PhD candidate, ‘A novel class of anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid drugs’

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 05 Dec 2022

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The Faculty of Science / the Institute for Biology is looking for a :

PhD candidate, ‘A novel class of anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid drugs’
Vacancy number: 22-741

Key responsibilities
The PhD candidate will work on a project that involves the development of novel glucocorticoid drugs. These drugs are commonly prescribed to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, but their use is limited by their side effects. However, in recent years we have developed a novel glucocorticoid drug that has virtually no side effects, by chemically modifying the glucocorticoid drugs prednisolone and dexamethasone. Thereby, we have created an inactive ‘prodrug’, that is converted into an active compound by an enzyme that is specifically active in inflamed tissue. This PhD project will focus on the mechanism of action of the developed prodrug in more detail, in particular on the tissue- and cell type-specificity of the responsible enzyme and on how its activity is regulated. Zebrafish and cell cultures will be used as model systems. Additionally, based on the validated proof-of-concept, other types of prodrugs will be generated and screened to broaden the scope of the project.

Selection Criteria

  • MSc degree in biology, biomedical/biopharmaceutical sciences, life sciences or a related discipline (also candidates close to graduating are encouraged to apply)
  • Practical experience in molecular and cellular biology, preferably experience with experimental work using mammalian cell culture and/or zebrafish
  • Theoretical knowledge of immunology and pharmacology
  • English conversation, writing and presentation skills
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary collaborative project

Research at our faculty
The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

The research carried out at the Faculty of Science is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2800 staff and almost 6000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

For more information, see   and

The Institute for Biology
The research within the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) aims to work on the science base of biodiversity and health, which is reflected in our leading principle Harnessing Biodiversity for Health. We perform innovative curiosity-driven research to answer fundamental questions, and solutions-driven research to help solving major societal challenges. The latter include protecting nature’s biodiversity, creating sustainable biotechnology and agriculture and increasing good health. Our research focuses on four Research Themes: Bioactive Molecules, Host-Microbe Interactions, Development & Disease and Evolution & Biodiversity. Located in a thriving scientific environment with our Faculty of Sciences,  Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, the Leiden University Medical Centre and the Leiden Bioscience Park, IBL offers an exciting, internationally oriented and inclusive place to work and study.  

Terms and conditions 
We offer a  full-time 1 year term position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from € 2541 to € 3247 gross per month (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science . Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by the research school.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

Enquiries can be made to  Dr. Marcel Schaaf ( ). If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact Sylvia Maas ( ).

To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to . Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents (combined in a single PDF file) quoting the vacancy number:

  • Letter of motivation
  • Curriculum vitae
  • MSc grade list
  • Names and contact details of two previous supervisors who may be contacted for a reference

Only applications received before 5 December 2022  can be considered.

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