EUROPE: 6 PhD positions are available in various fields in the MSCA-DN project DisCo-I

Six 3 year fixed-term PhD positions are open within the Marie Sklodowska Curie Doctoral Network (HORIZON-MSCA-DN) project DisCo-I (project 101072828): Discovering Collagen I degradation process in chronic diseases with fibrotic component.

DisCo-I is multi-disciplinary, comprehensive and inter-sectoral doctorate training programme, with special emphasis on training doctoral candidates in both industrial and academic environments. The successful doctoral candidates (DCs) will work in the context of fibrosis-related chronic diseases (CDs, including chronic kidney disease- CKD, liver diseases-LDs and heart failure- HF), being amongst the biggest societal burdens in Europe.


DisCo-I objectives

Extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key player in several biological and pathological processes, among others in fibrosis, with an excessive accumulation of type I collagen (COL1) being a predominant component of the fibrotic tissue. The main scientific goal of DisCo-I is to improve the understanding of molecular mechanisms associated with COL1 degradation in major fibrosis-associated CDs.

The programme involves interaction within a network of 2 multidisciplinary academic and 3 industrial partners (SMEs), with a strong focus and experience in educating and training DCs, with all DCs receiving their PhD with highest honors and generally >5 scientific publications. They will provide training in scientific and technological skills, combining state-of-the-art –omics approaches and data (peptidomics, proteomics and transcriptomics) in a bioinformatics framework, followed by in- and ex-vivo investigation, complemented with training in translational skills and competences. The DCs will get exposure to both academic and industry environments to support the future translation of research findings into innovative diagnostics and therapies.

DisCo-I network

The DisCo-I network includes:

Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM), Toulouse, France (https://www.i2mc.inserm.fr/en/joost-schanstra-2/): has extensive experience with animal models of accelerated kidney fibrosis, and evaluation of drug efficacy of a number of compounds with potential anti-fibrotic capacities.

RD –Nephrologie (RDN), Montpellier, France: spin-off of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, promoting and coordinating research in the renal and cardiovascular field, vast expertise in pre-clinical and clinical studies.

Nordic Bioscience (NB), Herlev, Denmark: leader in biomarker development using immunoassay-based Protein FingerprintTM and extracellular matrix expert.

Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA), Athens, Greece: an expert in tissue proteomics and analysis of -omics data for knowledge extraction, and understanding disease pathophysiology.

Mosaiques Diagnostics GmbH (MOS), Hannover, Germany: leader in biomarker development based on mass spectrometry analysis of urinary peptides, and their translation to support patient management.

Open PhD positions

Doctoral candidate 1 (DC1)

  • Location: Mosaiques Diagnostics GmbH (MOS), Hannover, Germany

  • Project: Analysis of COL1 degradation fingerprint in urine. Focused on defining “COL1 degradome” (peptide signature) in urine (including Post-Translational Modifications, PTMs) and in silico prediction of proteases responsible for its generation; development of COL1-focused biomarker panels for detection of fibrosis.

Doctoral candidate 2 (DC2)

  • Location: Nordic Bioscience (NB), Herlev, Denmark

  • Project: Investigation of COL1 synthesis and degradation fingerprint in serum and urine and development of novel Protein Fingerprint biomarker assays for COL1 degradation. Focused on examining existing assays for COL1 in serum (and/or urine) samples of CKD, HF and LD patients, as well as developing novel immunoassays to detect organ/disease specific fragments and/or PTMs of COL1 in circulation, and test those in samples of CKD, HF and LD patients.

Doctoral candidate 3 (DC3)

  • Location: RD–Nephrologie (RDN), Montpellier, France

  • Project: Fibrosis and COL1 degradation in SNX and obsese rats. The goal is to establish a common profile of col1 degradation related to fibrosis in chronic diseases with a focus on PTMs of collagen 1. Fibrosis will be investigated in SNX rats during disease progression (kidney, heart) and in obese SNX rats (kidney, heart, liver) by histologic evaluation, western blot and qPCR, and tissue proteomics; ex-vivo protease activity examination and assessment of protease expression in the different fibrotic tissues by western blot and qPCR methods.

Doctoral candidate 4 (DC4)

  • Location: Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA), Athens, Greece, and Nordic bioscience (NB), Herlev, Denmark

  • Project: Tissue proteome signature of CDs with fibrotic component. Focused on generation of heart, liver, and kidney tissue proteomics data (intracellular and ECM) from fibrotic and non-fibrotic tissue samples, and defining unique and common intracellular and ECM proteins associated with fibrosis in different organs; Investigation of PTMs on COL1 in situ and proteins found to be involved in COL1 degradation.

