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Laboratory work for GET-IN doctoral network

Doctoral Candidate 1

Viral vector production: tackling bottlenecks in efficiency and reproducibility


Host institution of GET-IN the KU Leuven

Host institution: KU Leuven, Belgium

Supervisory team: Prof. Rik Gijsbers (PhD promoter, KU Leuven), Dr. Jan Schrooten (Antleron), Prof. Els Verhoeyen (INSERM)


This project focusses on the bioprocessing of viral vectors.  The position is hosted by the KU Leuven and Antleron NV. Specific objectives are: (1) to understand and improve the efficiency of viral vector production per cell by assessing innate immunity factors during plasmid transfection and viral vector production in 2D tissue culture plates, and (2) to advance the production environment by improving bioreactor cell yield and transfection efficiency through the design of innovative hardware set-ups and computational process modelling (2D to 4D translation). The objectives will be addressed for two main gene therapy vector platforms. The project involves wet lab experimental work, ranging from viral vector production, cell transfection and transduction, molecular biology, as well as in silico bio-process modelling and bio-informatics.

A successful project will result in: (1) next generation HEK293 producer lines for viral vectors based on adapted innate immune pathways ; (2) improved and closed manufacturing system for cost-effective and scalable viral vector production.

Enrolment in Doctoral School: KU Leuven

Planned secondments:

  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece (Month 14-15): Modelling of the manufacturing processes

    Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen, Germany (Months 26-27): Introduction to Organ on Chip models and testing of viral vectors in these systems

  • Miltenyi Biotech GmBH, Germany (Month 38): Introduction to working in GMP environments


  • You hold a Master’s degree (no PhD) in bioengineering, biomedical sciences, biotechnology, civil engineering, chemical engineering, pharmacy or a related field.

  • You are passionate about life sciences and engineering, and want to achieve a PhD degree on the topic described above

  • You are ambitious, well organized and have excellent communication skills.

  • You are proficient in English both spoken and written

  • You have a solutions-oriented mindset that thrives in a multidisciplinary team

  • You have the ability to work independently as well as in a team, and you have a critical mindset.

  • You are an enthusiastic and motivated person, eager to participate in network-wide training events, international travel and public awareness activities.

  • Willingness to travel


  • Solid knowledge of cell biology, molecular biology and hands-on experience with mammalian cell culture (or other aseptic handling) is key

  • Good understanding of virology and the viral vector production process (hands-on expertise is a plus)

  • Understanding of RNAseq, proteomics and bioinformatic analysis is a plus

  • Engineering mindset, knowledge on process monitoring techniques and tools

  • Statistical data analysis, Design-of-Experiments (DoE)

  • Knowledge on Numerical analysis (Computational Fluid Dynamics, Discrete Element Method) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Programming (preferably python) is a plus

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