Bristol’s pioneering COVID-19 research prompts French Embassy visit

Representatives from the French Embassy visited University labs on 10 December to see some of the innovative COVID-19 research being undertaken at Bristol, including work on ADDomer™, a thermostable vaccine platform being developed by Bristol scientists to combat emerging infectious diseases.

Dr Rachel Millet and Arthur Belaud from the Embassy’s Innovation Branch, which seeks to drive France-UK business enterprise, met with scientists Professor Imre Berger and Frederic Garzoni, founders of Imophoron Ltd, the biotech start-up developing ADDomer that uses technology developed at an institution in France, and recently secured £4 million investment.

L to R: Arthur Belaud from the French Embassy, Dr Anne Westcott from the University, Dr Rachel Millet from the French Embassy and Professor Imre Berger at the University’s Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology

During the visit, the delegation took a tour of labs in the University’s Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology (MPBC), the GW4/Wellcome Trust Cryo-EM facility led by Prof Christiane Schaffitzel, and Science Creates, the Bristol-based incubator, which is operated in partnership with the University and supports scientists and engineers in commercialising ground-breaking innovations. Having recently opened its second facility in the city’s Old Market, the party met with Science Creates founder and Bristol graduate Dr Harry Destecroix to discuss the future of deep-tech eco-systems.

Professor Imre Berger, Director of Bristol’s Max Planck Centre for Minimal Biology, said: “We are honoured to host this visit from the French Embassy’s Innovation Branch to share knowledge and showcase the pioneering research that is being done in collaboration with our European colleagues and institutions.”

Press release issued: 10 December 2021 on University of Bristol News and Features~ article here.

Protocells Spring Into Action

A Max Planck-led team of international scientists with an interest in protoliving technologies, has recently published research which paves the way to building new semi-autonomous devices with potential applications in miniaturized soft robotics, microscale sensing and bioengineering.

In a series of experiments, the researchers successfully embedded tens of thousands of artificial cell-like entities (protocells) within helical filaments of a polysaccharide hydrogel to produce tiny free-standing springs that are chemically powered from within.

Protocell-based micro-actuator; single giant protocells (red) are seen attached at both ends of a mechanically energized hydrogel filament (green).

Professor Stephen Mann, co-Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology (MPBC) at Bristol, said: “We have a longstanding interest in protoliving technologies. One key challenge is how to interface protocell communities with their environment to produce functional relationships. The new work provides a step in this direction as it illustrates how endogenous chemical processes can be coupled to their energized surroundings to produce a programmable chemo-mechanical micro-system”.

Dr Ning Gao, also at the MPBC and School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol added: “We hope that our approach will motivate the fabrication of new types of soft adaptive microstructures that operate via increased levels of autonomy.” [Read the full article on the University of Bristol news page]


Chemical-mediated translocation in protocell-based microactuators,’ by  Gao N, Li M, Tian L, Patil A J, Kumar P B V V Sand Mann S in Nature Chemistry.

German Ambassador visits the University of Bristol

On Wednesday 2 September, the German Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, Andreas Michaelis, paid a visit to the University of Bristol. Michaelis came to discuss with University representatives the opportunities to collaborate with Germany across research, education and mobility. The visit was a significant step in building and fostering the University’s relationship with the new Ambassador, in his first official trip to the UK outside of London.

The delegation toured the Max Planck Centre for Minimal Biology in the School of Chemistry and the GW4 Facility for High-Resolution Electron Cryo-Microscopy in the Life Sciences Building. Established in 2019, the Max Planck Bristol Centre consists of Directors based in both Bristol and Germany in a truly interdisciplinary and international partnership, set up by the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Society. The Centre pursues game-changing research and postgraduate training in the emerging field of minimal biology to address some of the most complex challenges in fundamental science.

Eatablishment of the Max Planck Bristol Centre in 2019. Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, and Professor Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society.

The GW4 Facility for High-Resolution Electron Cryo-Microscopy is closely aligned with the Wolfson Bioimaging Facility and provides world class cryo-microscopy and analysis tools, enabling researchers from diverse disciplines across the Great West region and beyond to study molecular processes using single-particle cryo-EM or cryo-tomography.

Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre, Imre Berger, discussed the importance of international cooperation in science with Herr Michaelis on his tour of campus. The German delegation also met with Bristol Heads of School and Pro Vice-Chancellors, as well as members of the Bristol Max Planck and Cryo-EM facilities to observe our joint Europe-Bristol research endeavours. The Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement Erik Lithander

said: “We were delighted to be able to welcome the Ambassador to the University to have the opportunity to showcase some of the terrific research being done in collaboration with German colleagues and institutions. The University of Bristol is determined to keep European collaboration at the centre of its research strategy, and opportunities such as the Ambassador’s visit are an excellent way to accentuate this.”

German Ambassador Visit, 2 September 2020. Andreas Michaelis, German Ambassador to the Court of St James’s and Professor Imre Berger, Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology discussing the importance of international cooperation in science.

**PhD Bioscience Opportunity- Taking De Novo Protein Design And Assembly Into Bacterial Cells**

Taking De Novo Protein Design And Assembly Into Bacterial Cells

Click here to apply.

Application deadline: Monday 2nd December 2019 (Midnight)
Host Institution: University of Bristol
Commencing: September 2020
Main Supervisor: Prof Dek Woolfson
Second Supervisor(s): Prof Nigel Savery and Prof Paul Verkade

Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery, the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) aims to provide PhD students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training.