Doctoral candidate 5 (DC5)

  • Location: Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM), Toulouse, France, and RD –Nephrologie (RDN), Montpellier, France

  • Project: COL1 degradation in animal models. Focused on investigating the urinary peptidome of different animal models of kidney fibrosis and determining the similarity to human disease; correlation of the in-situ ECM changes to the urinary peptides and verification ex-vivo the hypothesis that treatment of kidney fibrosis should focus on the degradation of the ECM.

Doctoral candidate 6 (DC6)

  • Location: Mosaiques Diagnostics GmbH (MOS), Hannover, Germany

  • Project: Molecular mechanism of COL1 degradation. Focused on retrieval and analysis of publicly available gene expression/ transcriptomics data, followed by differential expression analysis; mining of molecular features associated with COL1 degradation, and integrative analysis of the multi-omics molecular data towards describing the COL1 degradation mechanisms.

Within DisCo-I fair and equal treatment of all candidates is a priority, with equal opportunities regardless race, gender and origin.


Career development prospects/ foreseen benefits

Given the multi-disciplinary research activities, inter-sectoral and comprehensive training, participation in the project will enhance career development prospects, with numerous benefits, as briefly outlined below.

  • Publication of the results in highest-ranking journals, supporting DCs in establishing strong positions in the scientific community.
  • Gaining transferable skills and competences to become independent, creative, competitive and communicative scientists able to work in international teams in both academic and non-academic environments.
  • Presentation of data at international meetings, secondments, participation in network-wide project activities, allowing to build and expand the collaborative network, creating opportunities for future research and bringing DCs in contact with future employers.
  • Gaining awareness of activities in academic and non-academic sector to make conscious decisions on the most optimal career path to follow.
  • Gaining experience in biomarker commercialisation, research services, innovation aspects, IPR and patenting, which will stimulate the translational and entrepreneurial leadership skills.
  • Future employability will be supported by extensive training in career planning/interviewing, personal SWOT analysis, fund raising and communication skills.

Working conditions, entitlements:

  • Full-time employment under an employment contract.
  • Salary in line with MSCA DN guidelines.
  • Starting date: Earliest September 2022
  • International and inter-sectoral environment, involving leading scientists and entrepreneurs.
  • Academia and industry will closely work together, and each doctoral candidate will be exposed to both environments through secondments and/or consecutive recruitment.
  • Each doctoral candidate will be supervised by at least two researchers (at least one in academia and one in industry sector).

Eligibility criteria

  • To hold a Master’s degree in biology, biotechnology, informatics, bioinformatics or similar relevant fields;
  • Be a doctoral candidate at the date of recruitment (not already in possession of a doctoral degree)
  • Not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 36 months immediately before the recruitment date.

Specific Requirements

Doctoral candidate 1 (DC1)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Experience in statistics and programming (R), knowledge in proteomics data interpretation is essential.

Doctoral candidate 2 (DC2)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Experience working in laboratory, preferably with immunoassays is a requirement. Previous experience working with antibodies and protein chemistry, as well as basic knowledge in pathogenesis of chronic kidney disease and heart failure is an advantage.

Doctoral candidate 3 (DC3)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Animal experimentation training/diploma, biological background, good laboratory practice, organised, curious and proactive.

Doctoral candidate 4 (DC4)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Masters in biomedical sciences. Experience in mass spectrometry, protein analysis, bioinformatics analysis of -omics data are desirable.

Doctoral candidate 5 (DC5)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Experience of working with animal models is essential, experience with (immuno)histochemistry is appreciated.

Doctoral candidate 6 (DC6)

  • Required competences and knowledge: Experience in statistics and programming, knowledge in multi-omics data handling and bioinformatics tools for –omics data analysis is essential.

For all applicants English proficiency (spoken, written) and excellent communication skills are required.

How to apply?

To apply for the selected position, please send a) letter of motivation, b) CV including information on previous experience with emphasis on publications and presentations, c) 2 reference letters and/or contact details of 2 referees, to the respective project PIs, as listed below:


If you are interested in more than one position, please send your application to PI in charge of the position which is your first choice, and indicate an alternative position which you find of interest in the cover letter.

Applications are initially open until July 31, 2022.