Universiteit Leiden

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Postdoc AI and physics based drug discovery

Wetenschappelijke functies
Omvang (fte)
Geplaatst op
20 februari 2024
11 maart 2024 Vacature gesloten

Postdoc AI and physics based drug discovery

Do you want to work on the forefront of computational drug discovery, embedded in a dynamic and enthusiastic research environment? As part of our team you will develop state of the art methods in structure based drug discovery. You will apply these approaches in real drug discovery projects, aimed at the identification of novel chemical entities to inhibit a recently identified target with therapeutic potential in the fight against cancer. You will work at the interface of computer science and medicinal chemistry, in close collaboration with two startup companies. By participating in this project you will gain valuable experience preparing you for a competitive scientific career, both in academia and in the industry. Join our team at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) and the Institute for Biology Leiden (IBL). We are looking to hire a postdoctoral researcher on a new project recently awarded by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) as part of its Open Technology Programme (OTP) aimed at supporting translational research.

Project and key responsibilities

The primary goal of this postdoctoral project is to create a novel physics-based drug discovery platform, integrating state of the art Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Free Energy Perturbation (FEP) methods. Using these methods, you will screen for novel inhibitors of nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT), an emerging target in oncology. You will have the unique opportunity to work with computational chemists, medicinal chemists, and biologists at Leiden University (LU), the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), and two start-ups at the Leiden Bioscience Park, Cantoni Therapeutics and MODSIM Pharma. The project is a collaboration between Dr. Willem Jespers, Prof. Nathaniel Martin, Prof. Gerard van Westen, Dr. Julia Houthuijzen and Dr. Matthijs van Haren.

  • You will develop a high-throughput virtual screening platform to enable the rapid identification of multiple hit compounds for NNMT, based on AI and physics based approaches,
  • You will propose chemical transformations amenable for organic synthesis, or available within purchasable chemical space.
  • You will participate in the development of novel chemical entities in a multi-disciplinary team at the intersect of academia and industry.
  • You will supervise PhD, MSc and BSc students and train and support them in computational drug discovery.
  • You stay abreast of developments in the field, read the literature and participate in relevant conferences.
  • You are expected to proactively propose solutions for research problems and publish in internationally renowned journals.

Selection criteria

We are looking for an excellent, creative, and highly motivated colleague with:

  • A Ph.D. in the field of computational drug discovery or related fields.
  • Strong coding skills, preferably in Python, experience with high-performance computing is an advantage
  • Affinity for collaborations in multi-disciplinary groups is essential.
  • Experience in virtual screening in the context of drug discovery projects is preferred.
  • Ability to work independently (project design , experimental planning, problem solving)
  • Competitive publication record
  • Excellent written and spoken English

We offer

A fully funded two year postdoctoral position in the vibrant and top edge environment of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research.

The position will be available in spring 2024. You will be appointed in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. The salary will be according to the Dutch Cao salary scales https://www.medewerkers.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/assets/ul2staff/po/salaris/salaristabel-1-juli-2022.pdf, scale 10 (€ 3.226 - € 5.090 gross per month).

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. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, see the website.

Diversity and Inclusion

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.

Where will you be working

You will be working in the modern laboratories of the division of Drug Discovery and Safety at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR). You will be part of the Computational Drug Discovery group (CDD), in the structure based drug discovery subgroup.

The Faculty of Science at Leiden University 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 bachelors’ and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,300 staff and over 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.

Leiden University is one of Europe’s leading international research universities.

Thanks to its committed and inspired employees, the university enjoys a leading role in academic research and education. Leiden also scores very well every year in prominent rankings. This means that, to maintain our position, the bar is set very high. Regardless of the work you do at our university, you are always encouraged to broaden your horizons, develop your talents and reach your full potential. Will you become our newest colleague?

Do you have questions about this position?
Please contact Dr. Willem Jespers, Assistant Professor, w.jespers@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl.

You can find more information about the faculty of Science at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/science/about-faculty-of-science. For more information about working at Leiden university please visit https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/working-at.


Are you enthusiastic about this vacancy? We are looking forward to get to know you. To apply for this vacancy, please submit your application online via the blue button below.

The closing date is 11-03-2024. Please ensure that you include the following additional documents:

  • Motivation letter including a description of specific research interests related to the proposed project.
  • Curriculum vitae, including a list of publications;
  • Brief past research statement (max 1-2 Pages);
  • Two letters of recommendation;
  • Copies of diplomas

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