mRNA-enhanced cell therapies

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

The trailblazing success of the COVID19 mRNA vaccines has demonstrated the power of mRNA technologies. However, vaccines are just one of the applications of mRNA, with thousands of clinical trials currently underway to treat a wide spectrum of diseases including cancer and inherited diseases. A rapidly emerging application of synthetic mRNAs is to manufacture, engineer and program cells for therapy.

This project will entail the creation of synthetic mRNAs to control cell differentiation into desirable cell-types. Candidate genes that control cellular fate will be identified by advanced bioinformatic workflows enabling rational design of mRNA cocktails to control cell identity. The project will utilise the latest approaches in mRNA design including circular and self-amplifying RNAs, novel nucleotide modifications and untranslated sequences as well as driving innovation in mRNA designs. Applications of mRNA-based cell engineering include manufacture of specialised cell types for transplantation upon organ injury and the production of chimeric antigen-expressing immune cells for cancer therapy. 

Students will be trained in advanced molecular biology, genomics and synthetic biology and approaches. Seth Cheetham's laboratory is located at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). AIBN is a diverse community of >400 researchers focused on innovative solutions to global challenges. The cutting edge facilities and equipment enable students to conduct projects at the leading edge of life science research. Researchers in the Cheetham laboratory are able to leverage the expertise of the adjacent BASE mRNA manufacture and research hub ( AIBN's focus on industry collaboration and entrepreneurship ideally equips students to translate their research into real-world outcomes.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Seth Cheetham

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of molecular biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of molecular biology and the potential for scholastic success.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process