Development and application of recombinant antibodies to map pathology-related changes in glycosaminoglycans on breast cancer cells

University of Nottingham

The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science (SVMS) undertakes a wide range of research from improving knowledge of fundamental biological processes, disease control including developing diagnostics and therapeutics, through to animal health and welfare, and population studies. The research undertaken at the School is relevant to both Veterinary Medicine and Science, and also Comparative and Human Medicine. SVMS research is integrated into the University structure with established world class research in biomedical sciences.   

The PhD student will join an extensive team of scientists delivering a BBSRC strategic Longer and Larger project, GlycoWeb. The team includes research groups from The University of Nottingham, Liverpool University, Manchester University, and the Francis Crick Institute, alongside international (USA and Denmark) and commercial (InterReality Labs) partners. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are a class of biomolecules that decorate the surface of virtually all cells in the body as well as in the ‘matrix’ between cells. They have been shown to play critical roles in a multitude of biological processes, including cell signalling and development, host-pathogen interactions, and are known to be dysregulated in disease, including cancers. Despite their ubiquity and clear importance, we lack a thorough understanding of how the molecular structure of a particular GAG links to its biological function. To compound this problem, there is currently a lack of tools with which to detect and characterise GAGs in tissues and on cells.  

The purpose of this studentship will be to isolate a range of recombinant antibodies that bind to GAGs, producing highly specific probes for application in understanding the distribution and function of GAG structures that are specific to breast cancer cells. The post will use the very latest developments in antibody phage display technology, coupling the binding of vast antibody-phage libraries containing billions of potential binders with the screening power of next generation sequencing. This process is termed next generation phage display (NGPD) and can interrogate hundreds of thousands of binding events within single experiments to identify antibodies with specific interaction. The studentship will apply NGPD to target cell surface GAGs from breast cancer cell populations, identify specific binders, clone and express binders and finally, characterise binding against cell populations and defined GAG structures. You will be embedded within a highly active phage-display group at the University of Nottingham and have the opportunity to interact with the whole Glycoweb team, visit collaborator’s labs and extend your research knowledge and collaborator network.  

Further information and Application 

Applicants should have a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate biological science degree or a minimum of a 2.2 degree and a Master’s degree in a related subject.  

Informal enquiries may be addressed to the principal supervisor: Professor Kevin Gough  

Candidates should apply online and include a CV.  When completing the online application form, please select the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, then PhD Molecular Medicine (and Complex Diseases) (48m) and, once submitted, send your student ID number to

Any queries regarding the application process should be addressed to

Start Date:  

Dec 1st or as soon as possible thereafter 

Closing date:  

The position will be filled when suitable candidates have been identified.  Early application is strongly encouraged. 

To help us track our recruitment effort, please indicate in your email – cover/motivation letter where ( you saw this posting.

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