This is a full-time, fixed term (48 Months) position on Crick terms and conditions of employment.
This position is for a postdoctoral fellow in the Applied Biotechnology Laboratory led by Sam Rodriques. The postholder will seek to develop breakthrough technologies that can be deployed widely to accelerate biology, neuroscience, and medicine. Suitable candidates should have a strong background in areas such as biological engineering, molecular and cellular biology, microscopy, next-generation sequencing, and animal research.
The Applied Biotechnology Laboratory works at the interface between academic bioengineering and biotechnology entrepreneurship. Our goal is to develop biotechnologies that address major unmet needs in biology and medicine and to put them into every laboratory or every clinic in the world.
There is no defined project associated with this post. Candidates who progress to the interview stage will brainstorm a project with the leader of the Applied Biotechnology Laboratory as part of the interview process. The successful candidate will possess impressive creativity, a willingness to take risks and iterate quickly, and exceptional technical competency. Examples of recent and current projects include a novel diagnostic technology that can detect proteins at ultralow concentrations in the blood for infectious disease; a spatial transcriptomics technology that is the first to provide transcriptome-wide gene expression profiling with single-cell spatial resolution; and adeno-associated viruses that can evade the immune system to allow for repeat dosing of gene therapies. In all of these projects, we combine core competencies in molecular biology, microscopy, NGS, and protein engineering with an experience and expertise in biotechnology entrepreneurship that is rare among academic labs, allowing us to identify more important unmet needs and deploy solutions more rapidly.
The successful candidate will be expected to invent transformative technologies, generate valuable intellectual property, publish papers in Science, Nature, and Cell, and to contribute actively to realizing the impact of his or her inventions, for example through collaborations with industry or company creation. The following are some examples of areas of current interest, but applications from candidates interested in other areas, such as regenerative medicine or cell therapies, are encouraged:
Viral Vectors: Many of the most promising first-in-class therapies to be approved recently are in vivo gene therapies, in which genetic material is delivered to a living patient using engineered viruses. Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), the vectors commonly used in gene therapies, suffer from major drawbacks including the presence of neutralizing antibodies in a large fraction of patients; a high cost of production; a small packaging capacity; liver toxicity; and an inability to cross the blood-brain barrier. We are working to engineer novel viral vectors with larger packaging capsids, a wider range of patient applicability, and new integrated safety features, to enable the next generation of gene therapies.
Diagnostics: In order to develop therapeutics to treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, it is necessary to diagnose those disease long before the onset of symptoms. Various small molecules, nucleic acids, or proteins may facilitate the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases from the blood, but these biomarkers are often at very low concentration because they do not efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier. We have developed a new method for detecting biomarkers in the blood-stream at previously inaccessible concentrations, and now seek to apply this as a diagnostic technology for a variety of different diseases. We believe that this technology also holds promise for the detection of infectious diseases, or for the detection of pathogens in agriculture or veterinary medicine.
Contextual Transcriptomics: Single cell RNA sequencing has revolutionized the field of genomics by allowing us to interrogate the diversity of cell types in tissues. However, these approaches require the tissue to be dissociated, and thereby discard the spatial and temporal context associated with those cell types. We have recently invented Slide-seq, a method for profiling the spatial distribution of RNA in tissue with single cell resolution. Essentially, this method enables us to take 20,000 images of a piece of tissue – one image for each gene – in a single biochemical assay. We are now applying this to study spatial patterns of gene expression in many systems, ranging from the T cell microenvironment in lung cancer to the organization of projection neurons in the brain.
These include but are not limited to:
- Identifying a major unmet need in biology or medicine that could be addressed with biotechnology.
- Devising a program of research to create a biotechnology to address the unmet need.
- Independently conducting experiments and analyzing results related to the program of research.
- Writing grant applications and giving pitches to philanthropists to support the program of research. (The postdoctoral fellow will not ordinarily need to obtain money for his/her own research projects, but will be expected to participate in raising money for future research projects.)
- Forming and pursuing collaborations with other academic labs.
- Maintaining high-quality lab notes and maintaining the central lab inventory.
- Reporting on a regular basis to the Group Leader of the Applied Biotechnology Laboratory
- Presenting results at lab meetings and at international conferences.
- Writing up results and publishing papers in major, internationally recognized journals.
- Assisting in training graduate students and other members of the laboratory.
In addition, as necessary or desired, the postholder will have the opportunity to consult for external companies on topics related to their research, and to pitch their ideas to investors and to participate in the technology transfer process.
Key experience and competencies
The post holder should embody and demonstrate our core Crick values: bold, imaginative, open, dynamic and collegial, in addition to the following qualifications, experience and competencies:
- PhD in bioengineering, molecular biology, chemical engineering or similar
- Significant experience in fields such as molecular biology (cloning, recombinant protein production), protein engineering, next-generation sequencing, microscopy, cell culture, and animal research.
- Motivation to perform cutting-edge engineering with a focus on translation
- A demonstrated ability to generate and pursue independent research ideas.
- Good organisational skills, ability to work independently and capable of interacting within a group
- A track record of publishing high-impact papers.
- Confident presenting ability