Research Opportunities

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Prospective Students

The goal of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Scholars Program is to create, foster, and advance unique and collaborative research opportunities between NIH laboratories and laboratories at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. Each OxCam Scholar develops a collaborative research project that will constitute his/her doctoral training. Each Scholar also select two mentors – one at the NIH and one in the UK – who work together to guide the Scholar throughout the research endeavor.

Students may select from two categories of projects: Self-designed or Prearranged. OxCam Scholars may create a self-designed project, which enables students to develop a collaborative project tailored to his/her specific scientific interests by selecting one NIH mentor and one UK mentor with expertise in the desired research area(s). Alternatively, students may select a prearranged project provided by NIH and/or UK Investigator(s) willing to mentor an OxCam Scholar in their lab.

Self-designed Projects: Students may create a novel (or de novo) project based on their unique research interests. Students have the freedom to contact any PI at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge to build a collaboration from scratch. The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) represents a community of approximately 1,200 tenured and tenure-track investigators providing a wealth of opportunity to explore a wide variety of research interests. Students may visit https://irp.nih.gov to identify NIH PIs performing research in the area of interest. For additional tips on choosing a mentor, please visit our Training Plan.

Prearranged Projects: Investigators at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge have voluntarily offered collaborative project ideas for NIH OxCam Scholars. These projects are provided below and categorized by research area, NIH Institute/Center, and University. In some cases, a full collaboration with two mentors is already in place. In other instances, only one PI is identified, which allows the student to select a second mentor to complete the collaboration. Please note that prearranged project offerings are continuously updated throughout the year and are subject to change.

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Molecular Pharmacology

Using fragment-based drug discovery to identify inhibitors of the key enzymes involved in propionate catabolism and acetate assimilation

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
NIH Mentor:
UK Mentor:

Prof. Martin Welch

Project Details:

The opportunistic human pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is a commonly-found inhabitant in the airways of patients with chronic respiratory ailments such as COPD and cystic fibrosis (CF). Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate and propionate accumulate to high levels in the airways of these patients. In mutants of P. aeruginosa that are unable to catabolise SCFAs, these compounds are toxic and lead to cessation of growth. In this project, we aim to use fragment-based drug discovery to identify inhibitors of the key enzymes involved in propionate catabolism (PrpB and PrpC) and acetate assimilation (AceA). We have recently solved the x-ray crystal structure of each enzyme, and are supported by the Diamond Light Source to initiate a FBDD programme. Challenges will be to identify high affinity binders with specificity for the intended targets. Cell permeability and efflux of the “hits” will need to be investigated, as will “off target” effects, cytotoxicity to mammalian cells, and likely resistance mechanisms. Species specificity of inhibition will be examined in an in vitro polymicrobial system recently developed in the lab.   

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