ESR3: Lectins on polymer scaffolds for superselective targeting of cancer cells

Location: University of Leeds, UK

Supervisor Dr Ralf Richter

A major challenge in all cancer therapies is to selectively target tumour cells whilst leaving the healthy cells unaffected. Current treatment methods often produce significant side effects because they are unable to identify tumour cells with sufficient selectivity. The aim of this research project will be to develop a new generation of probes that are able to recognise specific cell types, such as cancer cells, with exquisite selectivity.

We have recently demonstrated that multivalent probes based on a flexible polymer scaffold can effectively discriminate surfaces based on the density of surface receptors (Dubacheva et al, PNAS, 2015, 112:5579). This ability is now termed ‘superselective targeting’ as it is superior to the conventional targeting methods which can discriminate cells by receptor type but not by the density of a given receptor. Superselective targeting is of particular interest for cancer cells where carbohydrate epitopes (glycan antigens) also present on normal cells are expressed at higher densities.

In this project, you will develop ‘superselective’ probes based on lectins (glycan-binding proteins) and polymer scaffolds and use these to demonstrate the superselective recognition of cancer cells. You will combine advanced protein biochemistry and bioconjugation techniques to engineer lectins and multivalent probes that recognise specifically the tumour-associated glycan antigens overexpressed on cancer cells. You will also design model cell surfaces that present the glycan antigens at defined densities, and use biophysical and cell biology techniques to evaluate superselective recognition of model cell surfaces and live cells. This project thus requires multiple disciplines to work hand in hand, and the synBiocarb network will provide the ideal training environment.

Applicants should meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have a Diploma and/or a Master Degree in physical chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical engineering or a closely related discipline.
  • Have less than 4 years research experience at the signature of the contract (measured from the time the Master’s degree has been obtained).
  • Not have a PhD already.
  • Not have resided or carried out main activity in United Kingdom for more than 12 months in the last 3 years immediately prior to the reference recruitment date.
  • Excellent knowledge of the English language (spoken and written / proficiency level)
  • A keen interest in multidisciplinary work.
  • Training on required laboratory techniques will be provided through the synBIOcarb network. However, a working experience in protein chemistry, surface biofunctionalization, biosurface analysis or cell biology is an advantage.

The ESR will be contractually employed by the University of Leeds and will be covered under the social security scheme. He or she will receive a Monthly Living Allowance plus a Mobility Allowance compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions.

Application procedure:

Candidates for this position (ESR3-FBSBM1107) must complete the online application form. In the supporting statements section, it is important to give specific examples for how you meet each criterion. As part of the online process, you will also need to upload a CV, cover letter and the names and contact details of 2 referees.

Informal inquiries can be made by e-mail to indicating reference ‘ESR3-FBSBM1107’ in the subject.

The deadline for application is 07/01/2019

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