Project Description:

De novo protein design is the process of building entirely new protein sequences to adopt stable structures from scratch, and programming these further to perform desired functions. It is distinct from protein engineering, which aims to improve the stabilities and functions of natural proteins for given applications. In basic science, de novo protein design is the acid test of our understanding of sequence-to-structure/function relationships of natural proteins. In frontier bioscience, it presents possibilities for generating protein structures not yet observed in nature, i.e. the so-called ‘dark matter of protein-structure space’ (Woolfson et al., (2015) Curr Opin Struct Biol 33 16). In applied science and biotechnology, it offers routes to hyperstable proteins with functions not performed by natural proteins.

Over the past 5 – 10 years, protein designers’ abilities to deliver stable de novo proteins that fold and assemble as prescribed has advanced considerably. This has come through improvements in our understanding of sequence-to-structure relationships in proteins, advances in computational design methods, the reduced cost of synthetic peptides and genes, and increased speeds of high-throughput screening of protein libraries. These advances set new targets for the field of de novo protein design. One of these challenges is to take de novo proteins directly into cells to enhance and augment natural biological systems.

Our research groups—Woolfson, Savery and Verkade—have worked together for 5 years to help establish this nascent field of ‘protein design in the cell’. Our achievements include the design,
assembly, visualisation and functionalisation of a de novo cytoskeleton in E. coli (Lee et al. (2018) Nat Chem Biol 14 142); and the delivery of a series of de novo protein-protein interactions that operate in E. coli and substitute for protein-protein-interactions domains that control transcription (Smith et al.(2019) ACS Synth Biol 8 1284).

The proposed PhD project builds on these international and local developments in de novo protein design, and the collaborative environment that we have established, to advance protein design in the cell. Specifically, we will take protein-design modules that the Woolfson group has built and characterised to high resolution, combine them to make functional de novo assemblies in E. coli using synthetic-biology methods established by the Savery group, and visualise the assemblies directly in cells using the Verkade group’s expertise in light and electron microscopy. Our overall aim is to design de novo proteins that fold, assemble, disassemble and function on command in living cells.

How to apply:

To submit an application, please click here.
For eligibility requirements, please click here.
For further information, please contact the listed supervisor: Prof Dek Woolfson

**PhD Bioscience Opportunity – ADDomer: Synthetic Multiepitope Virus-Like Particle Platform for Next-Generation Vaccines**

ADDomer: Synthetic multiepitope virus-like particle platform for next-Generation vaccines.

Click here to apply.

Application deadline: Monday 2nd December 2019 (Midnight)
Host Institution: University of Bristol
Commencing: September 2020
Main Supervisor: Prof Imre Berger
Second Supervisor: Prof Christiane Schaffitzel
Collaborators: Fred Garzoni (Imophoron Ltd)

Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery, the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) aims to provide PhD students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training.

Project Description:

Infectious diseases plague and decimate populations. Among the means at our disposal to counter this threat, vaccination has proven to be exceptionally powerful. Nonetheless, severe threats continue to challenge human health, notably from viruses that have adapted and emerged as new diseases or pathogenic strains. Ideally, a vaccine will be safe, non-replicative, efficient, and tunable, and easily produced at industrial scale. Recombinant virus-like particles (VLPs) can be ideal candidates to address these requirements and therefore hold enormous promise in the vaccine field. In this project, we will use ADDomer, a versatile, designer antigen-presenting VLP platform we developed. ADDomer is exceptionally stable, highly soluble and safe. This innovative ADDomer scaffold is uniquely suited to display hundreds of pathogenic epitopes and protein domains. Here, we will combine world-leading expertise in synthetic biology, in vitro selection/evolution and biodesign to achieve a step-change in the potency of our ADDomer technology. We are joined in our effort by our industrial partner, Imophoron Ltd, an award-winning start-up we founded to commercialize the technology. Building on this powerful synergy, we will utilize a range of biochemical, biophysical, structural, chemical and engineering approaches to design, create, characterize and roll-out highly effective next-generation ADDomer-based therapeutics to combat human disease.

How to apply:

To submit an application, please click here.
For eligibility requirements, please click here.
For further information, please contact the listed supervisor: Prof. Imre Berger

Calling all Research Technicians for exciting job opportunity

Location: Bristol
Salary: £30,046 to £33,797 per annum
Hours: Full time
Contract type: Permanent 
Closes: 20th October 2019

Click here to apply. 

The Berger group studies the structure, mechanism and cellular assembly of eukaryotic multiprotein assemblies in transcription regulation and develops enabling technologies for DNA transfer, genome engineering and multigene expression in eukaryotic cells, tissues and organisms. 

We are seeking up to two highly-skilled Research Technicians to actively participate in the ambitious research projects in our laboratory in the new Max Planck Centre for Minimal Biology at Bristol University. You will engage in designing and preparing multigene DNA constructs and utilize and further develop our award-winning MultiBac system for protein complex production and gene therapy applications. Outstanding applicants have a strong background in molecular biology and protein biochemistry. Experience in eukaryotic cell culture, baculovirus expression and/or a structural biology background is highly desirable.

Showing a high level of organization and independence, you will maintain the molecular biology and protein purification infrastructure including ordering of consumables and assist in operating the MultiBac platform in the eukaryotic expression facility. Moreover, you will archive and manage plasmid, baculovirus and protein stocks vital to the laboratory.

You will actively embrace the responsibility of managing technology platforms underpinning all research in the Berger lab.

Does this sound like you?

Click here to apply.

For informal enquiries please contact Imre Berger, +44 117 394 1857, or Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel, +44 117 394 1869,

We welcome applications from all members of our community and are particularly encouraging those from diverse groups, such as members of the LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.

The University of Bristol is committed to equality and we value the diversity of our staff and students.