Khoa Chung received his MChem (1st class) from the University of York in 2018. During his undergraduate, he spent a year in the lab of Professor Sarah O’Connor working on the biosynthetic pathway of catharanthine and tabersonine. He is pursuing a DPhil in Synthetic Biology, and will be carrying out his rotation project in Professor Tudor Fulga’s group at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.

What’s your current research and how could it impact patients?

My project aims to harness the powerful RNA recognition capacity of dCas13, and couple it with dCas9 transcriptional activators to create synthetic mRNA receptors in mammalian cells. If successful, this platform holds great promise as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool. For example, by replacing the current iBlue mRNA target with an mRNA cancer biomarker, it is possible to detect and alter the behaviour of transformed cells. Additionally, the dCas9 DNA target can also be replaced with a kill switch, such that upon detection of the cancer biomarker, the cancer cell enters apoptosis.

Why did you want to study at Oxford?

My masters project motivated me to transition into the field of Synthetic Biology. At the time of application, the Synthetic Biology CDT programme between Bristol, Oxford, and Warwick was the only SynBio-dedicated course in the U.K. I knew I wanted to perform research in aspects of genetic expression control using CRISPR-Cas, and this is exactly what the Fulga lab does (amongst other research).

What are your plans for after your DPhil?

I hope to go on to a postdoc or journal editorial position.