Doctoral (PhD) Training Position in autoimmune disease and drug development

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
December 15, 2022
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Negotigation
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Doctoral (PhD) Training Position in autoimmune disease and drug


(ref. BAP-2022-810)

Last modification : Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Prof. Dr. Karen Vanhoorelbeke of KU Leuven Campus Kulak Kortrijk, Kortrijk, Belgium is hiring one of the 8 PhD students in the MSCA TOLERATE project. Prof Karen Vanhoorelbeke has an international recognised expertise is unraveling the pathophysiology if the autoimmune disease immune-mediated thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (iTTP), in animal models for this disease and in developing novel diagnostic assays and therapies for iTTP. (https: // Prof Vanhoorelbeke is the coordinator of TOLERATE. TOLERATE training network aims at training Doctoral Candidates' (DCs) (PhD students) to acquire the skills to develop different innovative strategies to treat autoimmune diseases, to identify the most promising strategies or a combination of strategies, to setup clinical trials and to develop a roadmap to bring a novel therapeutic agent to the market. This all will be done in a highly interdisciplinary and intersectoral environment. Interdisciplinarity allows to introduce innovative tolerogenic therapies developed for cancer, Chimer Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies, into the world of autoimmune disease and to apply nanotechnology and protein-engineered tolerogenic vaccines to re-establish immune tolerance in autoimmune disease. Both the presence of academia and industry provides a platform for in-depth preclinical studies and a realistic possibility for future commercialization of the novel therapies. Clinicians in the consortium with expertise in setting-up and running clinical trials for novel drugs assure that developed novel therapies in TOLERATE will find their way to the clinic in the future. Developing novel therapies for autoimmune diseases goes close together with a thorough knowledge on the long-term consequences of living with an autoimmune disease. Since many autoimmune diseases are rare diseases, setting up international uniform databases and biobanks is crucial to understand the long-term pathophysiology of the disease and to guarantee optimal use of (novel) therapies. TOLERATE will train 8 DCs who will hence have the expertise and skills to work in and setup interdisciplinary and intersectoral projects. The ground-breaking training programme will provide the DCs with a unique clinical training. Additional training in ethical, regulatory and legal aspects together with a training in innovation management of therapeutics and diagnostics for autoimmune diseases will prepare the DCs for the European job market.

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Subject area Genetic engineering, UniCAR-T cell therapy, mouse models, autoimmune disease immune-mediated thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

Project-specific selection criteria DC2 will develop the innovative UniCAR-T cell therapy to treat the autoimmune disease using immune-mediated thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (iTTP) as a model disease. UniCAR-T cells will be generated via genetic engineering. The UniCAR-T cell therapy will be tested both in vitro and in vivo in a mouse model of iTTP.

  • The applicant will:
  • hold a Master's degree with distinction
  • demonstrate a history of academic excellence
  • demonstrate an affinity for one or more of the following disciplines: biomedical sciences, cell biology, biochemistry, nanotechnology, cell therapy, drug development, clinical trials speak and write fluently in English
  • be fascinated by scientific research and innovation
  • be motivated, enthusiastic and eager to learn
  • be able to work methodically and accurately
  • be able to work independently yet also being a team player
  • have a creative mind and strong problem-solving skills
  • have a good writing and oral expression
  • be willing to do secondments in different EU countries
  • not hold a doctoral (PhD) title
  • not have resided in the country where the recruiting institution is located for more than 12 months in the 3 years before recruitment
  • be available to start their project no later than April 2023
  • Offer
  • The fellow will
  • be one of the 8 Doctoral student working in the Marie Sklodowska Curie training network TOLERATE.
  • work at KU Leuven Campus Kulak Kortrijk, in Kortrijk Belgium with the intention of receiving a doctoral degree (PhD) and will work on the topic UniCAR-T cell therapy to treat autoimmune disease: iTTP as the model system
  • experience state-of-the art, exciting research in an international consortium with highly integrated research projects.
  • receive expert training in immunology, autoimmune disease, and drug development and transferable skills including communication skills (verbal and written), management and entrepreneurial and career development skills.
  • work at least six months of research training in the lab of other consortium member, mostly in a different EU country, and all including a 6-week clinical training.
  • receive training in both academic and non-academic research environments.
  • receive a salary according to EU guidelines for Marie Skłodowska Curie trainees, including mobility payments and family allowances where applicable.
  • Interested?

    The DC will be selected through a 2-step recruitment process.

    1. Candidates should submit their application in English which should include:

  • an updated CV
  • a letter of motivation for the position;
  • at least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor
  • the scan of the degree (usually the Master Degree) which formally entitles him/her to embark on a doctorate
  • transcripts of records
  • More details of the procedure and details of needed documents are available on the website https: // www. and on the downloadable PDF .

    The closing date for applications is 15/12/2022

    Application documents should be sent by email to Prof. dr. Karen Vanhoorelbeke:

    Candidates will be evaluated by the recruiting institution on the basis of the received documents.

    2. The best 2 candidates will be invited for a face to face interview in the period 15-31 January 2023.

    A list of the top candidates will be prepared and notified to the applicants.

    The top candidates will be asked to provide a written acceptance of the studentship; then the following ranked candidates will be requested to confirm. If a successful candidate declines the offer, the studentship will be offered to the next ranked candidate.

    For more information please also contact Prof. dr. Karen Vanhoorelbeke, tel.: +32 56 24 60 61, mail:

    KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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