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Department of Pharmacology

 

Information on all current research studentships vacancies can also be found on the Jobs page of our website.


Using antibody modulators to understand GABA-A receptor subtype contributions to fear and anxiety 

Applicants are invited for an interdisciplinary Pinsent Darwin/SBS DTP PhD studentship centred around Mental Health: addressing problems which may have a bearing on mental health, diseases, or disorders, hosted jointly by the Miller lab in the Department of Pharmacology and the Milton lab in the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge. The Miller lab studies antibodies that behave like small molecule drugs against GABA-A receptors, and the Milton lab understands the actions of drugs in animal behavioural models including anxiety and fear. GABA-A receptors are the principal mediators of inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS) and small molecule positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) such as benzodiazepines treat generalized anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, these drugs lack selectivity between subtypes and this limits treatment potential. Antibody modulators offer improved selectivity so the aim of this project is to produce suitable antibody variants in the Miller lab and explore their potential for the treatment of mental health disorders in the Milton lab by characterising effects on animal behaviour. This work will include the testing of a specialised shuttle system to transport antibodies from the bloodstream across the blood brain barrier (BBB) into the central nervous system (CNS). 


Neuroimmune regulation of gut function

Applicants are invited for a PhD studentship based in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge in partnership with Metrion Biosciences. Recent data from our single-cell RNAseq study of colonic neurones has provided comprehensive insight into the previously unrecognised diversity of mediator expression with different sensory nerve populations and opportunity for interaction with a diverse range of cell populations and signalling pathways within the bowel. One clear example of this interaction is bidirectional neuroimmune signalling based on the marked expression of cytokines, chemokines and their receptors in sensory neurons, and control of the local immune response, gut-brain signalling, barrier function and host-pathogen defence. The student will build on these studies utilising the extensive experience of Metrion Biosciences in ion channel drug discovery to investigate further the role of TRPA1 in the activation of gut nociceptors by cytokines and their bidirectional regulation of gut barrier function in mouse and human tissue and IPSCs.


Deciphering the molecular basis of amylin receptor-mediated satiation as an obesity treatment

Applicants are invited for a PhD studentship based in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge in partnership with AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca has previously identified novel agonistic peptides that showed both amylin peptide-like, a significantly higher efficacy towards the AMY3R (RAMP3+CTR) over the CTR and balanced dual agonist properties. This library of 2000 peptides is an enormous resource to enable the determination of the molecular determinates that govern AMY3R agonist selectivity. To achieve this, the student will use a multidisciplinary approach combining in silico approaches like free energy calculations and molecular dynamic simulations, molecular pharmacology techniques (including fluorescent ligand binding, and G protein selectivity assays, and receptor isoform selectivity assays) supported by peptide synthesis and in vivo translation in a model of acute food intake, food preference and obesity.


Characterisation of new cellular pathways reversing cellular ageing

Applicants are invited for a PhD studentship based in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge in partnership with Altos Labs Cambridge. This PhD project will therefore investigate the molecular mechanism behind this rescue, initially focusing on the top five hits from a recent "anti-ageing" CRISPR screen. This work will explore the mechanisms by which gene depletion or chemical inhibition reverses cellular ageing, using fibroblasts from several healthy aged individuals as well as rejuvenated fibroblasts, evaluating the impact of knocking out the hits on several ageing readouts.


Novel methods for the rational development of molecular glues

Applications are invited for 3.5-year PhD studentship based in the Department of Pharmacology University of Cambridge and the new AstraZeneca Discovery Centre at Cambridge. The student will be working on a collaborative project jointly supervised by Prof Laura Itzhaki in Pharmacology and Dr Mark McAlister at AstraZeneca and will work across the two sites. The project, entitled 'Novel methods for the rational development of molecular glues', is in the field of targeted protein degradation, an emerging area of drug discovery that has generated much excitement in both academia and industry.


Designing self-assembling multi-functional biomolecular condensates to sense disease causing proteins in the cell and target them for degradation

Applicants are invited for a PhD studentship based in the Department of Pharmacology University of Cambridge and in collaboration with industry partner Transition Bio. The project, entitled 'Designing self-assembling multi-functional biomolecular condensates to sense disease causing proteins in the cell and target them for degradation' will exploit our artificial condensate designs, consisting of “molecular adhesives” to drive LLPS combined with our versatile consensus-designed tetratricopeptide repeats (CTPRs) to engineer in multitarget binding properties, to study how the BC environment alters protein-protein interactions, condensate formation and stability, both in vitro and in cells, and is vital in the ubiquitin-proteasome system and
autophagy-related LLPS.


Dr David James Studentship

davidjamesBW

During his life, Dr James was a well-respected Departmental Administrator. His legacy provides scholarships for the most gifted postgraduates to pursue focused and original research. The David James Studentship has provided full financial support for a number of PhD students within the Department since October 2011.

Via PhD studentships, the David James Fund is supporting the next generation of Cambridge pharmacologists, whose work will be crucial to developing better treatments for diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and Crohn's disease.

Dr James' legacy also supports the David James Annual Lecture Series.

 


Awardee Biographies

Roberta Cacioppo

David James PhD Studentship, 2019-2023

I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnologies from the University of Palermo in Italy, during which I studied the role for a long non-coding RNA in regulating TBPH subcellular localization.

I carried out my MSc research in the group of Dr. Rousseau at the MRC PPU in Dundee, where I identified a novel regulator of the selective translation of proteasome assembly chaperones during cellular stress.

I joined the Lindon Lab in 2019 as a David James PhD Student, and I’m currently studying the post-transcriptional regulation of the cell cycle regulator Aurora Kinase A. I am greatly enjoying the scientific and cultural diversity that our Department offers, which has allowed me to widen my technical skillset and work in a stimulating environment.

I like to spend my free time outside the lab socializing, cooking, and travelling.

 

Rosie Waters

AstraZeneca-David James PhD Studentship, 2017-2021

My PhD, co-funded by David James Studentship and AstraZeneca, was focused on understanding the structure and function of the protein syncollin, and it covered both protein structural studies and physiological assays, including work with bacteria and neutrophils.

What I enjoyed most about my PhD was the variety of experimental techniques, which allowed many opportunities for collaboration and a broader skillset to be acquired.

I am now putting these skills to good use in the in vitro pharmacology group of a neuroscience biotech company.