PhD Student Malaria pathogenesis (m/f/d)

Bernhard-Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizin (BNITM), Hamburg

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (www.bnitm.de) is the largest Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Germany and is the National Reference Centre for Tropical Pathogens, a WHO Collaborating Centre and member of the Leibniz Research Association.

At the earliest possible date, the laboratory group Bachmann located within the Cellular and Parasitology Department at the BNITM in Hamburg (Germany) is looking for a highly motivated

PhD Student (m/f/d)

65% EG 13 TV-AVH

to investigate the pathogenesis of severe childhood malaria.

Description of the DFG-funded project:

Malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum remains one of the major global health problems and a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly among children under the age of five. Severe childhood malaria is associated with three main overlapping syndromes: cerebral malaria, hyperlactataemia/acidosis and severe anaemia. The central feature of severe malaria, driven by host and parasite factors, is the sequestration of parasitized red blood cells in vascular beds, leading to impaired tissue perfusion and lactic acidosis. The causing agent, the parasite ligand PfEMP1, is expressed on the surface of infected red blood cells, where it binds to a broad range of different endothelial receptors. Exposure to repeated episodes of malaria infection results in the gradual acquisition of an anti-disease immunity, which targets certain PfEMP1 variants. Therefore, each parasite genome is equipped with about 60 different mutually exclusively expressed var genes to escape a gradual increasing host immunity during infection by antigenic variation (Bachmann et al., 2019 PLoS Pathogens).

To date, no effective adjunctive therapies exist for severe malaria and the role of PfEMP1 or other parasite factors during the different and complex severe malaria syndromes is poorly understood. Therefore, this project aims to compare global transcriptomes from parasites isolated from a Ghanaian cohort of paediatric malaria patients with accurately defined phenotypes of the different severe malaria syndromes (n=714) with asymptomatic controls (n=250) (Timmann et al., 2012 nature). The RNA-seq analysis pipeline has been optimized for patient isolates and measures differences in the expression of core parasite genes as well as of the polymorphic PfEMP1-encoding var genes to provide an unprecedented in-depth analysis of clinical infections (Wichers et al., 2021 eLife). In conclusion, the data generated in this project will significantly advance our scarce understanding of the complex pathology of severe malaria and will be instrumental for further studies towards identifying the molecular basis of parasite virulence. Working closely with institute internal and external malaria research groups and bioinformaticians, the successful candidate will receive extensive training in molecular and cell biology, ranging from transgenic cell line generation to next generation sequencing, including bioinformatics.

Your profile: 

  • diploma/master degree or equivalent in life sciences
  • background in molecular biology and bioinformatics
  • interest in parasitology and bioinformatic analysis of large data sets
  • excellent teamwork and communication skills
  • humor and enthusiasm
  • proficiency in English (written and spoken)
  • able to work independently and to develop creative work

Our benefits:

  • an interesting and challenging job in a modern research institution
  • integration into an open-minded and motivated team
  • a highly collaborative research team
  • chance to present the project at national and international conferences
  • a structured training program for PhD students (BNITM graduate school)
  • a central location at the Landungsbrücken (nice view from the lab!), which is easily accessible by public transport
  • 30 days holidays per year
  • flexible and family-friendly working hours
  • childcare subsidy
  • subsidy for HVV-ProfiTicket
  • company pension scheme
  • opportunities for further education and training
  • special conditions in selected sports and fitness clubs in Hamburg

Starting date will be beginning of July 2022 or later. The position is initially limited to 3 years and is remunerated with 65% E 13 TV-AVH according to the rules of the public service under the TV-AVH (collective agreement of the “Arbeitsrechtliche Vereinigung Hamburg“).

We support our employees in achieving a work-life balance and promote the professional equality of women and men. We strive to assist women in their scientific career, increase the number of women in research and reduce under-representation in all areas and positions in general. Applicants with disabilities will be given preference when equally qualified.

As a member of the Diversity Charter, the largest diversity management network in Germany, we are also committed to making diversity an integral part of our institute culture. It is our goal to create a working environment that is free of prejudice.

Please apply by 1st of June 2022 preferably via our online form with the documents required: motivation letter, CV, high school and university certificates and the name and contact information of two references.

Alternatively, you can submit your application referring to"PhD_malaria pathogenesis" via postal mail to Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Ms. Katja Bünger, HR Department, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 74, 20359 Hamburg, Germany.

If you have any questions regarding the application process or the selection procedure, please contact Ms. Katja Bünger (buenger(at)bnitm.de) from the Human Resources Department.

For further questions please contact Dr. Anna Bachmann (bachmann(at)bnitm.de), +49 (0) 40 42818-439).