8 PhD positions available in basic and clinical aspects of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

A newly formed ITN is searching for 8 PhD students interested in basic and clinical aspects of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a neurodegenerative disorder with multi-system aspects. The research program will focus on the description and analysis of novel intrinsic defects in peripheral organs and cells, the evaluation of molecular functions in selected organs, and translational approaches by designing treatment strategies for peripheral organs and identification of biomarkers. The training program pursued will include research training in the individual laboratories with regular exchange between laboratories for all PhD students, additional training courses and webinars. Partner members of the consortium are from the industry, private research entities, and patient organizations. Therefore, fellows will interact with relevant stakeholders in the area of rare diseases and especially SMA.

Candidates should have a solid basis for research in life sciences, bioinformatics, biomedicine or clinical medicine. One position will be available in each of the individual partner laboratories/hospitals with the following projects:

  1. The actin cytoskeleton as a mechanism of peripheral SMA pathology and its SMN reversibility. Supervisor: Peter Claus, Hannover Medical School, Germany (SMABEYOND Coordinator): (https://www.mhh.de/institute-zentren-forschungseinrichtungen/institut-fuer-neuroanatomie-und-zellbiologie/mitarbeiter/prof-dr-rer-nat-peter-claus)

  2. Determining molecular and physiological biomarkers for peripheral organ pathology in SMA. Supervisor: Ludo van der Pol, Utrecht University Medical Center, Netherlands: (https://www.umcutrecht.nl/nl/ziekenhuis/zorgverleners/pol-w-l-van-derhttps://www.umcutrecht.nl/en/research/researchers/van-der-pol-wl)

  3. Joint modelling of organ-specific multi-omics data to identify SMA-related pathways Supervisor: Klaus Jung, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany: (https://www.tiho-hannover.de/index.php?id=id156932)

  4. The impact of SMN loss on translation in different organs at single nucleotide resolution. Supervisor: Gabriella Viero, National Research Council, Trento, Italy: (https://www.ibf.cnr.it/index.php/personale-ibf/persona/?idPersona=112&lang=en

  5. Impaired endocytosis in peripheral organs in SMA animal and iPSC models and the therapeutic potential of SMA protective modifiers to rescue them. Supervisor: Brunhilde Wirth, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany: (https://humangenetik.uk-koeln.de/en/the-institute/director-team/)

  6. Peripheral pathology in SMA patients and underlying mechanisms of vascular defects Supervisor: Francesco Muntoni, University College London, United Kingdom: (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/child-health/people/iris-profile-francesco-muntoni)

  7. Defining pre-natal manifestations of systemic SMA and evaluation of their pre- and post-natal treatment. Supervisor: Thomas Gillingwater, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom: (http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/biomedical-sciences/anatomy/staff/anatomyteachingstaff/tomgillingwater)

  8. Peripheral SMA-pathology in human samples during development. Supervisor: Eduardo Tizzano, University Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona, Spain: (http://en.vhir.org/portal1/grup-presentacio.asp?s=recerca&contentid=186846&idrefer=186847)

Deadline: 18 December 2020


ESR positions will be offered as an employment for three years and start in April 2021. The salary includes a living allowance, a mobility allowance and a family allowance (if married). The guaranteed PhD funding is for 36 months. There will be funding for technical and personal skills training and the possibility to participate in international research events.

Eligibility Criteria

The recruitment strategy of SMABEYOND fully complies with the Code of Conduct definition of merit. For example, merit is not just measured by a researcher’s grades, but on a range of evaluation criteria, such as teamwork, interdisciplinary knowledge, soft skills and awareness of the policy impact of science.

Selection Process

Applications (in one pdf file) including Letter of Motivation, CV, publication list (if available), copies of certificates, three preferences for projects (please, select and name reasons), and addresses of two referees should be sent to the SMABEYOND coordinator, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany, under the email address: SMABEYOND@mh-hannover.de 


Besides professional skills and background the following eligibility criteria apply (to be demonstrated in the Europass CV):

  1. ESRs need to be in their first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate was envisaged.

  2. International mobility: Researchers are required to undertake trans-national mobility when taking up the appointment. At the time of selection by the host organization, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organization for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment – unless as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention.

  3. Since the entire program is in English, ESRs must demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high.