PhD Student

Last application date
Dec 15, 2019 16:39
Department
DI04 - Department of Virology, parasitology and immunology
Employment category
Doctoral fellow
Contract
Limited duration
Degree
MSc Bio-technology; MSc biology, MSc bio-engineering (or equivalent) or will have obtained this degree by the start of appointment, which is February 2020.
Occupancy rate
100%
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

Background

Worldwide more than 1.5 billion people are infected with intestinal worms, the so-called soil-transmitted helminths (STHs). To reduce the morbidity caused by these worms, the World Health Organization recommends large scale deworming programs during which benzimidazole (BZ) drugs are periodically administered to children, and these programs have recently received increased political and scientific attention. For example, the global treatment coverage of school-aged children has doubled between 2011 (~30%) and 2017 (~70%). A further upscale in MDA is ongoing with the ultimate goal of treating at least 75% of school-aged children in all endemic countries by 2020. While the laudable long-term aim is to eliminate STHs as a public health problem by 2020, and to eventually declare targeted geographical areas free of infections, this high level of drug pressure makes these large-scale deworming programs highly vulnerable to the development of anthelmintic resistance (AR). Expected outcome the project: through this project we aim to validate current / new molecular markers for AR, to develop/validate diagnostic tools for these markers, and to assess the global emergence of AR in high drug pressure areas.

Objectives of the project

The candidate will compare the genomes of 2 worm populations that showed a clear distinct response to BZ drugs (worms that were killed following a single dose BZ vs. worms that survived multiple doses of BZ). Based on this genome wide analysis, he/she will subsequently develop and validate digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) protocols to quantify the most relevant mutations. The final dPCR protocols will then applied on a collection of well-characterized DNA samples from three BZ clinical trials in countries with different histories of drug pressure with the aim to further assess associations between frequency of mutation and individual response to BZ. Finally, the candidate will employ the dPCR protocols on samples collected during 7 clinical trials in strategically selected regions in Asia, Africa and Latin-America. Each of these regions covered at least 90% of all school children for the last 4 consecutive years. Our offer: we offer you a four-year scholarship supervised by an internationally acknowledged academic partner in the field of STHs that is closely working together with health care decision makers (e.g. WHO) and major international funding bodies (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). You will be working with an established group of researchers with complementary expertise on infectious diseases, including but not limited to the development/validation of diagnostic tools; anthelmintic resistance; disease modeling; vaccine development; One Health and unraveling host-parasite interactions. You will be embedded the international PhD community of the Department (current PhDs origin from e.g. Peru, Ecuador and Ethiopia), and you will be provided sufficient time to improve complementary skills through the Doctoral Schools Program of Ghent University.

Profile of the candidate

Experience

  • You have a demonstrable interest in the field of neglected tropical diseases and/or public health 
  • You are proficient in developing and validating molecular diagnostic tools and have proven (e.g. student project, master thesis, ...) strong analytical skills and analyzing whole-genome results
  • You are able to work independently and should have a strong feeling of responsibility
  • You are fluently in English language, and have good communication skills, oral and in writing Skills

Attitude 

  • You are quality-oriented;
  • You take initiative; 
  • You are creative; 
  • You have an eye for detail; 
  • You are a team player.

How to apply

Applications have to be sent in via email to marijke.machtelinckx@ugent.be at the latest on December 15, 2019 at 11:59PM (CET). The following documents should be attached:

  • cover letter
  • motivation letter 
  • copies of your MSc degree 
  • reference letters and contact details of at least 2 persons Please merge all documents into one PDF attachment and mention the reference number VAC-PHD-BL-02 in the subject line of your email.

Pay attention: Applications sent in after the deadline will not be accepted.