Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Using Synthetic Biology to engineer novel cell lines for drug discovery and testing

A postdoctoral research associate position for three years is available as part of the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology in the lab of Professor Susan Rosser at the University of Edinburgh. The project is to conduct key research on using synthetic biology to develop a suite of mammalian cell lines for drug discovery and testing applications. The project will focus on generating in vivo biosensors, genetic logic gate circuits for information rich cellular read outs informing on cell state and the impact of small molecule drugs and therapeutic proteins and peptides. This is an exciting and ambitious project that aims to use cutting edge Synthetic Biology (SB) approaches to develop novel systems for phenotypic (cell-based) drug screening.

Candidates should hold (or be about to receive) a PhD in synthetic biology, drug discovery and testing, mammalian cell biology, stem cell biology, molecular biology, molecular genetics or a related area. Research experience involving one or more of the following is desirable: synthetic biology, mammalian cell engineering, drug discovery and testing, mammalian stem cell transformation and tissue culture, epigenetics, genetic characterisation.

We expect to interview in mid to late August.

Informal enquiries to Professor Susan Rosser
1. Job Details

Job title: Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Using Synthetic Biology to engineer novel cell lines for drug discovery and testing

School / Support Department: Biological Sciences

Unit: Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology

Line Manager: Prof Susan Rosser

2. Job Purpose

Conduct key laboratory research on using synthetic biology to develop a suite of mammalian cell lines for drug discovery and testing applications. The project will focus on generating in vivo biosensors, genetic logic gate circuits for information rich cellular read outs informing on cell state and the impact of small molecule drugs and therapeutic proteins and peptides.

3. Main Responsibilities

As a member of a research group or project team, under the direction of the group leader and Project Manager:
1. Take responsibility for planning and conducting experimental program of research on developing and utilising synthetic biology tools for the development of novel cell lines for drug discovery and testing (approx. 65% of time)
2. Make conference presentations and write papers as agreed with PI. (approx. 20% of time)
3. Present regular updates via lab meetings and discussions with PI and other members of the Synthetic Biology Research Centres. (approx. 5% of time)
4. Manage project ordering (approx. 5% of time)
5. Provide advice and assistance for junior staff and research students as required (approx. 5% of time)

4. Planning and Organising

Work will be under the direction of the PI via regular meetings. Job holder will need to be highly organised in order to ensure efficient progress. You will undertake research to design, build and test tools for mammalian synthetic biology and drug testing.
You will analyse the results quantitatively with appropriate statistics if necessary, suggest alternative interpretations, support them by reference to contemporary sources, and design new experiments to test the conclusions.

5. Problem Solving

Experimental problems will be resolved by the post-holder working independently, and soliciting input from both internal and external collaborators.
Equipment problems that impact upon the research will be resolved with the SynthSys managers and technical staff.
The post-holder will also contribute to identifying and minimising project risks, such as the emergence of international competitors.

6. Decision Making

You will make decisions about the planning and development of your work on a day-to-day basis, reporting to and consulting with the PI, and discussing progress on at least a weekly basis. Any decision on changes to overall research methodology or direction would be referred to the PI.

7. Key Contacts/Relationships

The project is a team effort involving the Rosser research group and external collaborators. You will interact with other groups in the Lab, Centre, SynthSys and the School of Biological Sciences to ensure smooth, safe and efficient functioning of the laboratory.

1. The post-holder will form close ties with collaborative partners in the project to enable the clear definition of objectives, technical support, a close working relationship and the appropriate distribution of resources.
2. The post-holder will communicate regularly with Prof Rosser and collaborators in order to clarify requirements, discuss budgetary requirements and report on progress.
3. The post-holder will communicate regularly with SBRC and SynthSys colleagues in order to integrate the complementary skills and expertise of colleagues.
4. Workshop staff, Estates and Buildings staff for repairs to equipment, services etc School and Institute Safety officers for best practices, information etc

8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job

Essential
1. A PhD in synthetic biology, drug discovery and testing, mammalian cell biology, stem cell biology, molecular biology, molecular genetics or a related area.
2. Research experience involving one or more of the following - synthetic biology, mammalian cell engineering, drug discovery and testing, mammalian stem cell transformation and tissue culture, epigenetics, genetic characterisation.
3. Experience with one or more of the following: CRISPR Cas, TALEs, biosensors.
4. Proven ability in team working, preferably cross-disciplinary teamwork.
5. Excellent communication and writing skills are essential.

