Three PhD fellowships in Chemical Biology at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
University of Copenhagen
We are looking for three 3-year PhD students in Chemical Biology. The fellowships are available from 15 June 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter.
In the Strømgaard lab, we combine tools from chemistry and biology, and apply these in studies of therapeutic peptides and proteins. Our aims are to develop modulators for protein-protein interactions (PPIs) and to provide molecular-level insight herein. We are interested in PPIs that are therapeutically relevant, in particular between integral membrane proteins and their intracellular protein partners, also known as receptor complexes.
Two positions are part of a Lundbeck Foundation Collaborative Project (https://lundbeckfonden.com/en/proteiners-dynamik-syge-hjernes-biologi) which aims to explore a recently discovered and exciting new biological phenomenon, the formation of biomolecular condensates by liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), and how this emerging field can lead to entirely novel concepts to treat brain diseases. The candidates will investigate LLPS of postsynaptic density (PSD) proteins with a focus on their role in neurological disorders. The project runs in close collaboration with Mingjie Zhang (Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Shenzhen, China). Ultimately, the developed probes will lead to modulation of biomolecular condensates at the PSD balancing diseased states of neuronal excitation and inhibition.
One position is a part of a Novo Nordisk Foundation Exploratory Interdisciplinary Synergy Programme and aiming to explore two orthogonal antiviral strategies in which the agents are cell-permeant peptides that inhibit key protein-protein interactions (PPIs) of SARS-CoV-2. The project unites two world-leading groups (the Strømgaard and the Tymianski lab at University of Toronto) with extensive expertise in designing cell-permeant, peptide inhibitors of PPIs and advancing them as far as into Phase 3 clinical trials.
Career development within research and education is part of the positions. The candidate can gain relevant teaching experience (10% of the time), which will support the development of a relevant teaching track record and portfolio.
PhD project 1: Development of peptide-based probes to modulated biomolecular condensates at PSD
In this project, the fellow will examine all PPIs of the PSD and delineate their peptide binding epitopes. The identified binding epitopes will be further optimized and (peptide therapeutic maturation) evaluated in in vitro biochemical and LLPS assays. Multiple rounds of affinity maturation will yield peptides either disrupting or stabilizing the relevant PPIs and restoring a physiological PSD. Ultimately, this will provide a better understanding how to restore the healthy state of PSD using peptide modulators.
PhD project 2: Elucidating aberrant biomolecular condensates in the PSD
The five key proteins present in the PSD (PSD-95, SynGAP, Homer, Shank and GKAP) are important for normal brain function, and dysfunction of these proteins has vast implications for a wide range of brain diseases. In this project the fellow will first explore the correlation between brain disorders and biomolecular condensates by introducing specific disease-relevant patient mutations into the proteins of interest and observe the effects on LLPS. Additionally, the resulting impact of disease mutations on LLPS-PSD will guide efforts towards developing compounds to tackle neurological disorders.
PhD project 3: Development of CNS-permeant peptide antivirals
The first part of the project involves developing peptides inhibiting infectivity by disrupting the spike protein receptor binding domain interactions with the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor, the binding target of the viral spike protein. The second involves developing peptides inhibiting virulence by targeting interactions of the viral envelope protein with host proteins containing PDZ domains.
Supervisor: Professor Kristian Strømgaard, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology.
15 June 2023, or soon thereafter
3 years as a PhD student
Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology is committed to research-based teaching and interdisciplinary research that supports the development and understanding of chemical and pharmacological properties of drugs and drug targets. We work as part of a dynamic academic community of research, education and innovation within the Pharmaceutical Sciences bridging Health Sciences and Life Sciences.
Information about the Department can be found at https://drug.ku.dk/.
Your key tasks as a PhD student at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences are:
- Carrying through an independent research project under supervision
- Completing PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approximately 30 ECTS points
- Participating in active research environments, including taking active part in research- and educational organizational initiatives under Center for Medicinal Chemistry
- A stay at another research environment
- Obtaining experience with teaching or other types of dissemination related to your PhD project
- Teaching of undergraduate students in pharmaceutical sciences
- Writing a PhD thesis on the grounds of your project
Key criteria for the assessment of applicants
Applicants must have qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree related to the subject area of the project, e.g. chemistry, chemical engineering or pharmacy. Please note that your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (two years).
Required qualifications (Project 1 & 3)
As an applicant you must have:
- qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree in medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy or biotechnology prior to the starting date
- Fluency in English and excellent communication skills
We are looking for a highly motivated individual with a strong background in peptide or protein chemistry, but with a desire to learn the other field. The applicant should also have strong theoretical education in peptide chemistry, biochemistry, and spectroscopy. Hands-on experience with biochemical methods will be seen as favorable.
Required qualifications (Project 2):
As an applicant you must have:
- qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree in biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology or similar discipline prior to the starting date
- Fluency in English and excellent communication skills
We are looking for a highly motivated individual with a strong background in protein chemistry/biochemistry. The applicant should also have strong theoretical education in biochemistry and microbiology. Hands-on experience with recombinant protein expression, site-directed mutagenesis, microscopy, and biophysical methods will be seen as favorable.
Other important criteria are:
- Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
- Relevant work experience
- Previous publications
- The grade point average achieved
- Other professional activities
- A curious mind-set with a strong interest in peptide chemistry and chemical biology
- Language skills
Place of employment
The place of employment is at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research facilities include modern laboratories, equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure for synthesis, compound characterization, and biochemical assays.
Terms of employment
The average weekly working hours are 37 hours per week.
The position is a fixed-term position limited to a period of 3 years.
The employment is conditioned upon the applicant’s successful enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project to the Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences.
The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD programme (2013) and the Faculty’s rules on achieving the degree.
The PhD student is expected to be affiliated to the graduate programme in pharmaceutical sciences, Drug Research Academy.
Salary, pension, and terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary starts at approximately 28,890 DKK/ approximately 3,880 EUR (April 2023 level) plus pension.
The PhD fellowship is financed by the Lundbeck foundation
Your application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking “Apply now” below and must include the following documents in PDF format:
- Motivated letter of application (max. one page) – Please state for which project (Project 1, 2 or 3) you are applying
- CV incl. education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
- Certified copy of original Master of Science diploma and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in other language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted. As a prerequisite for a PhD fellowship employment, your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree. We encourage you to read more in the assessment database: https://ufm.dk/en/education/recognition-and-transparency/find-assessments/assessment-database. Please note that we might ask you to obtain an assessment of your education performed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. Applicants with a Master´s degree from abroad should also enclose a short description of the grading scale used
- Publication list (if possible)
- Other information to consider: References and recommendations (if possible)
The deadline for applications is 1 April 2023, 23.59pm CET
We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements.
The further process
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorised recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.
The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.
Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.
The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.
Interviews are expected to be held as soon as possible after the application deadline.
You can read about the recruitment process at https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/.
For further information, applicants may contact the principal supervisor Kristian Strømgaard, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +45 3533 6566 or PhD coordinator Marianne W. Jørgensen, e-mail: email@example.com, phone: +45 3533 6449.
General information about PhD studies at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is available at the Graduate School’s website: https://healthsciences.ku.dk/phd/guidelines/.
For more information on working and living in Denmark visit http://ism.ku.dk (International staff mobility) and https://www.workindenmark.dk.
The University of Copenhagen wish to reflect the diversity of society and encourage all qualified candidates to apply regardless of personal background.
Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.