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PhD Position in the Virtual Human for Safety (VHP4Safety) Project

Vacancy number
Job type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
26 October 2021
Closing date
5 November 2021 Vacancy closed

The Faculty of Science and Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) are looking for candidates for a PhD Position in the Virtual Human for Safety (VHP4Safety) Project (1.0 fte)

Vacancy number 21-545

PhD Position in VHP4Safety

Current legal and regulatory frameworks for the assessment of the safety of chemicals and pharmaceuticals for human health rely predominantly on data from in vivo animal studies. However,

the accuracy of animal studies to predict toxicity in humans is limited. In addition, current animal testing regimes do not reflect humanrelevant scenarios, such as differences in susceptibility due to age, sex, timing of exposure, or disease state.


The mission of the VHP4Safety is to improve the prediction of the potential harmful effects of chemicals and pharmaceuticals based on a holistic, interdisciplinary definition of human health and accelerating the transition from animalbased testing to innovative safety assessment. The VHP4Safety integrates data on human physiology, chemical characteristics and perturbations of biological pathways, for the first time in an inclusive and integrated manner that incorporates: 1) humanrelevant scenarios to discriminate vulnerable groups (such as disease state, life course exposure, gender and age); 2) chemicals from different sectors (pharma, consumer products and chemical industry); and, 3) different regulatory and stakeholder needs.


In this PhD project we will use in silico methods to couple the world of artificial intelligence and cheminformatics (e.g. proteochemometrics) with the world of pharmacology modeling (e.g. Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) Modeling) . The main work will be on models that underly an understanding of molecular initiation events and link these to quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathways’ (qAOPs) relevant to the platform

Key responsibilities

  • Conduct original and novel research in AI and cheminformatics
  • Publish and present scientific articles at international journals and conferences;
  • Contribute to educational activities;
  • Write a dissertation;
  • Engage in collaborations with colleagues across domains

Selection criteria

  • A MSc degree in Computer Science, AI, (Computational) chemistry, Biopharmaceutical Sciences, or a relevant related field;
  • Good knowledge of and experienced with AI techniques;
  • Good knowledge of and experienced with Computational chemistry;
  • Highly motivated to both perform foundational research and apply the developed methods to real-world problems;
  • Creative, ‘making things work’ mentality, independent, and communicative team player;
  • Experienced with writing scientific manuscripts and good academic writing skills;
  • Excellent programming skills (preferably C++ and/or Python);
  • Interested in participating in educational activities;
  • Excellent proficiency in English (oral and written).

Research at our faculty and institute

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. For more information, see the website of the Faculty of Science.

The research carried out at the Faculty of Science is diverse, ranging from artificial intelligence, computer science, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,300 staff and almost 5,000 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.For more information, see the website.

Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research

The divisions of Drug Discovery and Safety (DDS) and Systems Biomedicine and Pharmacology (SBP) are part of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR). Our institute is a centre of excellence for multidisciplinary research on drug discovery and development. Leiden University consistently ranks within the top-20 world-wide within the subject-based QS Ranking in Pharmacology and Pharmacy. At LACDR, we develop innovative scientific concepts in fundamental and translational research underlying the discovery and optimization of drugs, and personalised medicines. We aim to optimise the route to novel drugs that are both efficacious and safe, and therefore our research focuses on drug discovery and safety, bio-therapeutics, and systems biomedicine and pharmacology. State-of-the-art expertise and infrastructures ensure that we are strategically positioned in (inter)national collaborations, thus further strengthening the development of novel concepts and their application in a clinical and industry environment.

Computational Drug Discovery

Research in this group, headed by Gerard van Westen, focusses on computational methods integrated in different parts of the drug discovery process. More specifically, topics include innovative treatments for cancer, selectivity modeling, translational research, allosteric modulation, drug resistance modeling, and novel methods in the domain of machine learning. For more information see here

LACDR has close on-going collaborations with the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR).  More information about the LACDR can be found at the website.

The city of Leiden

Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. Leiden is a lively and beautiful city with a central location in Europe, at only 17 minutes from Schiphol International Airport. It is a very international city where almost everybody speaks English, candidates need not be afraid of the language barrier. Leiden is a typical historic university city, hosting the oldest university in the Netherlands (1575). The University permeates the local surroundings; University premises are scattered throughout the city, and the students who live and study in Leiden give the city its relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere. Today, with some 27,000 students, 5,500 staff, 16 Nobel prizes, more than 100 nationalities and a budget of more than 550 million Euros, it is one of the largest comprehensive universities in Europe. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia.

Terms and conditions

We offer a full-time appointment of initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the research, teaching evaluations, personal capabilities and compatibility, the appointment will be extended for another three years. Salary range from € 2.434,-  to €3.111,-  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. 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.

Diversity and work-life balance

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups. LACDR is a highly diverse institute, in culture, background, and gender. We stand for excellence in a caring Institute. We wish to reflect society in all aspects, as we believe that this improves the dynamics in our organization. Therefore, we support and understand the need for a work/life/family balance and consequent varying working hours and places. We believe that doing good science is fun, and goes hand in hand with a friendly culture. In the Netherlands, a maternity allowance is standard for 16 weeks. Child care is available at and near the Bio Science Park.


Inquiries about the research area can be made to Profs Gerard van Westen <gerard@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl>. If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact Lia Hinne <l.e.hinne@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl>


To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to l.e.hinne@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl. Applicants should submit their application letter, curriculum vitae, a list of grades, and two references (who  have agreed to be contacted), quoting the vacancy number.

Only applications received no later than November 5th, 2021 can be considered. The selection procedure will take place in November 2021, and selected candidates may be invited for an interview in this period, during which you are kindly requested to be available.

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