Nanobody-based inhibitors of allergen-mediated anaphylaxis

Aarhus Universitet (AU)

Ph.d. & forskning
Østjylland (Aarhus)

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Engineering programme. The position is available from 1 May 2020 or later.

Nanobody-based inhibitors of allergen-mediated anaphylaxis

Research area and project description:
Allergy is a disease in which the immune system reacts heavily to environmental triggers, allergens, that are generally harmless but exhibit the potential to activate effector cells via IgE-mediated receptor cross-linking. In the last years, molecular approaches enabled us to identify and characterise a number of novel allergens and to assess the clinical relevance of these proteins. Improved understanding of the patient´s reactivity profiles we can now develop strategies for optimisation of specific immunotherapy, design of hypoallergenic protein variants and advanced targeting approaches.

One of the most severe hypersensitivities is allergy to hymenoptera venom. Here molecular information can be used to sharpen our understanding of antibody responses to immunogenic epitopes and to understand the clinical relevance of individual target structures. Complementary we aim for analyses of the interaction of allergens with allergen-specific antibodies and their receptors. In that context we use combinatorial approaches backed with recombinant antibody technologies to establish tools with specificity to clinically relevant antigen.

IgE is an extraordinary powerful isotype that exhibits highest affinities and exerts strong immune reactions to lowest amounts of target structures. Elucidating the interaction can help to understand the nature of the interplay of the immune system with antigens and thus to develop strategies for advanced intervention.

In the PhD project, the applicant will develop, characterise and apply nanobodies and engineered derivatives thereof using a broad set of techniques for dissecting and interfering with the allergic response to insect venom. The project will involve interactions with research groups in Denmark and Germany as well as companies in the field.

The successful candidate will join the Immunological Biotechnology group headed by Edzard Spillner. The lab´s research focus is the molecular access to a given disease and a mechanism-driven development of biologicals at the interface of immunology, protein biochemistry, biotechnology, and chemistry. With understanding of molecular functions, structures and interactions the design of biologicals offers opportunities for patient tailored, precision medical treatment.

The project will develop from previous work of the lab if the field, e.g.


  • Jabs et al., Nature Communications, 2018 9, 7.
  • Perez Riverol et al., J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2018 141, 1917.
  • Spillner et al., Front Immunol 2014, 5, 77.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants to the PhD position must have a recent relevant Master’s degree in Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, or related fields, with an excellent exam record and experience in protein engineering, immunology, or other relevant disciplines. The student is expected to develop and apply nanobodies for interfering with allergic conditions in allergic individuals. Therefore, a keen interest in molecular biotechnology and structural understanding of biomolecules is essential. An open and team-oriented mind and proven abilities in protein biotechnology, combinatorial biotechnologies and structural biology are beneficial. The candidate should be available to start in May of 2020.

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University and the work place will be at Department of Engineering, Gustav Wieds Vej 10, Aarhus C at the Aarhus University main campus, in the Immunological Biotechnology group.

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:
Assoc. Prof. Edzard Spillner,

Application procedures

Before you applyInformation and attachments:
Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:
The English language requirement at GSST is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From the August 2019 call, GSST will no longer accept the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. Ask the test centre to send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:
1) Find the application form:
Go to - Note, the online application system opens on 1 December 2019.
Choose February 2020 Call with deadline 1 February 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CET).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme ‘Engineering’.

2) Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: “Establishment of nanobody-based inhibitors of allergen-mediated anaphylaxis”
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3) Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made.
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST Application Guide.

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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Aarhus Universitet (AU)
Aarhus Universitet (AU)
Aarhus Universitet blev grundlagt i 1928 og er i dag i den absolutte verdenselite på flere forskningsfelter. Aarhus Universitet (AU) er blandt verdens 10 bedste universiteter grundlagt inden for de seneste 100 år og har en lang tradition for partnerskaber med nogle af verdens bedste forskningsinstitutioner og universitetsnetværk.

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