The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2011 | The Viral Achilles Heel: The nucleocapsid protein of FIV and related lentiviruses as a therapeutic target
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The Viral Achilles Heel: The Nucleocapsid Protein Of FIV And Related Lentiviruses As A Therapeutic Target

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stephen Hilton (SoP)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Karin Allenspach (RVC)

Therapeutic resistance to antiviral drugs via mutation is a major challenge affecting both human and veterinary medicine. Since its discovery in 1984, just one single species disease - human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has caused 25 million deaths worldwide clearly highlighting the unique challenge in this research area. Amongst non-human vertebrates, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection is perhaps the closest biological model of HIV infection with an analogous late-stage AIDS-type progression. FIV infection primarily occurs through biting and during mating with about 44 million cats currently infected worldwide. FIV and HIV are closely related to other lentiviruses such as the simian and equine variants - SIV and EIAV with each species-specific virus using analogous proteins in the viral life cycle. Due to this clear overlap, we intend to target a mutation resistant protein in FIV that performs the same role in HIV and other lentiviruses to develop a new therapeutic approach. This Bloomsbury Colleges funded project between the School of Pharmacy and the Royal Veterinary College will focus on the development and testing of compounds to target the nucleopcapsid protein of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and related lentiviruses. In our interdisciplinary program the student will be expected to design and synthesise small molecules to target this mutation-resistant protein in FIV infected cell lines. We aim to develop a compound that is effective against both the Davis (FIV-Petaluma) and Zurich (FIV-Z2) FIV strains to highlight the effectiveness of our approach. 

Candidates must have, or expect to attain, a first or upper second class BSc degree in Pharmacy, Chemistry, Veterinary Science or a relevant discipline. Due to funding restrictions, only Home and EU students are eligible for the studentship. Overseas candidates are not eligible and regretfully enquiries and applications from ineligible candidates will not be acknowledged. In this collaborative program between the School of Pharmacy and the Royal Veterinary College, the student will receive comprehensive training in both chemistry and biology and as such will be eminently employable in the future. As part of this, the student may have the opportunity to undertake an international placement at the University of Zurich.

Key References:

  1. Elder, J.H.; Lin, Y-C.; Fink, E.; Grant, C. K., Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) as a Model for Study of Lentivirus Infections: Parallels with HIV, Current HIV Research, 2010, 8, 73-80.
  2. Goldschmidt, V.; Miller Jenkins, L.M.; de Rocquigny, H.; Darlix, J-L.; Mély, Y., The nucleocapsid protein of HIV-1 as a promising therapeutic target for antiviral drugs, HIV Therapy, 2010, 4, 179-198.
  3. Cook, K.M.; Hilton, S.T.; Mecinovic, J.; Motherwell, W.B.; Figg, W.D.; Schofield, C.J., Epidithiodiketopiperazines block the interaction between hypoxia inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and p300 by a zinc ejection mechanism, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2009, 284, 26831-26838.
  4. Wallace, G.S.; Cheng-Mayer, C.; Schito, M.L.; Fletcher, P.; Miller Jenkins, L.M.; Hayashi, R.; Neurath, A.R.; Appella, E.; Shattock, R.J., Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type I Nucleocapsid Inhibitors Impede trans Infection in Cellular and Explant Models and Protect Nonhuman Primates from Infection, Journal of Virology, 2009, 83, 9175-9182.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Dr Stephen Hilton,,

Co-Supervisor: Dr Karin Allenspach,,

Further information about PhDs at The School of Pharmacy is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

The School of Pharmacy
University of London
29/39 Brunswick Square
London WC1N 1AX
United Kingdom

School PhD Administrator: Mr Lauren O’Brien,;  Tel +44 20 7753 5800

All students whose first language is not English must demonstrate adequate proficiency in English language.  See: for further details.

When applying, please indicate how you found out about this studentship (please state the publication title/ web address).

Closing date for applications: This studentship is now closed.