eCHO Systems

Ly Ngoc Nguyen, BOKU

My lab and the PhD-project I am doing

Currently, I am a PhD student of Marie Skłodowska Curie actions eCHO-systems group at acib, the Austrian Center of Industrial Biotechnology, enrolled at BOKU University, Vienna, Austria. My project title is “Identification of novel promoters and genetic control elements derived from Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells-ESR7”. The Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell line is one of the most widely used mammalian expression system for the production of therapeutic proteins. Today, strong viral promoters such as the cytomegalovirus (CMV) major immediate early promoter or the Simian virus 40 (SV40) immediate early promoter are commonly used for driving transcription. Despite high expression levels, several drawbacks related to viral promoters still remain, like the high rate of transgene silencing. These undesirable effects might be avoided by using CHO endogenous gene regulatory elements, which also have the advantage of better response to cellular signaling networks and thus cause a lower level of stress by uncontrolled overexpression of the transgene. In addition, while for recombinant protein production a uniformly high level of transcription may be of interest, for systems biology engineering approaches it may be more important to be able to control multiple genes at various, balanced and coordinated rates of expression to ensure the smooth operation of networks. Thus, the goal of this project is the identification and annotation of CHO endogenous promoters and their genetic control elements which enable precise control of recombinant gene expression.

What kind of tips would you give to future PhDs taking part in an ITN?

PhD in an international collaboration project will bring you global training, undertaking a PhD with the eCHO-systems group should provide international experience, while spending some time abroad during your early research career could prove invaluable. You will be exposed to professional environment, methods and academics. Throughout the European Research Area, being mobile is recognized as an important part of your professional development. With an international project you also have opportunities to meet company representatives at career fairs or at presentations during your studies or your fellow PhD students may have tips on how to approach a job search in their own country. Therefore, your career opportunities will be enhanced.

It is not as easy as it seems to adjust to life abroad. Culture shock - cultural misunderstandings and struggling to learn a new language are part and parcel of living abroad and hits all of us eventually. Living in a foreign country needs some time to adjust to the new environment. In my personal opinion, MSCA could provide one training course at the beginning to learn about the culture of that country as well as languages to overcoming a language barrier.

Why have you chosen to do a PhD in an international collaboration project?


I graduated from the Department of Biotechnology, Da Nang University of Technology in August 2012. During the final year of the university’s curriculum, I accumulated a lot of  experience based on the chance of working at the Biochemical Laboratory of the “Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), Institute of Biotechnology (IBT)” as an intern for one year. My graduation thesis topic was “Metagenomic analysis of novel lignocellulose - degrading enzymes from higher termite guts inhabiting microbes”. After graduation, I had challenging work as an intern at the Paik Institute for Clinical research, Pusan Paik Hospital, Inje University, Korea for 3 months. After that I worked there as a master student on the topic: “Early life stress increase vulnerability through BDNF gene epigenetic changes in the rat hippocampus”.