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Phd Scholarship - Antibiotic Conjugates: Joining Together To Fight Antimicrobial Resistance


Any Industry
Source: uWorkin


UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Institute for Molecular Biology

Candidates will be supported within a large research group with multidisciplinary expertise. The world-class IMB research environment includes state-of-the-art facilities for drug discovery with active Institute wide and Divisional seminar programs (internal +external invited speakers, including students). IMB HDR students are provided travel funds, a vibrant student association (SIMBA) and volunteer opportunities (committees, IMB ambassador). Supervisor Blaskovich is Director of the Centre for Superbug Solutions, an interdisciplinary team of scientists from multiple research groups within the IMB. Its mission is to save lives through the discovery and development of new diagnostics and therapeutics to detect and treat antibiotic-resistant infections. The IMB provides an exceptional environment for this antimicrobial research, encompassing synthetic & medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and sequencing. Bacterial culture, screening and advanced assays are conducted in dedicated BSL-2 secure facilities, with four specialised microbiology laboratories and over 600 bacterial strains to advance antibiotic discovery and development.

The award

Supervisor – Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich

With a near-empty antibiotic pipeline and growing antimicrobial resistance, there is a global search for novel approaches to treat infections. This project will investigate three innovative new approaches to address this urgent unmet need, all based on a core concept where existing antibiotics are functionalised so they have a chemical handle that can be used to attach other moieties. It builds on an advanced platform of bespoke derivatised antibiotics that we have developed over the past five years. We are looking for a proficient and enthusiastic synthetic chemist interested in medicinal chemistry to work on different aspects of the overall project:

AIM 1. Antibiotic-antibiotic hybrids: Combine the power of two classes of antibiotics. Combination therapy, where two or more distinct drugs are co-administered, is routinely used to overcome resistance in diseases such as cancer and viral infections, but rarely used for bacterial infections. We will systematically link pairs of different antibiotics and compare these dual-acting covalent antibiotic-antibiotic hybrids against the matching non-linked combination to assess synergistic efficacy against resistant bacteria.

AIM 2. Antibiotic-adjuvant hybrids: Supplement antibiotic activity with other mechanisms. Antibiotics will be coupled with moieties that increase or supplement the parent antibiotic efficacy, creating antibiotic-conjugated adjuvants. Siderophores can increase antibiotic cellular penetration. Biofilm disrupting agents can improve the efficacy of antibiotics that struggle to penetrate and kill biofilms associated with resistance. Antivirulence factors target pathogen excretions that promote adhesion, invasion and colonisation.

AIM 3. Immune activation: Leverage the immune system to help fight infections. This aim will explore how we can activate the immune system to more effectively eliminate infections, by using antibiotics as markers that label bacteria for destruction by triggering an antibody-based immune response. Based on the Antibody Recruiting Molecule approach that has been developed for other diseases, we will functionalise surface-binding antibiotics by linking them to small molecules capable of eliciting an antibody response and bacterial killing by human phagocytes.

All three aims will rely on our expertise in antibiotic development to advance promising candidates through a validated progression of assays that assess both antimicrobial activity and drug-like properties, culminating in testing for in vivo efficacy, toxicity and pharmacokinetics.

A working knowledge of synthetic organic chemistry would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ. Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

This scholarship is open to Australian citizens, permanent residents and International students who are currently in Australia at the time of application and commencement.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of chemistry/synthetic chemistry/medicinal chemistry and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of synthetic organic chemistry is essential, while additional experience in microbiology, enzymatic assays, and/or computational modelling is highly desirable.


The 2021 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$28,597 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three years with two possible extensions of up to 6 months each in approved circumstances (conditions apply).


For further information, please contact Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich at [email protected] +61 (0) 414 955 380

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘CONJUGATES-BLASKOVICH’ in the 'Name of scholarship' field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

Applications close: 4 May 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time