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Center of Excellence for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders: BRAINCITY
Center of Excellence
for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders BRAINCITY

Center of Excellence for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders

The aim of the Nencki Institute-EMBL Centre of Excellence for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders: BRAINCITY is to advance understanding neuronal and synaptic plasticity in order to combat the most debilitating and costly human disorders.

Brain plasticity refers to the capacity of structural and functional reorganization of the neuronal network in response to environmental challenges. Beside learning and memory which allow for adaptation to the changing environment, neuroplasticity is necessary to recover after disorders and injuries. Brain plasticity is manifested at many levels in the nervous system ranging from molecular events, such as changes in gene expression, to behaviour. At the cellular level, the plasticity is supported by dynamic modifications in neuronal connectivity and excitability that are driven by molecular changes in neurons and glial cells. Molecular biology of the plastic re-organization of the neuronal circuitry concerns both the synapses (especially their protein content), as well as gene expression patterns in entire neurons (and even surrounding glia). Synapses are particularly prone to dynamic alterations and thus believed to play a major role in the plasticity. Aberrant synaptic plasticity leads to many pathological conditions, e.g., epileptogenesis, drug addiction, autism spectrum disorders and major neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or depression. Compensatory brain plasticity may reduce the effects of pathologies such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, cognitive deterioration or Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, understanding the molecular underpinnings of the plasticity presents a major research challenge.

The research at the BRAINCITY will address the brain plasticity and its disorders that are the most debilitating and costly human diseases, as it is estimated that their yearly price tag in EU reaches €800 billion (Di Luca, Olesen, Neuron, 2014). This area of research has been recognized as one of the top priorities in Poland. National Research Program, adopted by the Council of Ministers on Aug. 16, 2011 (Decision 164/2011), has specifically listed key importance of research studies in the fields of mental and neurodegenerative disorders and substance abuse.

The Nencki Institute holds a leading regional position as a research institution, with research output comparable to the leading European research institutions in the field. This has been achieved by investments in state-of-the-art research facilities and by using the existing infrastructure to develop a unique, cutting-edge and commercially applicable research specialty. This route to improvement has been followed for a number of years with considerable support from the EU programs.

BRAINCITY is based on long-term strategic cooperation with EMBL, one of the worldwide leaders in life science research, training, and technology transfer. BRAINCITY will be scientifically autonomous and governed according to the best international practice, bringing to Poland the culture of excellence and nurture it to produce major scientific and medical breakthroughs for improved health care. It is expected that the research carried at the BRAINCITY will be of the highest international standards, as well as contributing to societal and regional development.

The BRAINCITY laboratories will study state-of–the-art and highly complementary research topics related to neural plasticity-dependent remodeling of the brain circuitry, whose abnormalities have recently been recognized as fundamental underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. epilepsy, schizophrenia, addiction, depression, and autism spectrum disorders). The studies will cover a range of research questions and approaches from synaptic plasticity and its molecular mechanisms, to imaging, visualization and manipulation of the brain-wide neuronal networks. Our aim is to identify novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets and thus stimulate the development of new therapies. The attractive novelty and importance proposed by the BRAINCITY is in its close collaborations of multidisciplinary research with clinics that will sharpen the focus on relevant molecular mechanisms while collaborations with companies will help to address market needs and opportunities. Collaboration among the BRAINCITY researchers of diverse expertise, as well as with clinical and industrial environments and with EMBL research groups and other domestic and international partners is regarded as the key factor that will unify the efforts of various groups to bring the knowledge of the brain function and dysfunction to a higher level of understanding.

Six research groups will be established in the BRAINCITY, including four new ones led by young leaders, with the quality and experience at the level of Starting/Consolidator ERC grants. The expertise required from the candidates to run laboratories in the Nencki-EMBL BRAINCITY should cover such areas as clinical genetics of brain disorders, (epi)genomics, big data (derived from genomics and/or imaging experiments), neurophotonics and bioimaging, synaptic and brain plasticity approached through modern optical means, animal models of human brain diseases, especially longitudinal behavioral assessment and, especially, IPSCs (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells). The group leaders will have freedom to develop their own scientific projects within the research agenda defined in this proposal. The work progress will be evaluated by the International Scientific Committee (ISC).

BRAINCITY and EMBL have established an institutional partnership. EMBL Partnerships are close cooperative affiliations with leading national institutions in EMBL member states, creating a network of international centres of scientific excellence and advanced training modelled on EMBL. In particular, EMBL offers active support in achieving BRAINCITY goals bringing complementary knowledge in neuroscience, new research culture and management approaches including selection, regular evaluation and internationalisation of independent groups, as well as technology transfer best practice.

To supervise the scientific activities of the BRAINCITY the ISC has been formed through consultation between the Nencki Institute and EMBL and by a joint decision of the directors of both institutions. The ISC, in particular, will review the research agenda and implementation of changes based on the advancement in scientific research; lead the recruitment of research group leaders through international open competitions based on transparent criteria; evaluate and select best candidates; evaluate of progress of all research group leaders and their teams.