9. Dimensions

1. The project will involve collaborative research work in interdisciplinary teams.
2. Produce first author and collaborative publications
3. Presentation of regular progress reports to Rosser research group and collaborators

10. Job Context and any other relevant information

Prof Rosser (is the director of the recently funded BBSRC/EPSRC/MRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre , hosted by the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Our Centre will pioneer the development of the essential tools and technologies needed to realize the full potential of synthetic biology for industrial biotechnology applications, mammalian cell biology and human medicine. The Centre will build capability in the design, construction and testing of synthetic components, integrated into the cellular host, to produce desirable outputs in a robust and predictable manner. With world-leading faculty members drawn from the Biological Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Informatics and Social Sciences, the Centre offers an exciting and collaborative research environment. Excellent facilities are available including computational biology, molecular genetics, biochemistry and biophysics, contemporary ‘omics technologies, and DNA synthesis.

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are in urgent need of new tools to improve drug discovery. Large investments in automation have enabled the costs and turnaround time for large to medium-scale primary molecular screening to fall significantly, but the gap between lead compound identification and success in the clinic is still wide. Research and development expenditure in this area has increased by 80% in the last few years; however, productivity has decreased by 43% due to clinical failures (liver toxicity alone has cost the industry over $2 billion in the last decade), high drug attrition rates and adverse effects (Crawford, 2010). Animal models are the best physiological systems to evaluate drug efficacy and toxicity, but are costly, time-consuming and fraught with ethical issues. There are also well-documented uncertainties for some diseases regarding translatability to human physiology. With advances in methods for human stem cell culture, together with genome editing technologies, there is now a unique opportunity to develop more accurate and disease relevant human cellular models that can be exploited in phenotypic, cell-based, screening. Phenotypic screening using human stem cells and their derivatives provides a new paradigm for rapidly screening and identifying the molecular and cellular perturbations associated with a specific disease model, or for toxicology studies. With iPS cell technology there is also the possibility that cellular models can be generated from individuals with a variety of genetic diseases, drug susceptibilities and resistances, offering the exciting possibility of a "clinical trial in a dish" and precision molecular interventions.

This is an exciting and ambitious project that aims to use cutting edge Synthetic Biology (SB) approaches to develop novel synthetic biosensor genetic circuits and synthetic tissue models to generate new platforms for phenotypic (cell-based) drug screening.

Application Procedure

All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments. You will be notified by email whether you have been shortlisted for interview or not.

The closing date is 5pm GMT on 12 August 2016.

Eligibility to Work

In accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK).

To do so, the University of Edinburgh requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

For further information on eligibility to work please visit our eligibility to work website

If you are not currently eligible to work in the UK, the University has the authority to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa) in accordance with current UK Visas and Immigration rules.

For applicants interested in sponsorship information is available on our working in the UK website

However, if you have previously been sponsored by an employer within the UK but your leave has expired or lapsed and you are no longer in the UK, according to Home Office Visa Immigration rules you cannot apply for sponsorship under any category of Tier 2 for a period of 12 months after the date your visa expired and/or you left the UK.

If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts and come from outside the EEA, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route offers a greater flexibility in your employment compared to other UK immigration routes, meaning you can, for example, move organisation, location and/or job role. By contrast with, a Tier 2 visa where you are ‘tied to a UK sponsor’. Tier 1 provides greater flexibility in undertaking additional engagements, such as collaborations and is intended as a route to settlement. Allowed absences from the UK are up to 180 days per year without losing the eligibility to qualify for settlement, with no restriction on the reason for absence (unlike Tier 2, where any absences from the UK must be for a purpose consistent with the person’s employment or economic activity, including paid annual leave, or for serious or compelling personal reasons).

You would initially need to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK).

Tier1 (Exceptional and Exceptional Promise) Endorsement Criteria

Once successfully endorsed, you are able to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. More information on this entry route is available at UKVI website.

Conditions of Employment
Pension Scheme

This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

For further information please visit our Pensions website.

Salary

The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £31,656 to £37,768 for 35 hours each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month.

The University reserves the right to vary the candidate information or make no appointment at all. Neither in part, nor in whole does this information form part of any contract between the University and any individual.

UoE Vacancy Ref: 

036693

Closing Date: 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Contact Name: 

Contact Email: 

Contact Telephone: 

+44 (0)131 650 8126