Position: Postdoctoral Researcher – Therapeutic Virus Engineering for Viro-Immunotherapy of Pediatric Cancer

Department: Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research

Code number: 2024-0027

The German Cancer Research Center is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. With more than 3,000 employees, we operate an extensive scientific program in the field of cancer research.

We are looking for a postdoctoral scientist eager to pursue a third party-funded research project at the interface of molecular virology, pediatric oncology, and immunology about engineering and characterizing viruses as cancer therapeutics. While a first cancer-therapeutic virus has obtained marketing approval for patient treatment, new agents with improved potency are needed. The project is based on pioneering original work (Hölting T et al., Molecular Cancer 2022, https://molecular-cancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12943-022-01641-6) and will be performed within a close collaboration between the Oncolytic Adenovirus Group (Dirk Nettelbeck, https://www.dkfz.de/en/virotherapie/Oncolytic-Adenovirus-Group.html) of the Clinical Cooperation Unit Virotherapy (Guy Ungerechts) and the Division of Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research (Thomas Grünewald, https://www.dkfz.de/en/translationale-paediatrische-sarkomforschung/index.php) in the interdisciplinary research environment and well-equipped labs of the DKFZ.

The project involves the engineering of therapeutic viruses using a novel targeting concept: Exploiting the addiction of certain tumors to chimeric oncogenic transcription factors (OTFs) generated by chromosomal translocations that fuse otherwise unrelated DNA-binding and transactivating domains. The project primarily targets high-risk sarcomas of children, adolescents, and young adults, for which outcome with established treatments remains unacceptably low. The aim is to establish viruses with outstanding specificity for these cancers resulting from OTF-driven expression of viral and therapeutic genes. Moreover, therapeutic viruses equipped with various therapeutic payloads as well as tumor-target viral delivery to well-characterized tumor-selective cell-surface epitopes will be explored. The engineered therapeutic viruses will be analyzed for replication, payload expression, and therapeutic activity in cell lines and preclinical models. A wide spectrum of methodologies as well as interactions with local and external partners in research and clinics are involved. The mid-term goal is to develop this approach toward clinical application within the existing structures of the host divisions and institutions on campus.

For more details regarding the postion, please contact Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Grünewald (t.gruenewald@kitz-heidelberg.de) or PD Dr. Dirk M. Nettelbeck (d.nettelbeck@dkfz.de).


Job description:

Your responsibilities:

  • Design and molecular cloning of therapeutic virus genomes and genes encoding therapeutic payloads using sophisticated technology
  • Virus generation and therapeutic protein expression in cell culture; virus and protein purification
  • Plan, conduct and analyze goal-oriented experiments involving molecular biology, virology, immunology and cell biology analyses (including infection studies, immunoblots, FACS, qPCR reporter assays, cytotoxicity assays, cell death analyses, fluorescence microscopy) and animal experiments
  • Active exploration and establishment of new methodology/protocols
  • Present and discuss experimental results in the group, institution and externally
  • Supervision of PhD, MD and Master students
  • Scientific literature research
  • Preparation of manuscripts

Your possibilities:

  • Acquire advanced skills in sophisticated methods for generation and characterization of biotherapeutics
  • Work in a collaborative team and interact with local and external experts to shape an interdisciplinary research project
  • Contribute to advancing biomedical discoveries closer to clinics and patients
  • Obtain supervision and mentorship to support growth towards scientific independence



  • PhD with strong background in cancer biology, preferably with prior experiences and skills in virological and/or immunological methodology or in animal experimentation
  • Advanced experience in mammalian cell culture and basic molecular biology techniques
  • Deep interest in planning, conducting and analyzing goal-oriented experiments systematically, accurately and independently
  • Publications resulting from master's and/or PhD work
  • Passion for the development and characterization of novel biotherapeutics
  • Strong motivation, curiosity, dedication and responsibility
  • Reliability, attention to detail, excellent communication skills, proficiency in English, and the ability to work in a multidisciplinary international team are expected
  • Open to work in a collaborative environment

Please submit in a single PDF a motivation letter, CV with transcripts and publication list, description of research experience, and contact information of two referees.

We offer:

  • Interesting, versatile workplace
  • Excellent framework conditions: state-of-the-art equipment and opportunity for international networking at the highest level
  • Remuneration according to TV-L incl. occupational pension plan for the public service and capital-forming payments
  • 30 days of vacation per year
  • Flexible working hours
  • Possibility of part-time work
  • Family-friendly working environment, including parent-child room, counseling services, e.g. on Elder Care
  • Sustainable travel to work: subsidized Germany job ticket
  • Develop your full potential: access to the DKFZ International Postdoc Program and DKFZ Career Service with targeted offers for your personal development to further develop your talents
  • Our Corporate Health Management Program offers a holistic approach to your well-being

Important notice:

The DKFZ is subject to the regulations of the Infection Protection Act (IfSG). As a consequence, only persons who present proof of immunity against measles may work at the DKFZ.

Earliest possible start date: as soon as possible

Duration: The position is initially limited to 2 years with the possibility of prolongation.

Application deadline: 08.03.2024


Priv. Doz. Dr. Dirk Nettelbeck
Phone +49 (0)6221/42-4938

Please note that we do not accept applications submitted via email.

The DKFZ is committed to increase the proportion of women in all areas and positions in which women are underrepresented. Qualified female applicants are therefore particularly encouraged to apply.

Among candidates of equal aptitude and qualifications, a person with disabilities will be given preference.

To apply for a position please use our online application portal (https://www.dkfz.de/en/stellenangebote/index.php).

We ask for your understanding that we cannot return application documents that are sent to us by post (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Personalabteilung, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120 Heidelberg) and that we do not accept applications submitted via email. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.