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Funded PhD position; in Fungal Sphingolipid Inhibitors; at Lancaster University; in Germany

The Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute – in cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University, the University Hospital Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology are offering an international graduate training programme. The
International Leibniz Research School (ILRS Jena)

gives doctoral researchers the possibility to prepare for their PhD exam in an ambitious program providing excellent research conditions. We invite applications for a

Doctoral Researcher Position (Ref.No. ILRS_10/2017)

Biosynthesis of sphingolipid inhibitors in fungi

Polyketides are a large group of chemicals produced by many diverse organisms. They function as defence compounds, toxins, pigments, chemical messengers, and they have highly potential for being used as therapeutics.

Polyketides are synthetized by large multimodular enzymes named as polyketide synthases (PKSs). Fungal PKSs contain a well-defined set of domains, which guarantee the iterative condensation of malonyl-CoA units, plus optional domains that participate in the modification of the growing chain. Interestingly, those optional modifications do not occur in each elongation step, suggesting an intriguing and well defined biosynthesis program.

Among the different toxins produced by fungi, sphingolipid inhibitors (SIs) captured the attention because of their potential use against a wide range of illnesses, including invasive mycoses.

From a chemical perspective, the SIs biosynthesis start with the formation of a 20 carbon linear backbone obtained with the condensation of an octadecanoic acid and an alanine residue. So far, the few known fungal-produced SIs revealed that the PKS product is normally a linear 18 carbons chain containing specific methylations and reductions. Computational analysis of SI genes revealed the presence of ~140 clusters in different fungi potentially coding for ~30 different SIs. The chemical nature and the evolution of fungal SIs make them as good candidates for a systemic analysis of the different PKS domains. This study will be approached by domain swapping and expression of the modified PKSs in the SI producer Aspergillus fumigatus.

We expect:

  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent allowing you to pursue a PhD degree) in Natural or Life Sciences. Research at ILRS is centred around “Microbial and Biomolecular Interactions”. Candidates about to earn their degree are welcome to apply.
  • experience in molecular biology and/or in biological chemistry.
  • high motivation to join one of the research areas of ILRS
  • creativity and interest in shaping your own thesis project
  • an integrative and cooperative personality with enthusiasm for actively articipating in our lively community
  • very good communication skills in English

We offer:

  • a top-level research environment
  • efficient supervision by a team of advisors
  • a comprehensive mentoring programme
  • courses in state-of-the-art technologies and soft skills
  • strong communication and interaction between the involved institutions

Jena – City of Science: innovative business activities, successful scientific centres and a vibrant cultural scene around the famous Friedrich Schiller University

The three-year Doctoral Researcher position is available starting from January 2018. The position will be financially supported according to TV-L (salary agreement for public service employees). HKI is an equal opportunity employer.

Further information:
Dr. Vito Valiante, PI:
Dr. Christine Vogler, ILRS Coordinator:

The application process is handled exclusively online. Please acquaint yourself with the scientific projects offered on our website. Please note that you can choose up to 3 projects of interest in your application. It is only necessary to fill in the application form for your first preference of projects; the other two projects can be selected in the application form. In order to apply via the online application portal, go to

Deadline for application: Oct 22, 2017.
Successful applicants will be invited to attend a recruitment meeting in Jena (envisaged date: Dec 14-15, 2017).

Send application to

Dr. Christine Vogler, ILRS Coordinator:

Deadline: October 22, 2017.

Apply Now