This post is available for a fixed term of four years to undertake research in relation to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The PhD student will work in a team of four researchers funded by a prestigious VICI grant entitled ‘PRECISE. Precision medicine for age-related macular degeneration: from biomarkers to patient stratification and disease modeling’ that was recently awarded to Prof. Anneke den Hollander by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Specifically, the PhD student will develop precision medicine approaches for AMD by stratifying patients into subgroups based on genetic variants, serum biomarkers and imaging characteristics.
AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in the elderly, and has a huge psychological and social impact on quality of life. No curative treatment has yet been approved that prevents the degenerative process in AMD. Recent work has suggested that several molecular pathways contribute to AMD although it remains unclear to what extent and in what manner these pathways are integrated in the etiology of the disease. For example, our research identified a subgroup of AMD patients that has high activity of the complement system in serum. Such patients are expected to respond better to complement inhibitors that are currently in the clinical trial phase than patients in which other molecular pathways are affected and in which the complement system may play a lesser role. Other subgroups of patients may benefit from different treatments, targeting other molecular pathways. In the VICI project of Prof. Anneke den Hollander, genetic, serum and imaging biomarkers will be identified using innovative omics technologies and imaging software (carried out by a PhD student in molecular biology, other vacancy). AMD patients will then be stratified into subgroups based on these genetic, serum and imaging biomarkers (carried out by the PhD student in bioinformatics, this vacancy).
Finally, a new 3D organ-on-a-chip for these AMD subgroups will be developed to characterize the disease mechanisms and to test the effect of therapeutic compounds in these subgroups (carried out by a postdoc and a technician, other vacancies).
Tasks and responsibilities
- The PhD student contributes to the development of new knowledge within the context of the VICI project ‘PRECISE. Precision medicine for age-related macular degeneration: from biomarkers to patient stratification and disease modeling’
- Designs and performs scientific research
- Writes scientific publications and presents findings at scientific meetings
- Works in a team with PhD students, technicians, postdocs and senior scientists
- Discusses, plans and performs research in a stimulating environment
- Works in a highly international research group
- Academic degree (MSc) in bioinformatics, statistics, epidemiology, physics or a related discipline
- Experience in bioinformatic handling, data analysis and storage of large datasets (big data)
- Preferably experience with exome sequencing, whole genome sequencing and/or omics data
- Programming experience in Python/Perl, and in object-orientated programming (Java)
- Ability to work with Linux operating systems
- Affinity with fundamental research related to human disease
- Enthusiasm and strong ambition to succeed in academic research
- Highly motivated to work in an interdisciplinary environment at the cutting edge of science
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are essential, as is a willingness to work flexibly
- It is expected that the successful applicant will register for a PhD and will submit a high quality dissertation for examination within four years of his or her appointment