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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 is positioned in the upstream bioprocessing of viral vectors. The 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. (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. The objectives will be addressed on two main vector platforms. The project will involve wet lab experimental work, including 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 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, pharmacy or a related field.

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

  • Engineering mindset

  • Understanding of the viral vector production process

  • Understanding of RNAseq

  • Knowledge on process monitoring techniques and tools 

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

  • Numerical analysis (Computational Fluid Dynamics, Discrete Element Method)

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD)

  • Programming (preferably python) and bioinformatic analysis

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