Biotechnology: University of Cambridge

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MPhil, PhD
Biotechnology: University of Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road CB2 1QT, Cambridge, United Kingdom
App Deadline 
MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise: see; US applicants applying for Gates Scholarships must apply early; PhD: none specified
+44 (0)1223 334160


The Institute of Biotechnology was established in 1988 and is an internationally renowned centre of excellence. It is a unique entrepreneurial organisation within the University, targeting its research at the interfaces of the biological, chemical and physical sciences, where an inter- or multidisciplinary approach is essential for success.

Key research areas

  • Affinity technology:
    Design, synthesis and application of highly selective adsorbents for the purification of biopharmaceutical proteins, using techniques such as computer-aided molecular design, solid phase combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening. (Lowe)
  • Analytical sciences:
    This covers a broad range of emerging technologies in optics, acoustics, electrochemistry, microelectronic and micro-engineered systems, signal processing and the synthesis of bespoke reagents for measurements in biomedical analysis, environmental and food screening. Research includes: using optical techniques such as surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to investigate protein binding, lipid membrane assembly and membrane transport, and multi-spot imaging SPR for high throughput screening and real-time SPR protein sensors for bioprocess monitoring; generating inexpensive holographic sensors for clinical diagnostics; using microengineered systems based on plastic substrates for genomic analysis and PCR, proteomics, and microfermenter-on-a-chip systems; new analytical techniques for studying biomolecular interactions using high frequency acoustic devices; bioluminescence-coupled systems for DNA amplification for detection of pathogens at point-of-care and in the environment. (Lowe, Hall, Murray)
  • Protein engineering:
    Generating additional thermo- and solvent-stable, colour and kinetic mutants of luciferase, and understanding and altering the kinetic mechanism of this enzyme; research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) or prion disorders, including: the nature of the causative agent; diagnostics and therapeutics; contamination of surgical instruments. (Murray, Lowe)
  • Anhydrobiotic engineering:
    Investigating mechanisms of anhydrobiosis to improve desiccation tolerance in sensitive cells and organisms; research ranges from mammalian cell culture and invertebrate biology to microbiology, and involves molecular biology, cell biology and molecular genetics techniques. (Tunnacliffe)
  • Development, molecular and cell biology:
    Fundamental research on plant cell cycle and the role of cell division in plant development utilising genetic, transgenetic, molecular, proteomic and functional genomic approaches. There is particular focus on the control of cell division in response to environmental and developmental signals through D-type cyclins and on genes controlling shoot apical meristem function. Yeast plasmids are used as model systems for studying chromatin remodelling and DNA behaviour in vivo. (Murray)
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders:
    Molecular investigations of complex neuropsychiatric disorders, with a focus on schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder; identifying genes and proteins associated with human psychotic conditions; neurodevelopmental/neurodegenerative disorders. Identification of biomarkers and developing appropriate assays and sensors as diagnostic for such disorders. (Bahn)

Research collaborations

One of the major strengths of the Institute is its multidisciplinary approach which fosters and encourages interactive project work between in-house groups, and which actively builds links with other University departments containing relevant expertise, including the Medical and Veterinary Schools, with local, national and international industry and with research centres around the world.

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