Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that causes superficial infections in most humans. Unexpectedly and tragically, some previously healthy individuals develop a life-threatening disease upon infection. What explains the tremendous variability between humans in the severity of their infection with S. aureus? Most cases of severe disease remain unexplained, but recent discoveries indicate that specific human genetic defects, known as inborn errors of immunity, increase an individual’s susceptibility to staphylococcal virulence factors. The discovery of inborn errors of immunity serves as a compass for the clarification of staphylococcal host-pathogen interactions. A deep understanding of these interactions, in turn, can contribute to the development of innovative therapeutics.
You will investigate if the severe staphylococcal infections in a cohort of previously healthy patients are explained by inborn errors of their immunity to S. aureus. You will perform state-of-the art analyses to identify new human genetic etiologies of severe staphylococcal disease. You will validate your genetic discoveries experimentally, including with cells from patients. You will dissect the mechanisms of severe staphylococcal disease at the molecular, cellular, tissue, immunological, and whole-organismal level. By learning from experiments of Nature, you will directly link staphylococcal virulence factors with human genetic predispositions to infection. You will participate in a multidisciplinary team and present your work during internal meetings and (international) conferences.
You will be working in the laboratory of Bacterial Infections and Immunity. The laboratory is part of the department of Medical Microbiology, which is positioned right at the heart of the UMC Utrecht strategic theme Infection & Immunity. The UMC Utrecht is located at the Utrecht Science Park and its campus community is highly collaborative. You will be part of an energetic and enthusiastic team of over 50 colleagues. The backgrounds of your coworkers range from clinicians and microbiologists to chemists, bioinformaticians, and more. The group consists of staff scientists, PhD students, postdocs, and technicians. The PhD program is hosted by the internationally renowned Utrecht University Graduate School of Life Sciences.
Applicants for this position should hold an MSc relevant to the position, for example in biomedical sciences or medicine. Early career medical doctors with experience in the laboratory are encouraged to apply. You demonstrate a keen interest in human genetics and host-pathogen interactions. You have affinity with in-silico analyses but also with experimental work in the wet laboratory. Proficiency in written and spoken English is required. You are a critical and creative thinker who can work in a team. You can communicate about your ideas with peers.