5 PhD positions in Cat4Cancer

5 PhD positions in Cat4Cancer

Published Deadline Location
27 Nov 1 Jan Amsterdam

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Job description

The Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam. (UvA). HIMS performs internationally recognized research in molecular sciences, both curiosity as well as application driven. This is partly done in cooperation with the chemical, energy, flavour & food, medical and high-tech industries.Within the Synthesis and catalysis cluster, the Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-Inspired Catalysis (HomKat) group is looking for five talented PhD students and two post-docs. These students will perform their research in the laboratory of the HOMKAT group in collaboration with University of Leiden (prof Kros) and NKI (cancer institute, dr Akkari) in the context of catalysis for cancer program.

Cat4cancer program
Every year in the Netherlands some 500 to 700 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma. Neither surgery, radiotherapy, nor chemotherapy have yet provided a cure for this form of brain cancer. The challenge faced by surgical and radiotherapy teams is that the tumours are not sharply defined and invade deep into the surrounding brain tissue.

The challenge for drug-based therapy is that glioblastoma cells are very effective in developing resistance. Even novel immunotherapy approaches – which have proved impressively successful in other solid tumours – have failed in the case of glioblastoma. This is largely due to a highly suppressive tumour microenvironment, where the so-called tumour-associated macrophages effectively ‘hijack’ the local immune response. In search of a solution, the Cat4CanCenter project takes a radically new approach. It combines the efforts of Prof. Joost Reek, an expert in catalysis at the UvA, Prof. Alexander Kros of Leiden University, specialising in drug delivery, and Dr Leila Akkari, a cancer immunologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and Oncode Institute. Together, they propose a pioneering form of chemotherapy where active, toxic drugs are synthesised in the tumour environment itself. To enable this, first a molecular catalyst is delivered into the tumour tissue using lipid nanoparticles. Next, so-called pro-drug molecules are administered. Finally, the catalyst converts these non-toxic precursors into active drugs that will fight the glioblastoma ‘from within’.
In the context of this large program, the Homkat group currently has five PhD positions available and two post-doc positions available to design caged catalysts that will perform the synthesis of the desired drug molecules. In recent years the Homkat team has developed caged catalysts that allow metal-catalyzed synthesis in a biological environment. They now function in an aqueous environment, in the presence of biological molecules and even in living cells. By designing the cage so that is has affinity for the prodrug, we can make the catalyst operate in an enzyme-like fashion, boosting the conversion efficiency at low concentrations. In this program we need to make sure we can synthesise a whole range of drug molecules to combat all aspects of glioblastoma rapid growth, which involves the development of a large toolbox of caged catalysts for a variety of transformations. The research will be performed in close collaborations with the projects that are developed in Leiden and at NKI in the context of the ERC synergy program cat4cancer. https://hims.uva.nl/content/news/2023/10/€10.6-million-for-innovative-toolboxes-to-tackle-brain-cancer.html.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


You should bea creative thinker that likes challenging projects. You preferable have a background in synthesis and catalysis, with affinity for supramolecular chemistry, biochemistry/biology. You should be team players as the projects will be carried out in the context of the larger collaborative program.You will be appointed at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

A MSc. degree in chemistry with a substantial experimental synthetic chemistry is required. The ability to collaborate and adapt in an international team is required and candidates must possess good communication skills in oral and written English. Due to limitations in recruitment budget we will preferably consider candidates that are currently in Europe. The positions are open till be found the proper candidates.

Conditions of employment

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week, preferably starting on the 1st of January, 2024, for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended to a total duration of four years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Masters students.

Based on a full-time contract (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,770 in the first year to €3,539 (scale P) in the last year. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities | Universiteiten van Nederland is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park we offer you multiple fringe benefits:
  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • Multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • Partly paid parental leave;
  • The possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • A pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • The possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.


Faculty of Science

The Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-Inspired Catalysis Groups main research objective is the development of novel catalytic processes driven by our knowledge of the relationship between structure and performance of the catalyst. Research projects span from fundamental to applied catalysis, the latter in collaboration with industry and via spin-off companies. We are part of the UvA Research Priority area in “Sustainable Chemistry”.

The Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavor & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organized into four themes: Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Synthesis & Catalysis and Molecular Photonics.

The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 12397


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098XH, Amsterdam

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