PhD-student (3 years) GPCR Molecular Pharmacology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD-student (3 years) GPCR Molecular Pharmacology
  • University Graduate
ONCORNET2.0, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network (ETN), is looking for a  highly motivated and talented student with a MSc degree who is interested in an ambitious multidisciplinary project on oncogenic G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

FTE: 1.0

Job description

Pharmacological analysis of photoactivatable CXCR4/ACKR3 ligands in vitro/in vivo (ESR7)
Photopharmacology has emerged as an exciting research area on the interface between chemistry and biology. In photopharmacology, light is used to switch biological activity of small-molecule ligands of specific proteins. As such, it provides precise spatiotemporal control of protein activity and is compatible with living systems. Photoswitchable and photocaged ligands are promising research tools to study biological processes and hold promise as potential light-activatable medicines. As part of the broader Oncornet 2.0 consortium, this project aims unleash photopharmacology on the chemokine receptors CXCR4 and ACKR3 by investigating the synthesis and photochemistry of photosensitive small-molecule ligands (
More information on the concept of photoswitchable ligands can be found in the following recent publications from our group.
Hauwert et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 4232
Hauwert et al., Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. 2019, 58, 4531
Gómez-Santacana et al., Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. 2018, 57, 11608
Gómez-Santacana et al., Beilstein J. Org. Chem. 2019, 15, 2509

Your duties
  • development of new photopharmacology cell-based assays to pharmacologically characterize photoswitchable small-molecule CXCR4 and ACKR3 ligands (agonists/antagonists)
  • characterization of new photoswitchable ligands, supported by computer-aided drug design and GPCR mutation studies
  • Close collaboration with fellow PhD student ESR1 on the in vitro pharmacological characterization of the synthesized ligands
  • Collaborations with other fellow PhD students in the consortium on the in vitro and in vivo application of the photoswitchable ligands
  • Execution of two external secondments: one with the company InterAx (Switserland) and the second at INSERM (Paris, France)
  • Supervision of research traineeships and literature theses of master students
  • Regular updating in project meetings and group meetings
  • Dissemination of results in peer-reviewed journals and at conferences


  • required diploma: A MSc degree in Biochemistry or Pharmacology or related Biomedical degrees
  • required expertise: The candidate has a strong background (theoretical and practical) in cell biology, signal transduction and preferably pharmacology and/or molecular biology
  • recommended expertise: Expertise in GPCR molecular and cellular pharmacology is a strong pre. Previous experience with biosensor-based assay development and/or photopharmacology is also highly valued

Eligibility criteria of Marie Curie Initial Training Networks apply. Only applicants who comply to the following conditions will be considered:
  • conditions:  Candidates must be, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. This is measured from the date when they obtained the MSc degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate
  • conditions of international mobility: Eligible candidates may be of any nationality but must not, at the time of recruitment, have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 last years immediately prior to the reference date

What are we offering?

ONCORNET2.0 offers:
  • generously funded positions (duration 36 months) for 15 Early stage researchers (ESRs) according to the EU Marie Curie ITN funding scheme (for more information see version 2 on
  • high profile research projects in an Innovative Training Network Program
  • excellent facilities for research and education
  • research training in both academic and industrial settings
  • training in state-of-the-art scientific and transferable skills
  • intensive contacts with international collaborators & secondments in other research laboratories

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2325 (PhD) gross per month during the first year and increases to €2972 (PhD) gross per month during the third year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1.0 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for another 2 years.


About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the ONCORNET 2.0 consortium
The ETN ONCORNET 2.0 consortium ( has a dedicated mission to train and educate the next generation of interdisciplinary ESRs in the field of oncogenic G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The ONCORNET2.0 consortium will offer an extensive multidisciplinary training programme to the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to ensure that they can operate in today’s drug discovery programmes. This will include both research (e.g. drug discovery, proteomics, imaging) and transferable (e.g. entrepreneurship, academic writing, media training) skill sets. The aim is to enhance their career opportunities by specifically focusing on skill sets that are needed to work in today’s drug discovery pipelines in academia, biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
ONCORNET2.0 will hire 15 ESRs who will be trained in both academic and industrial settings according to a personalised scheme with cross-secondments in academic and/or industrial participating organisations. This PhD student is embedded in the department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, division Medicinal Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 31 december 2019. The job interviews will take place via a Skype interview and final round on February 11th 2020 in Amsterdam, when possible please take this day into account when applying for the position.

Please send the following information (as one pdf file)
  • Detailed CV (include information on your BSc and MSc studies, languages, achievements, expertise)
  • Motivation letter, addressed to the ONCORNET2.0 selection committee, explaining your motivation why you apply with us. You have to indicate which ONCORNET ESR projects you are interested in (please motivate your selection).
  • Provide contact details of at least 2 references (names, addresses, emails).
  • Reference letter from one of the enlisted references
  • Copies of your key educational certificates
  • Transcript of Records (i.e. documents enlisting your performance as BSc and MSc student over time by listing the course units or modules taken, credits gained and the grades awarded). If you have not completed your MSc degree yet include all grades obtained so far.

If applicable provide a language certificate

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof. Dr. Rob Leurs, Dr. Henry Vischer, Dr. Maikel Wijtmans
Position: Supervisors of this project

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