EASTBIO DTP has one fully funded CASE studentships at the University of Edinburgh (College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine) available to UK and EU nationals interested in pursuing a PhD in the priority areas of 'Agriculture and Food Security' or 'World Class Underpinned Bioscience', starting in September 2019. To be eligible, you must either have or expect to obtain a 1st or a 2.1 undergraduate degree and fulfill the BBSRC residency criteria. For full funding, EU nationals must have resided in the UK for three years immediately prior to commencing the studentship. Please read carefully the UKRI eligibility criteria, sections 6 & 7 (paragraphs 15-18) and Annex 1 here.
If you have any queries, please email EASTBIO Enquiries.
The closing date for applications is 1 April 2019.
List of projects
Project title: Genetic improvement for small holder dairy cattle systems in Senegal
We are offering a fully funded PhD studentship to research key questions that will underpin the establishment of a genetic improvement program for small holder dairy cattle systems in Senegal.
The government of Senegal has initiated a National Program for Livestock Development (PNDE) seeking to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of animal-source foods and increase the economic vitality of the value chain by 2026. Improving the productivity and competitiveness of the livestock sector is a key component of the plan. Together with colleagues, we have recently performed trade-off analysis on different smallholder dairy cattle production systems in Senegal. We identified that indigenous Zebu by Bos Taurus crossbred animals, kept under good management, represent a promising dairy system as long as measures are put in place to ensure a year-round supply of safe animal feed. We also identified a need to establish a national dairy cattle breeding scheme aimed at providing genetically superior crossbred bulls and cows and this PhD studentship will contribute to the initial design of this scheme.
The successful applicant will: (i) analyse existing survey data to identify breeding goals; (ii) use the results of this analysis to design data collection strategies for crossbred cows in small holder systems; (iii) design of a genetic evaluation system; and (iv) use stochastic simulation to optimise the design of the breeding scheme.
This PhD-candidate will be supervised by John Hickey at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK and Karen Marshall at The International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. The candidate will be primarily based at one of the two institutes, dependent of the candidates choice, and will have an opportunity to spend periods of time at the other institutes. The student can also enrol as an ILRI Graduate Fellow. Both the supervisors and the candidate will be members of the Centre For Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health.
Project title: Vascular-targeted gene therapy to block proliferation of smooth muscle cells using a novel adenovirus vector
Many strategies have emerged to improve the function of the blood vessel wall following acute injury, including targeting endothelial cell function, vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration and adventitial progenitor cells. microRNA are small non-coding RNA that have the capacity to target many hundreds of genes through targeting seed sequences in the 3'UTR. We have shown the miRNA are essential in vascular smooth muscle cell function and development of vascular remodelling (Deng 2015/MacDonald2013). We have identified novel miRNA that have the capacity to block vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation. A major step forward would be the development of novel approaches to deliver therapeutic miRNA into the vessel wall by virus-based delivery approaches. Working with the Dr Havenga over many years has facilitated the development of novel aderiovirus-based vectors for gene therapy (Waddington Cell, 2008).
Recently, we have identified, purified and tested a novel human adenovirus vector that displays effective delivery of genes to endothelial cells but very restricted delivery to th liver - the main site of adenovirus vector accumulation. Further, this virus shows very low levels of pre-existing neutralisation in the general population (approximately 10% vs 60% for human adenovirus 5) making this a very attractive virus for application to human gene therapy. In this project we will, therefore, test this vector (and other novel promising vectors that become available during the course of the project) in the setting of vascular gene therapy post injury of the vasculature. The project will therefore have outstanding training potential in:
• Virology, vector construction and propagation
• In vitro cell culture of vascular cells
• In vivo models of acute vascular injury and delivery of virus
• Evaluation of therapeutic miRNA in vivo.
The project additionally benefits from a collaboration on the development of therapeutic miRNA with the Giacca lab in Trieste, Italy.