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ESR9: (POSITION FILLED) Colloidal stable liposomal formulations for in vivo siRNA delivery; Ghent University (Belgium)

The university of Ghent (UG) is a top 100 university counting over 41000 students and 9000 employees. UG aims to encourage its students to adopt a critical attitude within a creative, development-oriented educational and research environment. UG is composed of 11 faculties and more than 117 faculty departments. In addition to these faculties, UG has 5 doctoral schools, which provide support to doctoral students through specialized courses as well as transferable skills training, contribute to a quality culture in research, and take care of the social and international visibility of the doctoral degree.

The following vacancy is available at UG, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmaceutics, Laboratory of General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy (LGBPP).

Early Stage Researcher (PhD Candidate) for the NANOMED Innovative Training Network within the Marie Sklodowska Curie Programme (1,0 fte)

Application deadline: 1 January 2016

The LGBPP, hosting both the Ghent Research Group on Nanomedicines (GRGN) and the Bio-photonic Imaging Group (BPIG), mainly performs pre-clinical research in the field of micro-and nanomaterials for biomedical applications. GRGN is largely involved in the design and evaluation of novel micro-and nanomaterials for drug delivery, therapy and diagnostics, whereas research of the BPIG is focused on the development of biophotonic methodologies for biomedical applications. More specifically, a major focus in the LGBPP is the development of novel strategies to improve delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics (siRNA, miRNA, mRNA, pDNA), representing a class of molecules which are not yet in clinical use though under intensive scrutiny for therapeutic applications. Besides on the design of such delivery materials (e.g. nanomedicines), LGBPP aims to unravel their biophysical behavior following administration, both in relevant extracellular fluids (e.g. full blood, lung sputa, gastric fluids, intraperitoneal fluids,…) as well as in the intracellular environment. To this end,  the Ghent Group has developed a unique expertise in the application of advanced microscopy methods to measure nanoparticle stability in all sorts of biological fluids. In the coming years, exploring the delivery potential of nanomedicines for biotechnological drugs will remain the major research theme of our group. Therapeutic emphasis will be placed on (i) pulmonary delivery of nanomedicines (inflammatory/infectious diseases of the lung), (ii) intravitreal delivery of nanomedicines (retinal diseases), (iii) intraperitoneal administration of nanomedicines (cancer) and (iv) cancer immunotherapy. The LGBPP is an international and multidisciplinairy research group, containing about 30 persons and has many collaborations with academic groups worldwide.

The NANOMED project will provide training across a wide range of disciplines including biology, pharmacology, chemistry and material sciences, ensuring interdisciplinary and intersectoral experience. You will be enrolled in the Doctoral School of Live Sciences of UG and will defend your PhD at the end of the project. The PhD research will be conducted in English.

Early Stage Researcher 9: Colloidal stable liposomal formulations for in vivo siRNA delivery

The task of the ESR is to develop a series of liposomal formulations for in vivo siRNA delivery. In order to prevent aggregation, different types of PEGylated lipids will be evaluated. Different encapsulation methods will be explored to ensure high encapsulation efficiency of siRNA, with little to no premature siRNA release in biological extracellular fluids such as blood and intraperitoneal fluids. Biological activity, colloidal stability, tumor penetration, toxicity and in vivo biodistribution of selected liposomal formulations will be evaluated. The final goal of this project is to optimally design non-viral nucleic acid delivery systems through a better understanding of how their physicochemical properties correlate with the obtained biological activity. Initially, the biological activity (downregulation in the case of siRNA) will be evaluated in vitro on the human ovarian SKOV-3 cancer cell line. Then, the complexes will be evaluated in the in vivo situation, by using mice that were injected with tumor forming SKOV-3 cells to induce peritoneal metastases. Subsequently, the effect of siRNA complexes delivered via the IP or IV route of administration will be evaluated and compared with the anti-tumor effect obtained with conventional IV or IP chemotherapy.

Work environment

You will perform your PhD research in a multidisciplinary Innovative Training Network (ITN) project called NANOMED.

What we expect from you

At the time of recruitment you must be in the first four years of your research career and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. You have excellent communication skills and are able to work efficiently in a team. Recruitment is open to all nationalities, but because of mobility rules defined by the EU, at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the three years immediately prior to the reference date (compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account).

What we have to offer

  • employment: 1,0 fte;
  • tax free fellowship including full social security coverage (net monthly amount starting at ± 1.900 EUR/month plus end-of-year and vacation allowance), mobility allowance  and (if applicable) family allowance
  • duration of the contract: 3 years

Would you like to know more?

  • Further information on the NANOMED project: nanomeditn.eu
  • Further information on the research group: biofys.ugent.be
  • For more information about this vacancy, please contact: Prof. Dr. Katrien Remaut (katrien.remaut@ugent.be)

Are you interested?

Please send your application to Prof. Remaut (katrien.remaut@ugent.be). Your application should include (and be limited to) the following attachments:

  • Letter of motivation
  • Curriculum Vitae

No commercial proposition please.