Investigating the role of RNA-binding proteins in leukaemic stem cells

Application deadline: 9 February 2024

Start date: April 2024 (preferably) or September 2024

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship fully funded by Cancer Research UK based in the Barts Cancer Institute at the Queen Mary University of London, under the supervision of Dr Diu Nguyen, starting April / May 2024 (preferably) or September 2024. The successful candidate will be based at Barts Cancer Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (FMD), Charterhouse Square in the City of London.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Diu Nguyen

Centre for Haemato-Oncology

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive hematological malignancy with a 5-year survival rate of only ~30%. AML is propagated by leukemia stem cells, which can self-renew and evade chemotherapy and induce relapse (Lapidot T., et al. 1994. Nature). Thus, to allow for more effective treatment of AML, it is critical to identify and target novel functional pathways regulating LSCs. RNA binding proteins (RBPs) have recently emerged as new critical regulators in stem cells. RBPs are central arbiters of post-transcriptional processes including RNA processing, degradation and translation. Mutations and aberrant expression of RBPs have been implicated in AML (Nguyen D., et al. 2020. Nat. Commun; Prieto and Nguyen et al. 2021. Nat. Cancer). Importantly, the identification of dysregulated RBPs in leukemia has led to a rapid development of RBP-directed therapeutic strategies (Prieto C., et al. 2020. CSHL perspective in medicine). We initially identified a novel non-canonical RNA binding protein as one of the top hits in a screen for essential regulators of AML LSCs. To investigate further, we have successfully developed a conditional knockout mouse model targeting the RBP. Combining this novel tool with phenotypic assays, single cell multi-omic approaches and cutting-edge molecular biology techniques, we will address the RBP functional role in AML leukaemogenesis and normal haematopoiesis,and elucidate its molecular mechanism in leukaemic stem cells.

Academic Entry Requirements

Applicants should hold (or be expecting to obtain) the equivalent of a UK 2.1 or higher in an undergraduate honours degree or a Masters degree in a relevant subject such as cancer biology, molecular biology and epigenetics. Experience in working with mouse models and computational biology is highly desirable.

English Language Requirements

Applicants for whom English is not a first language will also require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with 6.0 in the written component) or equivalent, unless your undergraduate degree was studied in, and awarded by, an English speaking country. For more information on acceptable English language qualifications please see here.

Fee Status

The studentship is open to those eligible for the Home rate of University tuition fees.

The studentship includes the following funding for 4 years:

  • A tax-free annual stipend of £23,000
  • Tuition fees at the Home rate
  • Project consumables

Only UK students or international students who qualify for UK Home fees (settled status) may apply.

To apply you will need to complete an online application form. Please select the 'Non-Clinical PhD' option.

The following supporting documents will be required as part of your application:

  • Your CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Details of 2 referees
  • Copy of your transcript(s), including a breakdown of marks
  • Copy of your passport
  • If applicable, proof of English proficiency

If you have a question about the project, or would like to arrange an informal discussion, please contact the supervisor directly (subject ‘PhD applicant’). For general enquiries about the PhD studentship or application process please contact the Teaching Office.

Successfully shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview at Barts Cancer Institute.