Prof Melody Clark, British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Dr Kerry Howell, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth
Prof Mat Upton, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Plymouth
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most serious threats to global human health, resulting in 700,000 deaths per year. This figure is currently rising year on year. The O’Neill Report (2016) estimated that in the absence of strategies to combat AMR, by 2050 10 million lives per year will be lost, with a cumulative loss in economic output of $100 trillion. Hence, there is an urgent need to increase the number of effective antimicrobial drugs to defeat infections that have become resistant to existing medicines. Over the past three decades, over 70% of antibiotics and over 60% of anticancer agents in the clinic have been based on organism-derived compounds, mainly from microbial resources (Cragg & Newman, 2012). However, as the incidence of AMR has increased, new discoveries of bioactive compounds from well-known bacteria have fallen dramatically. Therefore extreme environments, such as the Antarctic, are increasingly seen as important sources of novel antimicrobials (Núñez-Montero & Barrientos, 2018).
This PhD will focus on investigation of microbial biodiversity associated with a range of Antarctic marine invertebrates (eg. Nudibranchs) and identification and characterisation of novel biomolecules. You will be joining a multidisciplinary team based in the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge and the UoP with a strong track record in Antarctic ecology, molecular biology and discovery of novel biomolecules from marine sources (Koch et al. 2019; Fonseca et al. 2017). You will also spend a secondment of up to 6 months at the Natural Products Department at GEOMAR, Kiel University, Germany, where you will conduct further bioassays and metabolomics analyses. In this PhD, you will screen and analyse diversity in Antarctic microbiomes and characterise associated metabolites to identify significant biological activities. You will be trained in microbial isolation, bioassays, amplicon sequencing laboratory techniques and the associated bioinformatics analysis in the UNIX environment, purification and extraction of metabolites and analysis of bioactive compounds using Mass Spectrometry.
Therefore, we are looking for a student with strong experience in molecular biology and/or biochemistry. An interest in Marine Biology is desirable. Some experience of the UNIX operating system is desirable, but full training will be provided.