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PhD position in structural biology of viral proteins

The Biozentrum of the University of Basel is one of the leading life sciences institutes in the world. It consists of 30 groups and 500 employees that research how molecules and cells create life, spanning the scale from atom to organism. Founded in 1971, the Biozentrum has been the birthplace of many fundamental discoveries in biology and medicine, spawning several Nobel Laureates.

In Prof. Torsten Schwede’s group, we use computational methods to model protein structures, characterise protein-ligand interactions, and explore the effects of mutations on protein structure and function. We also explore the application of AI methods to characterise the viral and dark proteome, and to automate areas of discovery and design of novel therapeutics.

Within the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, we develop SWISS-MODEL (https://swissmodel.expasy.org), a widely used web-based platform for generating high-accuracy 3D models of protein structures and complexes for application in life sciences.

The project
The project involves identifying regions in viral proteins that can be leveraged to disrupt pathogenic mechanisms. The successful PhD candidate will use cutting-edge computational techniques to model structures of large viral protein complexes, and analyse their conformational flexibility as well as variations within patient samples. In addition, the candidate will apply surface-centric approaches to discover epitope-like regions that can be exploited for the development of antiviral mRNA and protein-based strategies.

Current structure prediction and analysis techniques are not yet readily applicable to viral proteins due to their unique properties. For example, their sequence diversity far exceeds other kingdoms, highlighting their fast evolutionary rates. They often contain functionally-relevant intrinsically disordered regions, and tend to assemble into large complexes with the surfaces of the complex differing from its constituents.

The research will include active collaboration with experimental groups both in academic and clinical settings, primarily with Prof. Hans H. Hirsch at the University Hospital Basel, on rational protein engineering of therapeutics such as mRNA-based vaccines and antibody design.

Your profile

  • Master in biochemistry, bioinformatics or a related discipline, and a strong interest in structural biology and modern data analytics techniques, AI / ML.
  • You can strengthen our team in at least one of the following areas: protein bioinformatics, viral biology, data science.
  • Good communication skills in English.
  • Self-motivation, drive and ability to explore new research directions.

We offer
The salary is in accordance with the guidelines of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Basel is a cosmopolitan and multicultural city at the heart of Europe. Bordering three countries, Switzerland, Germany, and France, Basel provides a high standard of living with a thriving cultural atmosphere. The Basel area is Europe’s most important Life Science hub with many small and medium-size biotech companies as well as global pharmaceutical players.

Application / Contact
Please apply online https://biped2.biozentrum.unibas.ch/apply/phd_schwede_group and provide a motivation statement that describes how your background and scientific interests match the criteria for this position, CV, and contact information for two references.

Review of applications will begin immediately and proceed until the position has been filled. Early application is strongly encouraged.

The start date is by mutual arrangement, with the possibility to start immediately.