Postdoctoral fellowship in Understanding mRNA therapeutics

Location: Sweden
Application Deadline: 18 March 2024
Published: 3 weeks ago

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Faculty of Medicine, Department of Experimental Medical Science

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top universities. The University has around 45 000 students and more than 8 000 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Description of the workplace

You will be based at the medical faculty in Lund. The group for Molecular Biophysics is located at the Biomedical Center (BMC) at Lund University and is led by Professor Trevor Forsyth.

You will have good access to state-of-the-art facilities both within the medical, science and engineering faculties and close proximity to the nearby MAX-IV synchrotron and ESS neutron beam facilities as well as access to the ILL and ESRF sources in Grenoble, France.

Project description

Description of the AMBER project 

This post-doctoral position is part of the EU cofund research project AMBER, Advanced Multiscale Biological imaging using European Research infrastructures, will address scientific and sectoral gaps in biological imaging ranging from molecular, through cellular, to tissue, organ and organism levels of organization, and is coordinated by LINXS Institute of advanced Neutron and X-ray Science.

AMBER is funded by the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) COFUND scheme.

Around 14 postdocs will be recruited in the first call, with each fellowship lasting 36 months.

AMBER has six core partners: Lund University/MAX IV, Sweden, the European Spallation Source (ESS), Sweden, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), France, the International Institute of Molecular Mechanisms and Machines, (IMOL), Poland, and the Leicester Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology, United Kingdom.

Your work will include clinical and biomedical projects. It will also include technique development work aimed at combining imaging techniques and data analysis to provide a more integrated picture of life processes in the context of health and disease. To be a postdoc fellow at the AMBER programme you will get unprecedented medical, biological, and methodological capabilities, with a profound potential impact for Europe’s next generation of research and researchers. When you have completed the AMBER programme you will be extraordinarily well equipped to further your career in academia, at infrastructures, in the health and MedTech sectors, and beyond.

For more information about the total announced post-doctoral positions within in the AMBER co-fund project please visit  EURAXESS

The interviews will start in April. For more information about AMBER, application and evaluation process etc please visit: AMBER

Project description within the research group

We seek a highly motivated postdoctoral scientist with strong competence in data analysis to carry out structural analyses of a variety of mRNA lipid-based nanoparticles (LNPs) systems using small-angle scattering (SAS) techniques (both neutron and X-ray) alongside cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) studies.  The position will be held in the Molecular Biophysics group in the Medical Faculty at Lund University, in close collaboration with CureVac in Germany.

The development of mRNA LNPs has intensified in the past years, particularly fueled by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Beyond the treatment of COVID-19, LNP technology enables gene editing, protein replacement therapy and therapeutic cancer vaccines.  Nonetheless, there are numerous challenges associated with the formulation, delivery, and efficacy of mRNA-LNPs to date. Despite the various advancements in the field, many aspects of the structure-activity relationships in LNPs still remain to be elucidated.

CureVac, a biotechnology company based in Tübingen, Germany (https://www.curevac.com/en/), has been a pioneer in the field of mRNA research for the past 24 years. The successful delivery of mRNA in vivo is contingent on the LNP delivery vehicle. This project aims to delve into the lipid-based building blocks which make up the LNP, utilizing powerful structural tools to investigate structure-activity relationships that will enable the future efficient design of potent mRNA LNP therapeutics. CureVac has been focusing on innovations in the lipid space for the design and in vitro/in vivo characterization of novel LNPs and the identification of factors that can significantly improve potency following intravenous administration.

The project will make extensive use of synchrotron X-ray facilities such as MAX IV, ESRF, Diamond, and neutron beam facilities such as ILL, ISIS (as well as the ESS spallation neutron source which will become available during the period of the project).  Data from these facilities will be used with information from cryo-EM to establish reliable structural models associated with different types of LNPs and their variation in response to different conditions.  Where appropriate, isotope labelling will be exploited to enhance the visibility of different LNP components. The project aims to use machine learning trends to deliver reliable prediction methods for LNP morphology and content.

