NIH intramural program seeks systems immunologists

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Marc Kirschner recently received the following e-mail.  Please pass it on if you know anyone relevant, and note this sentence near the end: “I do want to stress that although our biology focus will largely be immune-related, we are eager for applicants with expertise in transcription networks and cell differentiation irrespective of their background in immunology or infectious diseases.”

Dear Marc

I am writing to bring to your attention the next round of faculty recruitment for the NIAID Intramural research effort called the Program in Systems Immunology and Infectious Disease Modeling (PSIIM), which is focused on combining computational modeling with quantitative experimental exploration of the immune system, pathogens, and host-pathogen interactions at various biological scales, from intracellular signaling and gene regulatory pathways to the whole organism level. The offered position is fully supported (faculty and staff salary, equipment, laboratory budget) on an ongoing basis by the Division of Intramural Research, NIAID, making it especially attractive in the current funding environment.

The PSIIM has already recruited individuals to lead groups in the areas of computer modeling and simulation (Dr. Martin Meier-Schellersheim), molecular and cell biology/high throughput screening (Dr. Iain D.C. Fraser), proteomics (Dr. Aleksandra Nita-Lazar), systems genomics (Dr. John Tsang), and immunology (Dr. Ronald N. Germain, who also serves as PSIIM Director). As the attached advertisement details, the PSIIM is now recruiting to fill a tenure/tenure-track position in a critical area – transcriptional networks and control of differentiation.

It is important to note that in contrast to most typical NIH intramural research activities involving small, focused, and quite independent laboratory groups, the PSIIM is organized around a ‘team science’ concept in which the various research groups headed by these recruits will be expected to devote a substantial amount of their effort towards larger, shared goals. To support career development in this new environment, NIH has modified its rules for granting tenure/assessing performance to take specific account of accomplishments made in a team setting. Support from internal NIAID research funds will be provided on a continuing basis that covers the salaries of the group leader, technical staff and fellows, along with generous budgets for equipment, laboratory reagents, animals, travel, and publication costs (or in the case of computational groups, computers, shared computing costs, and software licenses). The successful candidates will also be able to take advantage of numerous cores within the PSIIM, NIAID, and NIH that include state-of-the-art support in the areas of gene microarrays, optical imaging, and cluster computing as well as both trans-NIH and PSIIM-specific robotics platforms for high throughput/high content drug and RNAi screening. The PSIIM also has purchased a next-generation sequencer for dedicated use by its staff.

Although the PSIIM is currently supported solely by the NIAID, it is already providing leadership across the NIH in the area of computational systems biology and it is expected to continue in this role as NIH develops a trans-Institute effort in this area in the future. The tenure/tenure-track positions now open in the PSIIM thus represent extremely attractive positions for individuals interested in playing a key role in creating and applying new methods for quantitative analysis of biological systems. The PSIIM will invest heavily in the development of novel, broadly applicable tools for systems biology research, with an emphasis on software for modeling and simulation [for example, see Meier-Schellersheim et al. 2006 Key Role of Local Regulation in Chemosensing Revealed by a New Molecular Interaction-Based Modeling Method PLoS Comput Biol. 2 e82. PMID: 16854213], the integration of this software with bioinformatics applications, and the establishment of methods for providing the numerical data necessary for computational efforts. The PSIIM will conduct biological studies in the areas of immunology and infectious diseases, taking maximal advantage of the latest technological advances, but extension of the systems approach of the PSIIM to other areas of biomedicine will be possible through collaboration. The integrated, multidisciplinary nature of the PSIIM research effort is expected to markedly facilitate its ability to make significant contributions in the arena of complex biosystems analysis. Studies of the host immune system will include such topics as signaling by microbial receptors (TLRs, NODs, and RIGI), regulation of differentiation of T cell subsets, and tissue level as well as whole body analysis of protective and pathologic innate and adaptive immune responses to infectious agents. Pathogen biology will also be a focus of PSIIM efforts, with studies ranging from signaling networks and gene regulatory pathways controlling pathogenicity to determination of points of vulnerability to drug therapy or immune effectors. I do want to stress that although our biology focus will largely be immune-related, we are eager for applicants with expertise in transcription networks and cell differentiation irrespective of their background in immunology or infectious diseases.

I ask that you bring this exciting new program and the group leader position being advertised to the attention of any outstanding fellows or colleagues you believe have an interest in systems biology, irrespective of their background in immunology. More information about the PSIIM can be found here.

With thanks in advance for your help,


Ronald N. Germain, M.D., Ph. D.
Deputy Chief, Laboratory of Immunology
Chief, Lymphocyte Biology Section, Laboratory of Immunology
Director, Program in Systems Immunology and Infectious Disease Modeling
Associate Director, Trans-NIH Center for Human Immunology (CHI)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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