ITM’s Molecular Parasitology Unit (MPU) focuses on Leishmania research, both fundamental and applied. During the last 20 years, it developed a worldwide recognised leadership on
- The biology of parasite adaptation to drugs, both through drug resistance or quiescence
- Genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics. The laboratory pioneered research on Leishmania genome diversity and hosts all needed parasitological, molecular and bio-informatic expertise.
The project stems from the previous research performed in MPU where we:
- Reported the existence of quiescence in Leishmania braziliensis and confirmed low replication rates and overall downregulated metabolism including significantly reduced levels of translation-machinery (rRNA and ribosomal proteins) in amastigotes.
- Established in vitro models using a biosensor of quiescence, a negative marker based on the decreased expression of GFP in the rDNA locus (rGFP), which allow studying quiescence in different life stages. However, so far studies on quiescence in the viscerotropic Leishmania donovani are missing, even though several (sub-)clinical features point at the potential role of quiescence in asymptomatic infections, treatment failure or disease reactivation.
In this project we will use in vitro models developed for L. braziliensis, and translated to L. donovani to understand experimentally quiescence and to characterise molecular pathways and regulators involved in the control of this unique adaptive phenomenon.
- You will perform research to characterize in vitro quiescence in L. donovani, in order to understand the mechanisms associated with its emergence, its heterogeneity, its dynamics and its role in parasite adaptation to stress.
- You will characterise in vitro the molecular changes accompanying stress-induced quiescence and identify positive markers of quiescence and potential regulators by means of bulk untargeted analyses (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics) at whole-cell population level.
- You will study in vitro the transcriptional heterogeneity among cells in a population entering in quiescence and order molecular events using single cell RNAseq approach.
- You will functionally validate in vitro candidate regulators of quiescence using a combination of CRISPR/Cas9 screening and perturbation study.
- You will establish an in vivo model for the development of quiescence in absence/presence of chemotherapy to study the role of quiescence in survival to drug pressure, with markers and tools validated in vitro.
- You will prepare a PhD-thesis within a period of four years.
- You will present your research at scientific conferences and write scientific manuscripts.
- You will apply for external financial research grants.
- You will supervise master students.
- You have a master degree in biological, biomedical, biochemistry or other relevant sciences.
- You have a good understanding of molecular biology and genetics.
- You have knowledge and/or you are interested in learning about genome, transcriptome, metabolome and proteome analysis, and bio-informatics.
- You have a strong interest in scientific research.
- You are interested in conducting research where wet- and dry-lab approaches are combined.
- You have excellent study results and you are eager to acquire new skills.
- Having a Felasa B or C is an asset.
- You have good analytical skills, you are curiosity-driven, precise, accurate, organised.
- You have good communication skills and you are a team-player.
- You are fluent in academic English (speaking and writing).
ITM is an open and international campus where staff, students and researchers work on new international health challenges. We strive for excellence, integrity, specificity and efficiency. Your assignment contributes to our mission. We value human dignity and diversity, academic creativity and a critical spirit, solidarity and cooperation, and the well-being of employees, students, patients and clients. Together we ensure a pleasant working atmosphere with attention to work-life balance and opportunities for training.
We offer you:
- A fulltime contract as a research assistant for a period of two times two years, after positive intermediate evaluation. Starting at the latest on 1 April 2021.
- A salary according to the pay scales of ITM and the Flemish universities and to your work experience with supplementary benefits: a public transportation subscription and/or bicycle fee, private pension scheme and meal voucher subscription.