Postdoctoral Researcher in Bioinformatics/Toxicoinformatics, 1.0 fte (4yrs), Maastricht University

Postdoctoral Researcher in Bioinformatics/Toxicoinformatics, 1.0 fte (4yrs) – Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences/School NUTRIM/Department of Bioinformatics – BiGCaT, in collaboration with TNO-Utrecht

Deadline: 19 November 2021

Apply: Academic Transfer AT2021.402

Safety assessment without laboratory animals requires a computational infrastructure. Maastricht University is looking for a postdoc to contribute to the large Virtual Human Platform project using open standards and FAIR research output (VHP4Safety)

Imagine a world in which we perform precision safety testing of chemicals and pharmaceuticals without using laboratory animals. Imagine that the safety of chemicals and pharmaceuticals can be assessed for vulnerable groups such as infants, the elderly or the diseased. Imagine that we know how these substances interact with human biology and physiology and how they can be used safely at home, school or at work during the course of our lives. This is our vision for the future, the vision that underlies the development of the Virtual Human Platform for Safety Assessment (VHP4Safety), the world’s first platform to determine the safety of chemicals and pharmaceuticals for human health based solely on human biology. By integrating innovations in data science, human tissue culture models and transition management, VHP4Safety will spearhead the transition to animal-free safety assessment. The VHP4Safety consortium consists of leading scientific groups from Dutch universities, university medical centres, public health institutes and applied research organisations, with expertise spanning the technological, biological, chemical, medical as well as the social sciences. The co-funders and cooperation partners ensure the active involvement of diverse academic, regulatory, industrial and societal partners to the project throughout the entire safety assessment knowledge chain.

This research project is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) ‘Dutch Research Agenda: Research on Routes by Consortia’ (NWA-ORC 1292.19.272). With a budget of over 10 million Euros, the project starts on June 1, 2021 and will last for the duration of 5 years.

The VHP4Safety project is made up of three interacting research lines (RL), that involve building the platform (RL1), feeding the platform with newly generated data (RL2) and implementing the platform (RL3) to ensure stakeholder acceptance, governance and sustainability.

As part of the project, we have a vacancy for a Postdoctoral Fellow for 4 years that will be working mainly in RL1 but in close collaboration with RL2 and RL3.

The activities will be part of joint activities performed by the Department of Bioinformatics (BiGCaT) at Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands


Research Group Risk Analysis for Products in Development (RAPID), The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, Utrecht, The Netherlands. and

together with other partners in the VHP4Safety project

Short description of the specific position to be filled in by you:

One key activity in the project is the establishment of the VHP4Safety is the development of a data infrastructure in which computational quantitative adverse outcome pathways (qAOPs) can be ultimately used for quantitative chemical risk assessment with relevance for humans.

Your responsibility will be to help develop, in close collaboration with partners, in silico qAOPs informed by PBPK, metabolism, and toxicodynamic modelling, building on data and tools and models from both the in silico and the in vitro parts data of the project (building the models). We will start with  problems related to interorgan bioavailability, metabolism and endpoint effects in kidney, gastrointestine, liver, and interactions between these, this informed by in vitro data from RL2. Further, you will be responsible for integrating the developed AOP models by project partners, into a predictive VHP4Safety data platform in a dedicated team, to ensure FAIRification and sustainability of the models developed (FAIRification of the models). You will be responsible for testing the qAOP models within the VHP4Safety project towards ultimate applications in risk assessment. Specifically, you will derive exposure estimates from the models, to enable hazard characterization, which can be used for point of departure for risk assessment (application of the models).

To facilitate these activities, you will, at Maastricht University, directly collaborate with colleague postdoctoral fellows and experts in bioinformatics, working jointly on the VHP4Safety infrastructure (semantic web, API calls, workflows, data and knowledge based models) and molecular AOP development. Within TNO, you will collaborate with experts in PBPK, qAOP modelling and chemical risk assessment towards ultimate application. Within the consortium you will collaborate with partners responsible for the development of qAOP models.

Your formal appointment will be at Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. However, you will frequently visit (weekly/bi-weekly) or periodically work at TNO, Utrecht, The Netherlands and/or adapt to hybrid working. You will participate in joint interactions/meetings with the VHP4Safety project consortium, prepare scientific presentations, written documentation (e.g. project deliverables), and scientific publications and ensure the establishment of reusable computational models and infrastructure components applicable for chemical risk assessment.

PhD level (or similar based upon working experience) in computational toxicology, PBPK modelling, or computational (systems) toxicology/biology
Or, alternatively PhD level in mathematical, computational modelling, with proven demonstration of application of your expertise in life sciences preferably toxicology/pharmacology
Publication record, writing skills
You have excellent communication skills, in particular in explaining your computational expertise to biologists/toxicologists in a comprehensive manner, to foster collaboration.
Fixed-term contract: 48 months, with an evaluation after 1 year.

We offer a full-time, one-year term position, with the possibility of renewal for up to three more years depending on the performance. Yearly evaluations will take place. Salary range from € 2.836,- to € 4.474,- gross per month (pay scale 10 in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). 

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > About UM > Working at UM.

Maastricht University
Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 20,000 students and 4,700 employees. Reflecting the university’s strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.
For more information, visit

Department of Bioinformatics-BiGCaT – Maastricht

The Department of Bioinformatics-BiGCaT is part of NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences. It was founded in 2001 by Prof. dr. Chris Evelo aiming at employing bioinformatics approaches in systems biology to integrate experimental data and data with current knowledge. Integrative Systems Biology is being developed and applied in various research fields. The department has four core research areas; 1) metabolic diseases, 2) micronutrients, 3) toxicity and risk assessment and 4) rare diseases. Within these areas, different types of data, like transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and (epi)genomics data, are integrated and combined with existing knowledge.

Chris Evelo’s BiGCaT group is involved in (inter)national initiatives to collect, share and integrate biological data. Moreover, in order to perform data analysis in a state-of-the-art manner, novel methods and tools are being developed. These include i) high-throughput data analysis pipelines, ii) semantic Web tools using RDF, ontologies and SPARQL, iii) cheminformatics software, iv) structuring and collecting biological processes in WikiPathways, v) pathway analysis in PathVisio and vi) network analysis in Cytoscape.

Research Group Risk Analysis for Products in Development (RAPID), The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, Utrecht


Department of Risk Assessment for Products in Development TNO

RAPID investigates the quality and safety of chemical substances, food ingredients/products, drugs and nanoparticles. Traditionally, research at RAPID has taken place within (inter)national legislative frameworks but increasingly we are focusing on earlier process phases, such as the development of new ingredients and products (nanomaterials, new protein sources in food and drugs).

In order to reduce costs and time, modelling approaches increasingly lie at the basis for examining the health risks posed by substances to humans. RAPID combines thorough knowledge of the field of risk analysis and statistics with practical experience of innovative experimental research (toxicology, chemical analysis, human exposure), developing integrated strategies enabling maximum prediction of the health risks for humans and minimising the need for animal testing.

Our Expertise

The focus of RAPID is to sufficiently demonstrate the feasibility of innovations (proof of principle) and to realise an initial application in which the working principle is used (proof of market). Further upscaling of a substantial part of these innovations in the private market is shaped with external partners. RAPID has a considerable international orientation and focuses on industrial problems within three sectors: chemistry, pharmaceuticals and food. We also provide research support to the authorities.

For more information about this vacancy, please contact:

Maastricht University:

Chris Evelo

Egon Willighagen


Rob Stierum

Tagged as: Computer Science, Engineering, Life Sciences

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