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Two PhD positions within AntiHelix, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN network

The Antihelix project is a Horizon 2020 MSCA-ITN-ETN project, providing innovative education in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Clinical Oncology and Drug Discovery.

AntiHelix is a collaborative action and offers an international multidisciplinary research and training environment based on an integrated network of excellent, complementary, and integrated academic groups and SMEs. Represented in AntiHelix are several aspects of DNA helicases in genome maintenance, from molecular and cellular mechanisms to specific inhibitors as potential drugs.

In AntiHelix, 13 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will be involved in a dynamic and diverse network collaborating not only with six academic partners but also with three SMEs, providing a focus towards applications for human health. The ESRs will benefit from the expertise of the academic partners and SMEs, thus becoming trained in specific areas of research, and in the practice of international cooperation.

Each of the 13 ESR candidates will work on an individual research project in collaboration with other ERSs of AntiHelix´s network. The offered positions will last three years and will allow all the recruited researchers to be enrolled in local PhD schools and participate in an exciting multidisciplinary research programme that will enhance their career perspectives in both the academic and non-academic sector. In addition to their individual projects, all ESRs will benefit from a dedicated training programme consisting of local and network wide training activities aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and transferable skills.

The AntiHelix consortium includes the following 9 European institutions as Beneficiaries: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Naples, Italy; Elettra Sincrotrone SCpA, Trieste, Italy; University of Copenhagen, Denmark; VU University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany; Lead Discovery Center GmbH, Dortmund, Germany; Edelris SAS, Lyon, France; Lumicks BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands. The AntiHelix program is coordinated by Dr Francesca M. Pisani (Istituto di Biochimica e Biologia Cellulare, Consiglio Nazionale Ricerche, Naples, Italy).

Project background and aims

Helicases are ubiquitous enzymes, found in viruses, Bacteria, Archaea and eukaryotic cells. They act as motor proteins to separate or remodel DNA or RNA duplexes, using ATP as an energy source. Their activity is essential in nucleic acid metabolism, playing a key role in a variety of cellular processes, including DNA replication, repair and recombination, as well as RNA translation and transport. Not surprisingly, given their essential tasks in living organisms, they are emerging as an important class of targets for antiviral, antibiotic and anti-cancer drugs. To date, several genetic and biochemical studies have revealed the molecular and physiological functions of DNA helicases. In addition, protein three-dimension structural studies coupled with single molecule biophysical approaches have provided insights into structure-function relationships and reaction mechanisms of some key DNA helicases.

The AntiHelix consortium includes experts in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Medicinal Chemistry, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Clinical Oncology, Drug Discovery and aims to:

•    obtain a detailed picture of the mechanism of action and the physiological role of a number of DNA helicases that are implicated in human diseases;
•    discover specific inhibitors of those enzymes, which can then be tested as novel therapeutic drugs, especially for cancers;
•    address the need for training next generation scientists with complementary approaches and diverse techniques by secondments in different laboratories of the consortium;
•    promote a culture of collaboration between academic and private sectors and provide young scientists with the necessary experience and skills to exploit the full potential of research findings;
•    provide researchers at early stage of their career with greater opportunities to access an increasingly competitive job market.

LDC is partner of the AntiHelix network and is offering
Two PhD positions in Dortmund, Germany, to begin in February/March 2020, as part of the AntiHelix ITN network (ESR 10 and ESR 11):
The overall goal of these PhD projects is the Discovery of small molecule inhibitors of selected human DNA helicases (e.g. BLM, RECQ4, PIF1, DDX11). The applicants will express and purify the recombinant helicases, will develop primary assays suitable for High-Throughput-Screening (HTS) of a large small-molecule compound library, and will identify inhibitors of the respective helicases by HTS. Hit compounds will be characterized and validated with orthogonal and secondary assays. The developed inhibitors will be used to study the cellular functions of the target DNA helicases and the underlying molecular mechanisms and will serve as drug precursors.
The ESRs will be additionally trained in project management at the interface of academic and pharmaceutical research, in patent searches and protection of intellectual property.

•    3-year full-time employment contract in accordance with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action regulations for Early Stage Researchers
•    Enrolment in a local PhD school (TU Dortmund)
•    Access to state-of-the-art research and supervision by recognized experts
•    Participation in network-wide training activities, schools and conferences
•    Secondments periods at other network partners’ labs

Candidates must comply with the following requirements:
•    Have not been resident or have conducted main activity (studies, work, etc.) for more than 12 months within the last three years in the country where the project will take place
•    Be in the first four years of their research career (measured from the date they have obtained a degree that allows them to enrol in a PhD program)
•    Be fluent in English

Candidates are invited to send the following documents:
•    Motivation letter (max. two pages)
•    CV including the details of education/qualifications, work experience, language skills and other relevant skills; indication of at least two Scientists for reference letters;
•    Certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of exams taken with relative mark. A certified/signed copy of Master of Science certificate or a letter from the Head of the degree course stating that the Student is going to finish before the end of 2019.

All applications will be checked for eligibility (in particular, the adherence to the mobility rule). Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview. Candidates will be notified of the outcome. Start of employment will be in February/March 2020.

Please send your documents to




The application deadline is November 10, 2019