Industrial PhD studentships - Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher

The Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia - ICIQ - VIRO-FLOW

Full-time, 36 months, starting Spring/Summer 2018

Applications deadline 8/01/2018

VIRO-FLOW is a recently funded Horizon 2020 project that aims to integrate the advantages of continuous flow chemical synthesis with in vitro microfluidic bioassay technologies for the fast and efficient discovery of inhibitors of hepatitis B virus (HBV).

The research programme is composed of three closely related projects in the fields of medicinal chemistry, molecular biology/ protein biochemistry and computational chemistry, and will provide exceptional training in drug discovery and enabling technologies for three Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs).

The ESRs will be supported by a network of experts at AiCuris, an infectious disease-focused biotech company, and the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), a research center working on catalysis, with a special focus on sustainability (functionalization of small molecules, renewable energies, new uses for light in chemistry) using an integrated approach. ICIQ is highly committed to knowledge and technology transfer to the chemical, pharmaceutical and energy industrial sectors.

The ESR training will include international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial mobility, and will integrate academic and industrial contributions.

Studentships will be granted for three years, with fellows spending eighteen months at ICIQ (Tarragona, Spain) and eighteen months at AiCuris (Wuppertal, Germany), within an industrial doctorate programme. Fellows will receive:

  • Close mentoring, supervision, guidance and support by a wide network of acclaimed researchers and experts at both ICIQ and AiCuris
  • When at ICIQ, the students will by integrated in the Pericàs Laboratory/ERTFLOW, with ample expertise in catalytic flow chemistry
  • A personalized doctoral career development plan
  • A training program for scientific as well as transferable skills
  • Significant exposure to working within the pharmaceutical industry
  • A monthly gross salary of 2907€ plus a family allowance, if applicable. Spanish taxation and social security deductions will apply.

ESRs will be fully equipped with the practical and intellectual skills necessary to pursue successful careers in scientific research, especially rapidly emerging fields that require novel multidisciplinary technological development.

Formal enrolment will be into the PhD program at the University of Rovira i Virgili (URV) (Tarragona) with one supervisor at ICIQ and one supervisor at AiCuris.

Calls structure
The call for candidatures is open to all, but a multistep evaluation procedure and special eligibility criteria will apply. There are no restrictions on gender, age, ethnicity, national or social origin, religion or personal belief system, sexual orientation, language, disability, political opinion, and social or economic conditions. ICIQ and AiCuris and its associated centres are committed to policies covering equal opportunities and gender issues.

Eligibility criteria:
Marie Curie eligibility rules require ESRs to be in the first four years of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree (at the date of recruitment). In addition, ESRs must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than twelve months in the three years prior to the recruitment date. Short stays such as holidays and business trips will not be taken into account.

Applicants must electronically submit all required information and documentation:

  • Personal statement (maximum two pages) regarding prior experience, research interests and career goals
  • CV with a list of publications and/or projects
  • Evidence of having obtained (or be in the position of receiving before enrolment) a degree that qualifies the applicant to enter the Ph.D. Programme (e.g. scanned copies of degree certificates)
  • Evidence of English language proficiency
  • Official transcript of grades obtained during bachelors and masters studies
  • Names and full contact information of two academic referees willing to write a letter of recommendation

Please review the eligibility and evaluation criteria and carefully read the instructions on how to submit an application before applying. Applications will only be accepted via the online application platform. Applicants will be updated on the progress of their application at all stages. The main means of communication during the formal process will be e-mail. The selection process will be conducted confidentially, following strict privacy rules.

VIRO-FLOW is funded by the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 766058, offering attractive packages to the best candidates.

Research Training Project ESR1 (Ref. PhD 2017-49):
The research project to be developed by ESR1 will be mainly focused on the synthesis of compound libraries using flow chemistry and establishment of alternate biochemical assay systems targeting HBV capsid assembly and HBV polymerase activity, including microfluidics. Moreover, ESR1 will:

Main Tasks

  • Organic synthesis (both batch and continuous flow) of different families of compounds though selected transformations
  • Medicinal chemistry (design of bio-active molecules and test in biological assays)
  • Automatization and design and development of prototypes of microchips for their integration in in vitro bioassays

