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The role of microbiota in host resistance against bacterial and fungal pathogens in wax moths
Deadline for applications
Date of publication


Details on the type of contract
PhD contract
Duration of contract
36 months


Name of unit of assignment
UMR1319 MICALIS MICrobiologie de l'ALImentation au service de la Santé
Address of unit of assignment
INRA Domaine de Vilvert 78352 JOUY-EN-JOSAS CEDEX
Website of unit of assignment
Region of assignment
Paris Region


Working environment

Principal host institution: The MICALIS institute is a high-profile Microbiology “joint research unit” (UMR) associating INRA (The French National Institute of Agricultural Research), AgroParisTech (a top level training school for European engineers and managers in the fields of life sciences and environment) and Paris-Saclay University (https://www.micalis.fr/micalis_eng/Micalis-Institute). MICALIS brings together over 350 persons including 120 researchers, engineers and professors, and more than 90 post-docs, PhD students and master students. It is part of the INRA research center located in Jouy-en-Josas (20 Km south-west of Paris and 7 km east of Versailles) that offers excellent modern laboratory infrastructures and a stimulating research environment. The INRA research center in Jouy-en-Josas is the largest INRA center in France with 820 permanent INRA employees, 430 from other partner organizations and more than 250 fixed-term contract workers, including more than 150 doctoral students (http://www.jouy.inra.fr/en). It is also a unique space offering a continuity of research on food, animals, and microorganisms and an integral element of the Université Paris-Saclay campus (https://www.universite-paris-saclay.fr/en).

Please note that INRA and Irstea (National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture) will merge on 1 January 2020 to become INRAE (National Research Institute for agriculture, food and environment).

Principal supervisor (INRA): Dr. Vincent Sanchis-Borja, Research director, Micalis Institute (INRA, Jouy-en-Josas), team Microbial Genetics and Environment (GME) (vincent.sanchis-borja@inra.fr), (http://www.micalis.fr/micalis_eng/Poles-and-teams/Pole-Risk/GME-Lereclus/Team-members/Vincent-Sanchis-Borja).

Co-supervisors: Associate professor, Annette Bruun Jensen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen (UCPH) (abj@plen.ku.dk), Dr. Christina Nielsen-Leroux (INRA, Jouy-en-Josas) team Microbial Genetics and Environment (GME) (christina.nielsen-leroux@inra.fr) and Dr. Olivia Champion (Entec Nutrition Limited, UK) (o.champion@biosystemstechnology.com).

Secondments: two planned secondments (internships) at two other consortium member premises are planned: one at UCPH in Copenhagen, Denmark (Supervisor Dr. Annette Bruun Jensen) and another at Entec Nutrition Limited in Exeter, United Kingdom (Dr. Olivia Champion).

Subject background: How the microbiota in the insect gut contribute to host protection against pathogens and infectious diseases remains a subject of intense research and much remain yet to be understood about the interplay between the microbiota and the cellular immune response. The overall aim of this project is to understand how commensally or foodborne microbiota affect host resistance and/or resilience to infection and stress, and analyze the way it influences insect fitness.

Specific objectives: In this project the larvae ofGalleria mellonella(wax moth) will be used as a model insect host to study the role of the microbiota in the health and resistance against colonization by entomopathogens entering via oral (B. thuringiensis) or topical (Metarhizium) routes. At INRA, we already have information on the microbiota ofG. mellonellaand we can rear axenic insects and gnotobiotic insects with modified microbiota to assess the role and importance of individual bacterial species in resistance to colonization by pathogens. We will use them:i) to analyze how the presence or absence of the gut microbiota affects the host innate immunity and theBacillus thuringiensisand/ormethariziumcolonization outcome in both single and co-infections; ii) to analyze the host immune responses during colonization/infection; iii) to investigate to what extent, the induced immune response against the pathogens also affects the microbiota, iv) to identify strains with optimal impact on host fitness in relation to diet composition and disease reduction.

Description of the scientific environment:

This PhD position is part of a large Double Degree Programme called INSECT DOCTORS, funded by the European Commission. The overall aim of the INSECT DOCTORS’ training programme is to educate a new generation of scientist that have in-depth knowledge on insect pathogens, as well as the skills to assist the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing to prevent disease outbreaks in their insect cultures.

In total, 15 PhD positions are available in this programme, and each PhD candidate will be enrolled at two universities in different European countries. Each PhD candidate will have his/her own research project involving stays in at least two countries. Several novel PhD courses will be offered to all PhD candidates of INSECT DOCTORS. Start dates for all these PhD positions are scheduled for April/May 2020. To learn more about the training network please visit our website: www.insectdoctors.eu


In order tobe eligiblefor a place within INSECT DOCTORS, strict rules are set out by the European Commission. So please make sure you comply with these rules when applying.


  1. You must be anEarly-Stage Researcher (ESR), meaning that at the day of your recruitment (= start date of your contract) you must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career, after obtaining your MSc degree.


  1. You havenot been awardeda doctoral degreebefore.


  1. Mobility Rule: You must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the day of your recruitment. For this particular PhD position the country of the recruiting organisation is France. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention 1, are not taken into account.


Please note, that these rules are not negotiable.

Training and skills required

Application process: Interested candidates are expected to have been trained in microbiology, entomology, insect pathology, immunology, genetics and/or ecology and they should have experience in conducting biological experiments. Additional skills in genomics, applied mathematics and/or in using bioinformatics tools will be an advantage. A capacity to work independently, proficiency in the English language and good communication abilities are also required.

Applications should include a short CV including a publication list (if any); a one-page letter motivating a) why you want to do a PhD; b) why are you applying for this specific position; c) why do you consider yourself a suitable candidate for this position; copies of degree and academic transcripts (with grades and rankings); a brief summary of Master's thesis (max. 1 page); a  proof of sufficient English language (test results or proof of MSc education in English, etc.); Full contact details (Name, address, telephone & email) of two referees willing to write confidential letters of recommendation. In addition you will have to supply information concerning: i) the Countries and duration of residence in the three years directly before the recruitment date (eligibility criteria). ii) a statement that you are in your first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career. iii) A statement that you have not been awarded a doctoral degree already. Please also indicate in your application whether you have also applied or intend to apply for other PhD positions in the INSECT DOCTORS programme.


Applications will only be accepted by e-mail and should be sent to Dr. Vincent Sanchis-Borja: E-mail: vincent.sanchis-borja@inra.fr.

What happens after you have applied?: We will come back to you soon after the application deadline is over. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for a skype interview.

What can you expect from a position in the INSECT DOCTORS ITN? : Once recruited, we will offer:

1. The possibility to work in an inspiring and interesting Horizon 2020 project;

2. A full-time contract for 36 months;

3. An attractive salary in accordance with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) regulations for Early Stage Researchers. The fellowship consists of a competitive gross salary of 3270 euros/month plus a mobility allowance of 600 euros/month and a family allowance of 500 euros/month (if married); this amount is a gross contribution to the employer salary costs that include salary and employer charges. The exact (net) salary will be confirmed upon appointment and will result from deducting all compulsory employer costs, social security and direct taxes from the gross salary.

4. At least two internships (also known as ‘secondments’) to another academic partner and to another industrial partner in the INSECT DOCTORS network, in order to gain new insights into research and into work in the industry. 

5. A double degree from Université Paris-Saclay and UCPH.


Dr. Vincent Sanchis-Borja