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Experimental exploration of the microbiome in degenerated Intervertebral Disc

Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre

Prof C Le Maitre , Dr M Lacey Sunday, November 01, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The successful candidate will be one of the fifteen Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) working within the Marie Curie Initial Training Network (MC ITN) entitled: Disc4All a training network to advance integrated computational simulations in translational medicine, applied to intervertebral disc degeneration.

The DISc4All Project

The European community requires early stage researchers (ESRs) who can work across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, integrating experimental and in silico approaches to understand and manage highly prevalent multifactorial disorders, such as musculoskeletal disorders. The Disc4All training network utilises intervertebral disc degeneration (LDD) leading to low back pain (LBP) as a relevant application for the integration of data and computational simulations in translational medicine, to enable rational interpretations of the complexity of the interactions that eventually lead to symptoms.

LBP is the largest cause of morbidity worldwide, yet there remains controversy as to the specific cause leading to poor treatment options and prognosis. LDD is reported to account for 50% of LBP in young adults, but the interplay of factors from genetics, environmental, cellular responses and social and psychological factors is poorly understood. Unfortunately, the integration of such data into a holistic and rational map of degenerative processes and risk factors has not been achieved, requiring creation of professional cross competencies, which current training programmes in biomedicine, biomedical engineering and translational medicine fail to address, individually.
Disc4All aims to tackle this issue through collaborative expertise of clinicians; computational physicists and biologists; geneticists; computer scientists; cell and molecular biologists; microbiologists; bioinformaticians; and industrial partners. It provides interdisciplinary training in data curation and integration; experimental and theoretical/computational modelling; computer algorithm development; tool generation; and model and simulation platforms to transparently integrate primary data for enhanced clinical interpretations through models and simulations. Complementary training is offered in dissemination; project management; research integrity; ethics; regulation; policy; business strategy; and public and patient engagement. The Disc4All ESRs will provide a new generation of internationally mobile professionals with unique skill sets for the development of thriving careers in translational research applied to multifactorial disorders.

The project is funded by the European Commission, Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number: 955735

The project: This research program will investigate the potential role of infective agents and the microbiome in low back pain. Utilising human intervertebral disc samples from surgery the IVD microbiome will be characterised together with associated microbiome sites using high throughput microbiome sequencing. In vitro co-culture systems will then be deployed to investigate the potential roles of infective agents and the microbiome on disc cell behaviour and implications in the pathogenesis of disc degeneration. Culture systems will be utilised which mimic the cellular niche of human intervertebral disc during disc degeneration.

How to apply

Please only apply via
We strongly recommend you contact the lead academic, Professor Christine Le Maitre (), to discuss your application

Candidates should provide the following documents:
• A brief introduction letter (maximum two A4 page) that summarises the documents and information provided
• A full CV
• Online application form.
• Three reference letters
• The letter of purpose (maximum two A4 pages)

To apply for this position you must meet the following funder conditions:
- you should not have resided in the country of the host institution for more than 12 months over the three years before the starting date of the position, excluding holidays and (refugee status) asylum application.
- At the time of recruitment by the host organisation, you shall be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career and not have been awarded a doctoral degree.

1st phase, remote pre-selection will be based on:
• Quality of the CV
• Any demonstrated research experience, particularly if supported by evidence
• Undergraduate performance
• Any previous recognitions (grants, awards)
• Reference letters: three refence letters are expected. Two letters must be issued by scholars. The third letter can be provided either by a scholar or by a relevant professional.
• Statement of purpose: past research experience, motivation for applying to this particular PhD project, academic fit, contribution of the project to the candidate’s future careers plans
• Additional relevant skills (field-specific)

2nd phase, interview(s):
The second phase will consist in at least one interview through which the motivation, behaviour, organisational skills, communication skills and the capacity to engage in a scientific discussion and manage problems, will be assessed, among other aspects.
The final decision will be the result of a consensus of an evaluation committee that will take into account the results of both recruitment phases 1 and 2.

Funding Notes

Start date for studentship: Jan 2021
Interviews are scheduled for: Nov/Dec 2020
Closing date 1/11/2020


Information on entry requirements can be found at View Website

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) programme offers a competitive salary and attractive working conditions, in accordance with the MSCA regulations for early stage researchers.

This post will commence in January 2021 with the successful candidate offered a 36 months full-time employment contract, with an monthly salary of €4571 (average gross salary, before statutory deductions); plus an additional mobility allowance (600€ per month, unconditional), and an additional family allowance (500€ per month, if applicable).

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