Recruitment and evaluation strategy: pivotal role of the International Scientific Committee

BRAINCITY will recruit highly motivated individuals and provide them with excellent conditions for the development of their own research in line with BRAINCITY’s goals. We anticipate that this approach will strengthen BRAINCITY over the initial five year funding period, ensuring its dynamic growth and long‐term prospects beyond this period. Recruitment of candidates will be based on the scientific excellence of their past achievements and the proposed research plan as well as the complementarity of their future research with other groups at BRAINCITY and the institute’s stated strategic goals. Group Leaders will be offered generous lab space, excellent access to core facilities, including the animal house and administrative/accounting/technology transfer support. BRAINCITY will provide competitive salaries for both Group Leaders and postdocs/technicians/PhD students.

Recruiting the best Group Leaders.Group Leaders at BRAINCITY will be recruited by recommendation of BRAINCITY ISC from among international candidates through open competitions based on transparent criteria. The criteria for hiring of Group Leaders will be based on an evaluation of their achievements, future research plans, and their compatibility with the scope of BRAINCITY research agenda. Ideal candidates will be at the early stages of their career with a potential comparable to that of laureates of the ERC starting/consolidator grant program. BRAINCITY may, however, also consider senior leaders of high profile for recruitment. The hiring process is supported by EMBL, a strategic partner of BRAINCITY, who provides guidance in setting up appropriate management procedures and in recruitment and evaluation of the BRAINCITY Group Leaders. Group Leader candidates will be open to pursue projects of their choice in line with BRAINCITY research agenda and their research activities will therefore shape the future of BRAINCITY. The expected number of research groups is six: two senior groups and four newly recruited Group Leaders.

Ensuring gender diversity. The Nencki Institute has a strong track record in recruiting outstanding female lab heads and BRAINCITY will continue this tradition by incorporating mechanisms to minimize conscious and unconscious bias in recruitments, especially at the Group Leader level. Except in exceptional and justifiable circumstances search committees will include women, and at least one woman will be invited to interview. The intention to recruit a diverse faculty will be explicitly discussed by the search committee prior to recruitment and pro-active mechanisms will be used to encourage and solicit applications from outstanding underrepresented groups, including women (invitation of promising researchers to give seminars, personal solicitation at scientific conferences, pre-recruitment symposia).


BRAINCITY will follow the best practices in governance of scientific research. EMBL experience and achievements in scientist-driven governance will serve as a model for establishing and advising and implementing best practices, with ISC playing a decisive role. ISC nine prominent members will give advice to BRAINCITY management on key scientific issues required to achieve scientific excellence and will serve as a sounding board to help guide the implementation of BRAINCITY policies and decisions within its strategic vision.

Contact us at: Ms. Marta Rucinska m.rucinska@nencki.gov.pl


Successful candidates are expected to:
• hold a doctorate in a discipline relevant to the research agenda pursued at the BRAINCITY
• demonstrate outstanding research achievements reflected by the publication record;
• present plans for research effort that will place the BRAINCITY at the forefront of scientific developments on a world-wide scale;
• possess leadership skills required to direct a research group;
• exhibit openness to internal and external collaborations.

Applications including:
• curriculum vitae;
• research record with a list of 10 most important publications;
• description of research plans, including innovation potential and possible prospects to establish industrial connections;
• supporting statement specifying how the candidate meets the search criteria and can contribute to the operation of the Centre at large;
• names and contact details of at least three senior researchers who may act as referees

should be deposited at http://www.braincity.gov.pl before May 3rd, 2019, 23:59 CEST.

It is expected that the candidates will be notified by June 6th, 2019 and those shortlisted will be interviewed (preferrably in person) on July 3rd-4th, 2019. Appointments will be made at the level commensurate with the qualifications and the experience of selected candidates. Further information regarding scientific issues might be obtained from BRAINCITY president, Prof. Leszek Kaczmarek (l.kaczmarek@nencki.gov.pl) and vice-president, Prof. Ewelina Knapska (e.knapska@nencki.gov.pl). For other inquiries please contact Ms. Marta Rucinska (m.rucinska@nencki.gov.pl).



Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology PAS
3 Pasteur Street, 02-093 Warszawa, Poland


You can catch a taxi cab outside of the terminal, or call any of the companies: ECO Taxi +48 22 644 22 22; WAWA Taxi +48 22 196 44; SAWA Taxi +48 22 644 44 44. The cost of the ride from the airport should not be more than 7 EUR (35 PLN) and take no longer than 10-15 minutes.


There are two convenient direct bus lines from the airport terminal to the Nencki Institute (no. 175 and no. 188). The ride will take approximately 16 minutes (12 stops). You need to get off at a stop called “Banacha Szpital” and take a 10-minute walk (800 m) along the Banacha and Pasteura Streets. The ticket costs c.a. 1 euro (4,40 PLN) – we recommend buying a 75-minute ticket in case of heavy traffic.