Our business is using cutting-edge science to tackle major challenges in global health and agriculture.
We are a young company located at Milton Park, close to Oxford, one of the UK’s leading biotechnology clusters. We need people who share our vision in combating some of the world’s most damaging insect pests and who have a drive to make a difference, a commitment to deliver, and who have the skills and experience to succeed.
PhD place for D. suzukii
Fruit crops account for 17% of the value of the EU’s agricultural production. New and emerging pests like Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae), which have been introduced into Europe recently, pose a major challenge to berry and stone-fruit crops. The female D. suzukii has a prominent serrated ovipositor which enables it to pierce the skin to deposit eggs inside the fruit [1,2]. The larvae feed and develop within the fruit, causing it to become soft and rot rapidly, resulting in reduced crop yields and significant financial losses. This is often compounded by secondary infection due to pathogens which enter via the ovipositor wound 
Since its first appearance in 2008, D. suzukii continues to spread in Europe. Eradication or containment of this pest is not feasible with any existing methods; insecticides, biological control, trapping etc. Therefore, the development for effective, innovative and practical control solutions is vital to minimise the economic impact of D. suzukii on fruit producers.
SIT  is a species-specific and environmentally friendly method of pest control. It relies upon the mass rearing, sterilisation and release large numbers of sterile male insects into the wild [4,5]. They mate with wild females, leading to a drop in the number of progeny in the next generation. If enough sterile males are released for a sufficient time, the population will collapse. SIT relies on irradiation to sterilise the target pest species but this can have a negative impact on the released insects’ performance . This and other problems associated with current SIT programmes could be overcome by the use of recombinant DNA methods. Oxitec Ltd is the world leader in developing such approaches and has developed a technique called RIDL (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal), which uses transgenic technology to overcome limitations of SIT [7,8].
This project seeks to build on this success in other pest species [9-15] by developing strains for eventual D. suzukii control in the field. The student will commence with insect transformation for generation and characterisation of RIDL strains of D. suzukii. The student will implement a phased series of incremental tests from laboratory and simulated field conditions to semi-field conditions. Important quantifiable properties include, nature and position of single insertion events, fluorescence assessment, transgene penetrance and expression pattern, the conditionality of expression, the fecundity of females, egg-to-adult survival rate and flight ability of adults. Mating ability of the RIDL males will be particularly addressed in comparison to both the wild-type background of the strains and to wild males collected from infested fruit. At the same time, rearing experiments will facilitate optimisation of protocols, with a view to developing capacity for future expansion to mass-rearing of D. suzukii.
The successful candidate will be strongly motivated, capable of independent work and will have a First or Upper Second Class degree in a relevant subject. Experience with standard molecular biology techniques such as PCR, RT-PCR, DNA extraction and electrophoresis would be highly advantageous.
To apply please use the online application system at:http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply/ . Please remember to quote the studentship reference code SHIM01. Any queries regarding the application procedure please email@example.com. Please note that as this is a studentship project, no research proposal is required, please submit a statement of purpose/personal statement in its place. The University of Oxford is an Equal Opportunities employer.
The full award is for three years and includes a stipend from BBSRC (currently £13,726 pa) supplemented by £3,250pa from Oxitec Ltd, and is available only to residents of the UK, or those satisfying the BBSRC eligibility criteria (http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf). Please see BBSRC website for full terms and conditions of studentship.
Supervisors: Dr Stuart Wigby (Zoology); Dr Kelly Matzen (Oxitec); & Dr Luke Alphey (Pirbright)
Genetic control of avian disease vector mosquitoes for conservation
Since the arrival of Europeans in the Hawaiian Islands, 71 out of 113 endemic bird species there have become extinct, and 32 are currently endangered or threatened. Mosquito-vectored avian malaria and pox, which were co-introduced with non-native mosquito species, are primary obstacles to conservation and restoration efforts of endemic forest avifauna . The mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus is the dominant vector of the pathogens in Hawaiian bird populations.
One promising approach for mosquito control is RIDL (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal)  uses transgenic technology to engineer a lethal trait in larvae, which is repressible by provision of tetracycline in the larval water to allow rearing in captivity. As recently shown against the dengue virus vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti, sustained releases of male RIDL mosquitoes leads to substantial reduction of the target population , as progeny die as larvae in the absence of the chemical antidote in the field. Such mosquitoes are therefore ‘genetically sterile’. A variant of RIDL engineers repressible female death [4-7], to allow production of male-only cohorts of mosquitoes (males do not bite or vector disease). RIDL implementation is firmly grounded in years of experience with radiation-sterilised insects (the Sterile Insect Technique) while providing major improvements through the application of modern genetics.
This studentship project will seek to extend RIDL to C. quinquefasciatus. The student will generate transformed strains with modular constructs appropriate for function in Culex. Those that show a suitable RIDL phenotype will undergo assessment of biological performance parameters such as mating competitiveness and longevity in large cages. Success in the application of RIDL against this mosquito would represent the first use of transgenic animals for species conservation.
We anticipate that the bulk of the lab work will be conducted at The Pirbright Institute; and depending on progress, the project may involve lab and/or field work in Hawaii.
To apply please use the online application system at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply/ . Please remember to quote the studentship reference code WIG01. Any queries regarding the application procedure please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that as this is a studentship project, no research proposal is required, please submit a statement of purpose/personal statement in its place.
References: LaPointe et al 2009 In: Conservation Biology of Hawaiian Forest Birds  Thomas et al 2000 Science 287:2474-2476  Harris et al 2012 Nature Biotech 30:828-830  Fu et al 2010 PNAS 107:4550-4554  Fu et al 2007 Nature Biotech 25:353-357  Ant et al 2012 BMC Biol 10:51  Jin et al 2013 ACS Synth Biol 2:160-166