Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology

15 PhD Projects: VAGABOND Consortium

Offer Description

Pre-clinical drug development for paediatric cancer is very complex, resource intensive and requiring multi-disciplinary expertise and innovative approaches. “VAGABOND Validation of Actionable Genomic ABerrations in a paediatric Oncology Network for Doctorate students” aims to create a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral program to validate new therapeutic interventions in paediatric cancer. The program is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network) and offers 15 fully funded PhD positions. The successful candidates will be hosted by a member of a European Consortium of universities, research institutions and companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France.

This network will be sustainable embedded in the ITCC (Innovative Treatments for Children with Cancer) Consortium. The VAGABOND ITN will focus on 15 cutting-edge research projects studying molecular, epigenetic and immunological targets. All projects will (partly) include target identification, in vitro and in vivo validation, compound testing and preparation for clinical implementation. This consortium will highly stimulate international education and multi- disciplinary exchange of expertise in the different steps of pre-clinical drug development. This setting provides an opportunity for a unique European training network in which Early Stage Researchers (ESRs, PhDs) are equipped with a broad knowledge in pre-clinical drug development. Through this network PhD students will gain access to other leading academic research groups, specialized multi-sectoral companies and the most innovative techniques and insights in the complexity of translational medicine to prepare them for future challenges in their career pathway. In this collaboration we will increase the commune expertise on tumour types and technical expertise for target validation. This will improve the implementation of interventions across paediatric cancer and strongly reduce the timeline from bench to the bedside.

List of available PhD positions (more information about the individual positions available of the VAGABOND website:

PhD position 1 (Utrecht): Immune interventions from scRNAseq analysis from debulked neuroblastoma tumours

PhD position 2 (Utrecht): Synergy between precision medicines/repurposed drugs and conventional chemotherapy to outsmart precursor B-cell leukaemia and lymphoma

PhD position 3 (Utrecht): Epigenetic processes underlying paediatric renal and rhabdoid tumourigenesis

PhD position 4 (Paris): The role of the SWI/SNF complex in paediatric cancers:

PhD position 5 (Paris): Targeting the surface-ome landscape of paediatric brain tumours

PhD position 6 (Heidelberg): R-loops in paediatric brain tumours

PhD position 7 (Heidelberg): Targeting the extracellular matrix (ECM) in therapy resistant paediatric tumours

PhD position 8 (Vienna): Druggable pathways in EMT-like transition of Ewing sarcoma

PhD position 9 (München): Targeting ATRX-deficient hepatoblastoma

PhD position 10 (Zurich): Targeting transcriptional core regulatory circuit by epigenetic dependencies

PhD position 11 (London): Development of therapies targeting the oncogenic and immunologic activity of MYCN in neuroblastoma

PhD position 12 (Berlin): CAR and TCR T cell therapy - competitors bundle forces. A combinational approach to prevent tumour escape by antigen loss.

PhD position 13 (Bologna): Exome-associated miRNAs as circulating biomarkers of chemotherapy resistance in bone tumours (Ewing Sarcoma and Osteosarcoma): Liquid Biopsy and in vitro studies

PhD position 14 (Gent): Preclinical validation of DNA copy number driven non-mutated dependency genes RRM2 and BRIP1 as novel drug targets in neuroblastoma

PhD position 15 (Utrecht): In-depth anti-tumour reactivity against haematological and solid tumour cells of αβ-Tcells engineered to express a defined γδTCR (TEGs)

VAGABOND website:


  • Get the opportunity to work with scientist from leading European industrial partners and academic institutes in the area of paediatric oncology
  • International networking opportunities
  • 2 intersectional (academic and non-academic) secondments of 3 months each
  • 4 summerschools and 3 specialized interim courses offering scientific and transferable skills
  • Personal development program BeyondU for a personal transformational experience towards resilient and confident leaders of the future
  • The world-wide most important industry recognized Project Management Professional (PMP) certification given by the Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • High quality doctoral training rewarded by a PhD degree from a major European university
  • A competitive salary, travel allowance and family allowance (if applicable)
  • Appointment for a period of minimum 36 months
  • A journey in which you get all opportunities to reach your full potential and accelerate your career in paediatric oncology!

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants can be of every nationality
  • They must fulfil the mobility rule, i.e. have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies) in the country of the host organization for no more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. The earliest possible recruitment date is March 1st 2021
  • They must also fulfil the Early Stage Researcher (ESR) rule, i.e. be within their first four years of their research careers at the date of recruitment by the host organization and have not been awarded a doctorate degree

Selection process

The selection and recruitment processes of the PhD student will be in accordance with the European Charter and Code of Conduct of the Recruitment of Researchers. The recruitment process will be open, transparent, impartial, equitable, and merit-based. There will be no discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion of belief, disability or age.

The applications will be analysed by the Coordinator for eligibility and completeness. Afterwards, the applications will be distributed to the hosting institutes. In the pre-selection phase applicants will be rated using a scoring system by the hosting institutes. A first shortlist of qualified applicants will be interviewed online to further assess their qualifications and skills according to the predefined selection criteria (mid-December). The best qualified applicants will be invited for the joint recruitment day in Utrecht, the Netherlands (or online in case of COVID-19 measures). During the joint recruitment days candidates will be asked to present their previous research or plans/ideas for the VAGABOND program. The selection committee consists of the respective local supervisors and complemented during the joint recruitment day by other supervisors from the consortium.

Additional comments

The application should contain the following documents (all provided in English language):

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Cover letter including but not limited to the following:
    • Indicate clearly the PhD position you are applying for with your order of preference (max 3). If you are only interested in 1 or 2 PhD positions, please state this clearly.
    • Explain why you are interested in these specific PhD positions
  • Certificate of master’s degree (or equivalent) with transcript of records
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Contact details of two referees
  • List of publications, if applicable

All documents should be submitted online and not send by e-mail!
In case of general questions about the VAGABOND program or recruitment procedure contact:

Required Education Level

  • Biological sciences: Master Degree or equivalent
  • Medical sciences: Master Degree or equivalent
  • Pharmacological sciences: Master Degree or equivalent


  • Excellent English language and communication skills
  • A Master’s degree (MSc) in biomedical sciences, medicine, pharmacy, bioinformatics, biotechnology or equivalent
  • Willingness to relocate and reside abroad for at least 3 years including travel for secondments, training and project meetings
  • Applications should be available during the central recruitment days on January 28th-29th 2021.
  • Applicants should be available to start the PhD position before October 1st 2021.


Heidelberglaan 25, 3584 CS, Utrecht

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