Universiteit Leiden

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Postdoctoral researcher in computational drug discovery

Vacancy number
Job type
Academic staff
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
24 November 2020
Closing date
1 January 2021 Vacancy closed

The Faculty of Science and the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research are looking for a

Postdoctoral researcher in computational drug discovery  

Project description
The process of identifying compounds and optimizing them to become drugs is complex and thus expensive. Therefore, in this project we aim to leverage recent developments in machine learning to improve the efficiency of this process. One of the fundamental problems that will be addressed in this project is taking prediction uncertainty of multiple objectives into consideration in order to guide the 'design-make-test' cycle. Specifically, we will create new software that considers  separate but related issues:

  • Predicting relevant properties of molecules (e.g. biological activity, solubility, and metabolic stability), including estimation of the prediction uncertainty;
  • Computer based generation of new molecules with good properties;
  • Iterative simultaneous optimization of relevant properties.

The practical application of these techniques, both in academic and in industrial settings, will contribute towards the success and the applicability of the software. The expected end result is a software suite/library that contributes towards better and faster design processes for new drugs.

The project is a collaborative effort between Leiden University, Galapagos NV, and the Dutch Research Council. We are planning to experimentally validate the computational findings of this project to improve the model reliability. You will be expected to visit the collaborative partners on a regular basis and/or meet via teleconferencing software.

In addition, you will be embedded in the Computational Drug Discovery group and expected to contribute to a number of ongoing collaborative projects with the Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC), the Institute of Biology (IBL), and the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). The lab has access to a wide range of software tools (including industry standard packages such as Schrödinger and Pipeline Pilot), an extensive set of both CPU and GPU compute resources, and the recently established university HPC environment ALICE. 

Selection criteria
We are looking for a highly motivated candidate, who has:

  • A PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Informatics, Machine Learning, Data Science, Mathematics, Computational Chemistry, or related disciplines;
  • A strong interest and track record in machine learning and preferably also computational drug discovery;
  • Experience with python and machine learning libraries: sklearn, pytorch/tensorflow/jax.
  • Excellent proficiency in English;
  • Collaborative mind set;
  • Good technical skills.

The candidate should feel comfortable working in a collaborative environment. Initiative, creativity and an independent working attitude are highly valued. Planned start date end of January 2020, or soon thereafter.
Our organisation
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 organized in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programs. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 1,300 staff and almost 4,000 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.

Terms and conditions
We offer a position for two years (on the basis of 0.8 or 1.0 FTE). Salary ranges from € 2.790,- to € 3.353,- gross per month based on a full-time employment, (pay scale 10 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. 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.

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

Enquiries can be made to Prof. Gerard van Westen, email gerard@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl). If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact secretary Lia Hinne, email l.e.hinne@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl.

To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to l.e.hinne@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl not later than January 1, 2021. Please ensure that you quote the vacancy number and include the following documents in your application:
•    A letter of motivation;
•    An updated CV, including a list of publications;
•    A copy of your PhD thesis;
•    A copy of your PhD degree;
•    At least three references, including names, affiliations and email addresses.

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