Duties and responsibilities

The tasks as a postdoctoral researcher mainly include conducting research. Teaching may be part of the work duties, but no more than a fifth of the working time. Within the framework of the employment, there must be an opportunity for three weeks of university pedagogical training.

As a postdoctoral researcher in the group, you will have particular responsibility for data collection and analysis. You will also be involved in sample preparation work. You activities will be agreed during regular meetings.  You will also need to participate in regular laboratory tasks within the research group as part of the normal daily activities in a team-driven laboratory environment.  The work will require travel to CureVac in Germany on a regular basis and to central facilities such as those in Grenoble (France) and other centres as needed for the project. The terms of the Horizon-Europe MSCA COFUND project Grant Agreement require at least one secondment outside Lund University. It may also require participation in national and international conferences as agreed.

Qualifications and assessment grounds

Minimum requirements are:

candidate needs to have a maximum 8 years after a doctoral degree (PhD), as required by the Commission, in accordance with the Horizon-Europe MSCA cofund project Grant Agreement at least one original publication in a peer-reviewed journal, a background in the relevant methods, a complete application package submitted through the AMBER portal (including CV and detailed research plan), and finally, strict compliance with the MSCA mobility rule that the researcher must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the host organization’s country for more than twelve months in the three years immediately prior to the call deadline.

The employment also requires:

  • undergraduate and doctoral degrees in physics, or a physical science or other qualification providing mathematical and analytical competence
  • Basic understanding of diffraction – X-ray/neutron scattering (eg SAXS/SANS) and corresponding data processing /analysis.
  • Competence in scientific programming – eg python, C++
  • demonstration of motivation and ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Meritorious for the employment

  • Demonstration of experience/competence beyond basic understanding of techniques mentioned in previous section.

Consideration will also be given to good collaboration skills, drive and independence, as well as how the applicant, through his experience and competence, is judged to complement and strengthen ongoing research within the department and the AMBER program, as well as project partner laboratories and how they should contribute to its future development.

Basis of assessment

This is a qualifying position primarily focused on research. The appointment is intended as an initial step in the career and the assessment of the applicants will primarily be based on their scientific merits and potential as a researcher.
When hiring a postdoctoral fellow, the following must form the basis for assessment:
• Good ability to develop and carry out research of good quality
• Independent thinking and ability to drive own research in the field
• Good cooperation skills

Instructions on how to apply

For more information please visit ambercofund.eu.

If you are interested in applying for more than one position (maximum 3) you must be prepared to make a full application for each individual position.

Applications shall be written in English and compiled into a PDF-file containing:

i) A Curriculum Vitae (europass format). This is created by registering and using the Europass portal here: europa.eu/europass/en/create-europass-cv. Your CV can then be exported to a PDF file that you use in your application. ii) A detailed research plan including any foreseen secondments (candidates can suggest more than the mandated one, they can also suggest their own secondments), schools and conferences as well as a templated budget plan. (as concise as possible, recommended about 3-5 pages, but at an absolute maximum 10 pages. The research plan should include a half page of summary/abstract. The template can be downloaded from the “For applicants” page, here: ambercofund.eu/for-applicants

Additional texts to include in the PDF are:

iii) Letter of Commitment from any additional secondment partners the candidate wishes to bring onboard.

iv) Evidence of English proficiency (minimum CEFR B22, also checked at interview). v) A draft Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP). vi) Two reference letters.

vii) Any additional documents to support the application.

viii) Ethical questionnaire (HE ethics checklist + research ethics commitment) link will be provided at the “For applicants” page, here: ambercofund.eu/for-applicants

In addition, the application will require:

ix) Any candidate can apply for maximum of 3 positions. You must apply for each individual position. A list with order of preference of positions should be sent to the AMBER management. amber@linxs.se The template can be downloaded from the “For applicants” page, here: ambercofund.eu/for-applicants x) A pre-recorded video presentation (questionnaire-guided, via online video tool, about 10min). Upon successful completion of the rest of the application procedure eligible candidates will be sent a link.

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