide range of research from fundamental biology to population studies. The research undertaken at the School is integrated into the University structure with established world class research in biomedical sciences.  

Project description: The PhD student will join an extensive team of scientists delivering a BBSRC strategic Longer and Larger project, GlycoWeb. The team includes research groups from The University of Nottingham, Liverpool University, Manchester University, and the Francis Crick Institute, alongside international (USA and Denmark) and commercial (InterReality Labs) partners. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are a class of biomolecules that decorate the surface of virtually all cells in the body. They play critical roles in a multitude of biological processes, including cell signalling and development, and are known to be dysregulated in disease, including cancers. Despite their ubiquity and clear importance, we lack a thorough understanding of how the molecular structure of a particular GAG links to its biological function. To compound this problem, there is currently a lack of tools with which to detect and characterise GAGs in tissues and on cells. 

This studentship will aim to isolate a range of recombinant antibodies that bind to GAGs, producing highly specific probes. The post will use the very latest developments in antibody phage display technology, coupling the binding of vast antibody-phage libraries containing billions of potential binders with the screening power of next generation sequencing (a process termed next generation phage display, NGPD). The studentship will apply NGPD to target cell surface GAGs from breast cancer cell populations, identify specific binders, clone and express binders and finally, characterise binding against breast cancer cell populations and defined GAG structures. You will be embedded within a highly active phage-display group at the University of Nottingham and have the opportunity to interact with the whole Glycoweb team, visit collaborator’s labs and extend your research knowledge and collaborator network. 

Further information and Application

Applicants should have a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate biological science degree or a minimum of a 2.2 degree and a Master’s degree in a related subject. 

Informal enquiries may be addressed to the principal supervisor: Professor Kevin Gough 

Candidates should apply online and include a CV.  When completing the online application form, please select the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, then PhD Molecular Medicine (and Complex Diseases) (48m) and, once submitted, send your student ID number to

Any queries regarding the application process should be addressed to

Start Date: 

Dec 1st or as soon as possible thereafter

Closing date

The position will be filled when suitable candidates have been identified.  Early application is strongly encouraged.

Eligibility for Funding

This is a fully funded studentship open to UK nationals.   

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