I completed my undergraduate studies at Durham University, graduating with an MBiol in Biosciences. In my final year project, I worked with Leishmania mexicana parasites and focussed on the identification of novel antileishmanial compounds of both natural and synthetic origin.
My key interests in microbiology, biochemistry and therapeutic development, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with the industrial partner CHAIN Biotechnology, drew me to this PhD project. In view of the rapidly growing understanding of the human gut microbiome and the interactions within it, I was particularly interested in the application of a probiotic bacterium in the treatment of gut-related diseases.
The industrial partner for my project, CHAIN Biotechnology, is responsible for the development of the Clostridium Assisted Drug Delivery (CADD) platform. This is based upon a single Clostridium strain and enables targetted delivery of drugs to the colon. Engineered strains are manufactured as endospores for oral ingestion, which then germinate in the gut where they grow and secrete their bioactive molecules. However, the specific energy sources used by the bacteria for germination and outgrowth in the anaerobic colon are currently unknown.
In my project I will therefore study the metabolic protential of the species Clostridium butyricum, which includes the CADD organism, using comparitive genomic analysis of metabolic pathways and metabolic phenotyping. Information gained from this can then be used to evolve or engineer strains with altered residence time in the gut. As a further part of the project, I will engineer strains which are capable of rapid uptake and catabolism of sialic acid to short chain fatty acids, as these could be used to help prevent pathogen colonisation of the gut post-antibiotic treatment.
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