International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) – Postdoctoral Fellow (Natural Products Chemistry)

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(Ref. No. IRS/ 588/112023)



International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) is a pan-African Centre of excellence in research for development and capacity building in insect science and its applications. Its mission is to help alleviate poverty, ensure food and nutritional security and improve the overall health status of people of the tropics. It does so by developing and extending management tools and strategies for harmful and useful arthropods while preserving the natural resource base. Since its establishment in 1970, icipe has become a significant contributor to science and innovation required to meet the health and food security challenges of sub-Saharan Africa. The Centre has achieved this status by developing alternative and environmentally friendly pest and vector management technologies and products that are effective, selective, non-polluting, non-resistance inducing, and affordable to resource-limited rural and urban communities. icipe is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and has operations in more than 40 African countries as well as thriving partnerships with universities and research organizations across the world. Employing over 500 international and national staff, icipe also has approximately 150 graduate students who contribute to its research portfolio annually. For additional information, visit: www.icipe.org

icipe is seeking an outstanding, dynamic, and self-motivated Postdoctoral Fellow in Natural Products Chemistry, to undertake research on Harnessing antimicrobial agents. He/she will work in the Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses Programme (INSEFF) of the Environmental Health Theme, in support of the objectives, vision, and mission of the Centre. The position is tenable in Nairobi at the icipe Duduville campus and will be offered for an initial contract of 2 years, renewable subject to continued funding and performance of the staff member. A competitive and generous compensation package will be offered to the right candidate for the position. Furthermore, the incumbent will receive paid annual vacation, return airfare for themselves and their dependents to their nominated home base each year, and duty-free privileges. If the successful candidate is appointed from outside Kenya, he or she will be offered support to relocate to the country and settle in Nairobi, Kenya. To review icipe’s Vision and Strategy 2021–2025, download this at: www.icipe.org/system/files_force/about/corporate_publications_files/icipe_Vision_and_Strategy_202 1-2025.pdf?download=1

Living in Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya, with a population of over three million, hosts all urban and social amenities, and offers a comfortable, convenient, and pleasurable life. A wide variety of excellent international schools and well-equipped medical facilities are open 24/7 in Nairobi. The city is also accessible by various reputable international airline carriers. Nairobi has a thriving international research scene, hosting various CGIAR centres, as well as several UN agencies. Although it is important to be conscious of security, Kenyans are warm and welcoming of visitors.

Overall purpose of the job

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is currently a threat to global health. It is estimated that AMR may cause up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050, adverse symptoms to patients, and more than $100trillion in economic loss globally. The misuse of readily available antibiotics both in agriculture and human health propels bacterial mutations, consequently leading to AMR. New frontiers in curbing this menace is through the identification of new antibacterial compounds that can be advanced into medications with possibly new mechanisms of action. Insects, which are also a source of many nutraceutical properties, are the most diverse in the environment. There has been experimental proof that they contain polyphenols such as flavonoids in their tissues and are an enormous source of proteins, making them fit for use as both human food and animal feed. These proteins also make up the source of the innate immune system that insects contain. They can be easily hydrolyzed into polypeptides and peptides, offering defensive properties to the host. Moreover, insects survive in extremely harsh environments full of pathogenic microorganisms, inferring that they may have well-established modes of defense against predators. They also harbour a plethora of defensive and nutritive symbionts in their guts, which fall under the least explored niches of antimicrobial agents. Black soldier fly, for instance, has proved to be very successful in adapting to even extreme environments where food, space, and competition present significant challenges to them. To overcome these challenges, insects often get involved in vast symbiosis with other life forms such as fungi and bacteria in their habitats.

Symbiotic interactions can either be based on defensive or nutritional services provided by the symbiont to the host. Symbionts that provide nutritional services to the host produce digestive enzymes aiding the insect in the degradation of plant materials that have limited insect-accessible molecules but are rich in dietary polymers such as lignin and cellulose. Defensive symbionts on the other hand secrete antimicrobial compounds (either peptides or small molecules) to protect the host against pathogens some of them have been studied and shown to have antagonistic activities against human pathogens and may be advanced for clinical use. However, only a handful of insects have been investigated so far in this realm and mainly in other regions. The need to undertake screening studies on the edible insects found in the sub-Saharan African region and tailor them to their beneficial aspects on human/animal and environmental health is a requisite research gap that needs to be addressed. This is a new niche that has been underexplored and will open avenues to disseminate the knowledge to greater lengths, foster international networking, and importantly uncover new scaffolds of secondary metabolites for clinical use. The use of locally available resources (insects reared at icipe) is an added advantage to the sustainable development of products in the long run.

This position will deliver innovative research that addresses a wide range of unique and critical issues associated with human health, crop and animal health, and environmental health in the context of ONE HEALTH. Within the scope of the above and overall objectives of the INSEFF program, icipe is seeking applications from highly motivated candidates for the position of post-doctoral fellow– Natural Products Chemistry: Harnessing antimicrobial agents. The ideal candidate will support research programmes in the Insects for Food, Feed, and Other Uses Programme in icipe’s Environmental Health Theme.

Specific duties

The successful candidate is expected to:

  • Conduct laboratory and field experiments with the microbial cultures obtained from the gut of edible insects with a view to controlling antimicrobial resistance.
  • Perform sample preparation, analysis, and identification of bio-active chemical components using various chromatographic techniques such as HPLC, GC-MS, LC-MS and their structure determination using spectroscopic techniques.
  • Identify the gaps in the antimicrobial resistance research and link up with the current work on the mode of action of the isolated compounds and their mechanism.
  • Determine other bio-functional properties of the compounds isolated that can improve environmental health.
  • Carry out molecular studies (genomics) on the microbes associated with edible insects.
  • Analysis and documentation of the experimental data using multivariate techniques.
  • Manuscript writing and grant mobilizations.
  • Supervision of postgraduate students and other relevant members of the team.


  • PhD in Chemistry with at least 3 years of postgraduate experience using analytical techniques and microbiological skills.
  • Good number of publications on the identification and structure determination of antimicrobial compounds and their interaction with the host organism.
  • Should be at most 38 years old at the time of application for this position.
  • Hands-on skills in the operation of HPLC, GC-MS, LC-MS/MS, and analysis of NMR spectra.
  • Additional skills in bioinformatics and organic synthesis would be an advantage.
  • Must have an excellent publication track record.
  • Additional knowledge on the formulation of the active ingredients into tangible products for wide applicability.

Core Competencies

  • Demonstrated ability to mobilize resources for effective research in the antimicrobial resistance field.
  • Ability to create and foster an innovative work environment, including team building to deliver agreed goals.
  • High degree of organization, adaptability, and prioritization.
  • Experience in capacity building through supervision and mentorship of postgraduate and undergraduate students.
  • Excellent communication skills and collaborative network of partners at national and international levels


This position reports to the Senior Scientist and Head of Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses (NSEFF) Programme and the Head of Environmental Health Theme.


Applications will be accepted up to 8th December 2023. Interested applicants should submit: (a) a confidential cover letter; (b) a detailed CV with names and addresses of 3 referees (including e-mail addresses); (c) a statement illustrating suitability against the listed qualifications/ competencies/abilities and skills; (d) two published papers

Candidates are required to apply online through: http://recruit.icipe.org or by

email: recruitment@icipe.org

icipe is an equal-opportunity employer. It fosters a multicultural work environment that values gender equity, teamwork, and respect for diversity. Consideration for employment is given to qualified applicants regardless of race, color, age, gender, religion, disability status, national and ethnic origin, or social status.





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