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Research Associate in Microbial Engineering and Synthetic Biology

Based at
University of York - Heslington Campus
Hours of work
Contract status
Fixed term
31,604 - 38,832 a year
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Role Description

Plants produce a wide array of secondary metabolites known as diterpenoids, some of which are currently used, or have potential in the pharmaceutical, fragrance, skin care and food industries. The ability to supply commercial quantities of these compounds is, however, hampered by the fact they are often produced in minute quantities or in plants not amenable to horticulture.  The development of heterologous systems for the production of diterpenoids would allow the scalable production of these natural products.

We have a vacancy for a postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) with skills in molecular biology and interests in biotechnology to develop production platforms for plant-derived, high value diterpenoids.  The project builds on recent discoveries of diterpenoid biosynthetic enzymes in Professor Ian Graham’s group in the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York. The post is to continue to develop yeast as a production platform, working alongside another PDRA developing tobacco as a production platform, both focussing initially on upregulating terpenoid biosynthesis in these organisms, followed by the introduction of genes for specialized metabolism to produce chemicals of interest to industrial partners. The project is funded by an Industrial Biotechnology catalyst award from the BBSRC and Innovate UK and is a collaborative project between the Universities of York, Cambridge and Reading, with significant input from Industry partners.  The post is fixed term for up to 2 years.

You will be responsible for engineering of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) for the production of diterpenoids using a combination of classical techniques and synthetic biology. You will be expected to design, construct and screen combinatorial libraries of alternative pathway assemblies and test them in flask scale and pilot scale fermenters.  In parallel you will be expected to collaborate with other PDRAs on the project developing other expression platforms (plant and algae) to optimise diterpenoid expression. As well as holding a PhD in microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry or a related field, you should have extensive and proven experience in recombinant DNA methods and genetic manipulation andhave strong background in molecular biology and gene expression. Experience of the genetic manipulation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, use of synthetic biology approaches and knowledge of secondary metabolism and metabolic engineering are all highly desirable.  You should be enthusiastic and highly motivated and able to work both independently and as part of a team. 

To enquire informally about this position, please contact Professor Ian Graham (; Judith Mitchell (  or the Biology DMT hub

Athena Swan Gold

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