PhD student position: Development of novel modulators for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor for the treatment of nerve agent poisoning

Applications are invited for a PhD student positions in the Computational Pharmaceutical Chemistry & Molecular Bioinformatics group of Prof. Dr. Holger Gohlke (http://cpclab.uni-duesseldorf.de) at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany.

CPCLAB - Gohlke Group
Our current research focusses on four main areas, for which we develop and apply techniques grounded in computational biophysical chemistry, molecular bioinformatics, and computational pharmaceutical chemistry:
  • Structure, Function, and Molecular Recognition Investigated by Molecular Dynamics Simulations
  • Rigidity Theory for Biomolecules
  • Structure Prediction by Comparative Modeling and Using (Co-)Evolutionary Information
  • Modulating Biomolecular Interactions

Activities and responsibilities

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors play an important role in cholinergic neurotransmission. Thus, a malfunction of these receptors can quickly reach life-threatening proportions by paralysis of the respiration. Such a malfunction can be caused by nerve agent poisoning, leading to accumulation of acetylcholine, thereby desensitizing the receptor and causing a non-functional state. Active ingredients for elimination of desensitization of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors therefore are of great importance for the treatment of nerve agent poisoning. As shown in in vivo and in vitro experiments, there are some substances from the group of bispyridinium salts capable of desensitizing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, or if it occurred already, to bring back receptors to a functional state (i.e., "resensitize"). However, because of their low potency, such substances are currently not suitable for therapy.The goal of the project is to develop active ingredients that have a sufficiently high potency and, in addition, drug-like properties, such that they can be used as antidotes for the treatment of nerve agent poisoning.

The project will be performed in close collaboration with experimentalists at LMU Munich.


The position is available as of now.

Qualification profile

Ideal candidates will have a record of excellence and a strong background in computational biochemistry, molecular informatics, and computationalstructural biology as well as a high interest in working in an interdisciplinary research field, and profound knowledge in state-of-the-art molecular dynamics simulations (Amber) software and molecular modeling.

We offer

  • cutting-edge research in a variety of areas in biology and computation
  • a degree from the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf
  • excellent supervision
  • a flexible and challenging curriculum of scientific and transferable skills
  • the opportunity for travel to present your work


While applying for the job please refer to jobvector and use the following reference number: P5/19

About Heinrich-Heine-University, Gohlke Group

Our current research focusses on four main areas, for which we develop and apply techniques grounded in computational biophysical chemistry, molecular bioinformatics, and computational pharmaceutical chemistry: Structure, Function, and Molecular Recognition Investigated by Molecular Dynamics Simulations Rigidity Theory for Biomolecules  Structure Prediction by Comparative Modeling...
More about Heinrich-Heine-University, Gohlke Group