Skills and Experience


  • Master degree in organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, biomedicine, or similar
  • Experience in organic synthesis or medicinal chemistry, including skills in analysis techniques as HPLC, NMR, GC, etc.
  • Strong background in experimental laboratory work
  • Team orientated, problem solving, creative thinking
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Fluent English skills


  • Experience in continuous flow chemistry and microfluidics
  • Experience in molecular biology (e.g. fluorescence quenching, assay validation using reference inhibitors)
  • Experience in general in silico drug design tools as ChemDraw, Pymol, docking related (e.g. GOLD), or similar
  • General willingness to learn basic German language

Research Training Project ESR2 (Ref. PhD 2017-50):
The research project to be developed by ESR2 will be mainly focused on the establishment and optimization of biochemical assays for identifying small molecules that target HBV proteins and directly inhibit viral replication. Furthermore, the biochemical assays are to be transferred to a microfluidic format followed by the integration of both continuous flow chemistry and the microfluidic bioassay into one process of “compound synthesis and compound testing” for HBV inhibitors/effectors.

Main tasks

  • Molecular biology (DNA cloning, gene expression, recombinant mutagenesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR))
  • Protein chemistry (SDS-PAGE; immunoblotting; protein chromatography like SEC and IMAC)
  • Assay development and validation (liquid handling robotics, buffer optimization, assay quality assessment, different read-out systems e.g. fluorescence quenching, assay validation using reference inhibitors)
  • Miniaturization of biochemical assays using different plate formats followed by transfer to the microfluidic chip based system in order to accelerate the lead identification process

Skills and Experience


  • Master degree in molecular biology, biochemistry, biomedicine, or similar
  • Experience in general techniques of molecular biology and biochemistry (DNA-cloning, recombinant mutagenesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA isolation and characterization, gene expression, protein purification and characterization, western blot analysis)
  • Strong background in molecular biology, biochemistry
  • Team orientated, problem solving, creative thinking
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Fluent English skills


  • Experience in recombinant protein expression in Escherichia coli and protein purification
  • Experience in the generation of recombinant protein variants (fusion proteins, affinity tag) insertion; insertion of amino acid substitutions for resistance analysis
  • Experience in performing or developing setting-up biochemical assays
  • Experience in HBV and/or virology
  • Skills in organic chemistry
  • General willingness to learn basic German language

Research Training Project ESR3 (Ref. PhD 2017-51):
The research project to be developed by ESR3 will be mainly focused on the integration of computational modelling and structure-based drug design with a flow synthesis-bioassay system. As such, ESR3 will have a strong interest in the application of computational techniques within a drug discovery environment, along with the desire to undertake a significant amount of practical laboratory based synthetic organic chemistry. Together these activities aim to identify new inhibitor chemotypes and lead molecules active against HBV.

Main tasks

  • Application of state of the art computer-aided drug design approaches in the discovery and optimization of novel inhibitors of HBV
  • Generation, validation and use of predictive models of pharmaceutically relevant properties of small molecule drug candidates
  • Generation of novel databases and workflows useful in the automation of multi-parameter drug design
  • To identify, develop and apply a broad range of techniques to pursue the research objectives
  • Flow synthesis and testing of designed small molecules

Skills and Experience


  • Master degree in chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, medicinal chemistry or a related area, with a strong background in practical synthetic chemistry
  • Strong interest in working at the interface of computational and organic/medicinal chemistry
  • Good practical laboratory skills
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Team oriented, problem solving and creative thinking
  • Fluent English skills


  • Knowledge of computational chemistry techniques and software (especially Gromacs, VMD, NAMD, and KNIME)
  • Experience in structure based drug design
  • Additional qualifications/experience (e.g. at MSc/MPhil level, or industrial experience) in a cognate area
  • Knowledge of molecular properties, assays and metrics used in the optimization of small molecule drug candidates
  • Significant practical experience in a medicinal chemistry environment (for example, through the completion of an industrial placement year as part of undergraduate study, or through post education employment)
  • General willingness to learn basic German language

To learn more about working & living in Germany, please visit:

Share this PhD
  Share by Email   Print this job   More sharing options
We value your feedback on the quality of our adverts. If you have a comment to make about the overall quality of this advert, or its categorisation then please send us your feedback
Advert information

Type / Role:




* Salary has been converted at the prevailing rate on the date placed