CLOSED: 1 PhD fellowship available within the PAVax network

Call for 1 PhD fellowship within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN project PAVax: A training network for the design of new synthetic carbohydrate-based vaccines to combat antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus

The PAVax project is a network that will train 4 Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) on the conception of new synthetic vaccines to combat the antibiotic resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) and Staphylococcus aureus (SA), for which there currently is no adequate vaccine available. The four selected ESRs will experience an intersectorial, international and interdisciplinary training encompassing 18 months at the academic partner Leiden University (NL) and 18 months at the industrial partner GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines (GSKVACSRL), based in Siena (IT). The close collaboration between the two partners will ensure training of the ESRs at the highest level and with the best synergy possible in the fields of (synthetic) carbohydrate chemistry, vaccine design, protein chemistry and conjugation, biophysical interaction studies, and immunology. In addition, all students will participate in a series of scientific, technical and complementary skills training events. The positions will allow all students to participate in an exciting research and training programme, enhancing their career perspectives in both the academic and industrial sector.

The students will be enrolled in the PhD school programme at Leiden University (NL) for a period of 4 years.

Research projects

PAVax is an innovative, doctoral training network that aims at the education of a new generation of glycoscientists able to provide key findings for the design of new carbohydrate-based vaccines for the prevention of PA and SA infection.

Aim of PAVax is to explore and exploit the use of PA and SA-oligosaccharides to generate novel vaccines targeting these exposed polysaccharides. Next to the isolation of these polysaccharides from the bacteria, synthetic chemistry will be employed to deliver well-defined fragments of these polysaccharides. These will be used to map the interactions of the saccharides with antibodies to inform on the structure of the optimal epitope. Conjugation of the (synthetic) fragments to carrier proteins will lead to the generation of conjugate vaccines.

The project for ESR1:
Chemical and immunochemical characterization of Pel and Psl

The scope of this project is to gain information on composition and immunological properties of exopolysaccharides from PA. The polysaccharides will be isolated and characterized to produce conjugates that will be used to generate specific sera for investigating their recognition of biofilms from different PA strains and probing their functional activity. (Planned start date: 1st January 2021)

Training programme

The training programme comprises:

  • Research training activities, performed locally, leading to award of the PhD title.
  • Scientific/technical training courses and activities performed locally and at the project level to train the ESRs in scientific topics, advanced technology and methodologies necessary for the project implementation.
  • Transferable skills training to prepare the ESRs for an academic or industrial career will be provided through local and joint training courses.
  • Scientific events, such as 6 project meetings and 1 mid-term meeting, where the fellows will be required to present their achievements and progress to a senior audience.

The ESR will be enrolled at the in the PhD school programme at “University of Leiden” for a period of 4 years. ESR1 will be contractually employed for 36 months by GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines Srl (Italy). Extension to the fourth PhD year is foreseen. After 18 months the student will switch the working location to the University of Leiden (Netherlands).

The ESR will be covered under the social security scheme of the enrolling country. He or she will monthly receive a Living Allowance, a Mobility Allowance and a Family Allowance (if applicable) compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions (see page 80).

The PhD position is part of an Innovative Training Network (ITN) and the ESR to be employed will benefit from a personal career development plan with targeted training measures and participation in a range of network activities with the other PAVax consortium partner.

Eligibility criteria

At the time of recruitment, applicants must fulfill the following rules:

Experience eligibility requirement:

Eligible applicants must have a Master/Engineering degree and must be in the first four years of their research careers (full-time equivalent research experience) and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree.

Mobility eligibility requirement:

ESR1: applicants can be of any nationality but, at the time of recruitment, may not have resided or carried out their main activity in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date.

Selection process

Application Procedure

Applications for the PhD position should be addressed to Dr. Roberto Adamo.
All application should be sent at with the subject “application PAVax”

The application must be accompanied with the following documents in PDF format:

  • a letter giving reason for his/her motivation for the position
  • an updated CV of at most 3 pages; the CV must be without gaps, in order to easily check the mobility and experience requirements. CVs that either do not clearly show the applicant’s past experience, or have gaps, will be considered ineligible.
  • two written recommendation letters (in English) e.g. from your Master thesis supervisor and/or lecturer and the referees contact details
  • the copy of the degree (usually the Master Degree)
  • transcripts of records (document indicating the ranking and marks within the last year at the Master Degree as well as the courses/modules that have been followed) from University/University College.
  • a copy of master’s thesis or any other publication (if available)

Planned start date for ESR1: 1st January 2021
The deadline for application is 15th October 2020

Applications must be in English and will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Educational record
  • scientific quality of the applicant’s CV
  • expected individual impact and benefit to the fellow and to the project
  • previous experience in the subject of PAVax research programme.

The candidates will be evaluated on the basis of the received documents and the best 2-3 candidates will be invited for a F2F / Skype interview that will take place in October/November 2020.
As an equal opportunity employer Leiden University is committed to increase the percentage of female scientists and therefore especially encourages them to apply.