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My PhD

I graduated from my Undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences (BSc) at Lancaster University in 2015. After spending two summers interning at the University of Liverpool studying Crohn’s disease ( Gastroenterology department at the Institute of Translational Medicine), I was keen for a new, challenging and exciting area of study. 

I started my PhD at the University of Manchester - Manchester Institute of Biotechnology - in September 2015:

 "Towards a structural understanding of oligonucleotide function and dynamics"

My PhD is based on the area of RNA therapeutics (Antisense-oligonucleotides); these are being developed as a next generation of pharmaceuticals to treat many diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease and Muscular Dystrophy. Antisense oligonucleotides can reduce the amount of protein our bodies make, or force it to make more; they do this by hybridizing to specific mRNAs and inhibiting the expression of target proteins. This can help to prevent inflammation and disease. In particular, I am looking at the structure of these Antisense oligonucleotides… you can think of them as having a 3d-shape which is changed by stresses such as temperature and pH.



The aim of my PhD is to assess the suitability of certain spectroscopic methods for characterising the structural changes driving oligonucleotide folding/unfolding and correlate these structural changes with oligo functional activity. These structural changes often occur following pharmaceutical stresses such as pH, temperature and shear stresses; I am using Raman and Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopies to observe these changes. I am currently learning how to use a Mermade 12 RNA/DNA synthesizer to generate my own RNA structures.

The ability to relate small changes in oligo structure to those in stability or efficacy would be paradigm shifting for RNA therapeutics. Hopefully, the data I generate will contribute towards making antisense-oligonucleotides much safer and more efficient.  My PhD is an EPSRC iCASE studentship in collaboration with AstraZeneca.

To Summarise:
I use spectroscopic techniques to look at RNA structures.

To ask me more about my PhD, you can contact myself or my supervisors:

Primary Supervisor: ProfessorAndrew Doig
Co-Supervisor: Professor RoyGoodacre
My academic email: sarah.dowd@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk




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