Position: PhD Student in Molecular Biology

Department: Translational Control and Metabolism

Code number: 2021-0294

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.

Job description:

The demand for amino acids for protein synthesis, nucleotide, and energy production, is very high in the growing tumor. The metabolic changes a tumor undergoes to adapt to deregulated growth represent vulnerabilities that can be exploited for therapy. This was successfully demonstrated in past years for the amino acid asparagine, resulting in a very effective combined treatment of chemotherapy and L-asparaginase in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). To exploit metabolic vulnerabilities related to amino acids one needs to overcome the major obstacle of identifying which amino acid is restrictive to the tumor. We recently developed a novel measurement approach that senses restrictive amino acid in cells. We named it diricore (differential ribosome codon reading), and it is based on the ribosome profiling technology (Loayza-Puch F. et al, Nature. 2016). The main goal of this project is to uncover novel deficiencies in amino acid availabilities in response to mitotic inhibition using the diricore platform and exploit them for better cancer killing. Following diricore analysis, we will setup experiments to elucidate relevant metabolic pathways using genetic and biochemical tools, such as CRISPR-Cas9 knockouts, RNAi knockdowns, and overexpression vectors. The identified amino acid shortages and their links to changes in metabolic genes will serve as signatures for diagnosis and guideline for therapy. Moreover, our findings will offer ways to make the treatment of aggressive tumors more effective.

This project is a collaboration between the laboratories of Dr. Fabricio Loayza-Puch at the DKFZ and Ayelet Erez at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The successful candidate will spend approximately 3-6 months of the project conducting research in Israel (this may be split into multiple visits).

The project is funded by the German-Israeli Helmholtz Research School in Cancer Biology, a joint PhD training initiative of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The successful candidate will become a member of the Research School and benefit from joint mentoring of the collaborating scientists, additional joint networking meetings and training opportunities.

For further information about the Research School, please visit the website https://www.dkfz.de/en/phd-program/GIHRS.html.



We are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious candidate with an excellent master’s degree in molecular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, biology, or related life sciences. Applicants with computer science background are also welcome.

Applicants should demonstrate the following qualifications:

  • Experience in cellular and molecular biology as well as in biochemistry
  • Willingness to work with mouse models
  • Enthusiastic and highly motivated team player with a strong sense of responsibility
  • Excellent communication skills to enable working independently in an interdisciplinary environment
  • High proficiency in spoken and written English

We offer:

  • Interesting, versatile workplace
  • International, attractive working environment
  • Campus with modern state-of-the-art infrastructure
  • Access to international research networks
  • Doctoral student payment including social benefits
  • Flexible working hours
  • Comprehensive training and mentoring program through the Helmholtz International Graduate School

Earliest Possible Start Date: 08.11.2021

Duration: The position is limited to 3 years with the possibility of prolongation.

Application Deadline: 29.09.2021


Dr. Fabricio Loayza-Puch
Phone +49(0)6221/42-3632

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.