Postdoc position

24/01/23

Location

Leuven, Belgium

Vacancy

The laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism headed by Prof. Peter Carmeliet is one of the laboratories of the Center for Cancer Biology (CCB), a research department of VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) located in the Oncology Department at the KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium).

We offer a vibrant international research environment where English is the preferred language in the laboratory, at meetings, and at seminars. The Department employs some 300 people and covers a range of different research areas within Biomedicine. The infrastructure at CCB is well developed with modern laboratories, core, and animal facilities.

Prof. Carmeliet has an open position for a Postdoctoral fellow in the Leuven lab.

Background project

The research of Prof. Peter Carmeliet focuses on the development of blood vessels (angiogenesis) and vascular heterogeneity in health and disease, with the ultimate aim to identify novel therapeutic vascular-based strategies.

Current anti-angiogenesis therapies (AATs), by targeting the pro-angiogenic factor VEGF, suffer resistance and insufficient efficacy. The Carmeliet lab explores opportunities to overcome these limitations and to improve AAT by focusing on endothelial cell metabolism, endothelial heterogeneity and in particular, endothelial immunity. Recent projects, combining single-cell transcriptomics with bulk multi-omics (transcriptomics, (epi)-genomics, proteomics & metabolomics) revealed novel insights in endothelial cell metabolism and heterogeneity in health and disease. The Carmeliet lab is now using these insights to design novel therapeutic strategies, in part to develop an alternative immunotherapy strategy for cancer (based on targeting immunosuppressive mystery genes in ECs) and to develop novel immunotherapies for vascular disorders, characterized by vascular inflammation and EC dysfunction (diabetes, ischemia/reperfusion (also relevant for organ transplantation rejection), etc), based on targeting immunostimulatory genes in ECs. See below for more project details.

Job Description

The lab is looking for a Postdoctoral fellow to support the discovery of new therapeutic targets (using bulk/single-cell multi-omics) and to bridge the valley of death (by functionally validating these targets).

You will interact with a dynamic and experienced team of scientists and laboratory technicians. We are looking for dynamic and flexible candidates, who are willing to step into new adventures, dare to break new grounds outside of their comfort zone, are passionate about opportunities to bridge the Valley of Death, are not shy of diving into new fields, are primed and eager to become acquainted with new technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, drug target validation, etc.).

Key Accountabilities

  • Work as part of a team and conduct experiments to identify and validate novel therapeutic targets.
  • Experience working with in vivo models (e.g., animal injections, in vivo screens) will be considered as an asset for this position.
  • Also, expertise in Single-cell library preparation & sequencing, spatial profiling, and programming skills (AI/ML) is an advantage.
  • Performing cell culture techniques: isolation and culture of endothelial cells and other cell types from surgical samples (human and mouse).
  • Experience with Histology & imaging, molecular biology techniques, and flow cytometry.
  • Mentor junior scientists daily, between multiple disciplines, and ensure continuity.
  • Organize and troubleshoot work independently under the leadership of Prof. Carmeliet, but also team up with members of the lab (Leuven and Aarhus).
  • In consultation with Prof. Carmeliet and his senior staff, you may be asked to run micro-projects, where you will have the freedom and responsibility to manage your projects, including supervising junior colleagues, planning daily agendas, managing budgets, writing papers, etc.
  • You are sufficiently mature to interact with other colleagues via in-person and virtual meetings, communicate in a professional manner, and participate in seminars and grant/manuscript writing.
  • You should be prepared to travel to the twin lab in Aarhus for training and education and for the exchange of expertise between the Aarhus and Leuven lab.

You will report directly to Prof. Peter Carmeliet.

Your profile

  • Candidates have a Ph.D. in biology/biomedicine, pharmacy, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics/ computer science (AI), or related fields, with minimal 3-4 years of research experience.      
  • Strong skills in working in the field of vascular biology, immunology, and/or experience in biotech, intellectual protection, etc. are an extra-added value·      
  • You have a publication record in peer-reviewed international journals.
  • Having experience in: (i) integrating single-cell multi-omics; (ii) computational programming in R (and other common computer languages); (iii) competence/interest in analysing and integrating complex omics- and clinical datasets are a plus.
  • The successful candidate will be an ambitious researcher, motivated to apply his/her skills to diverse (medical) research projects, and enjoy working in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-paced team environment.
  • You have excellent organizational and supervisory skills, and you can work in a team as well as independently.
  • You have a strong ability to multi-task, meet timelines, to work accurately; you are stress-resistant.
  • You have outstanding written and verbal communication skills in English.
  • You are able to identify priorities and find solutions for complex or difficult tasks.

We offer

  • The unique opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary international team (located in Leuven and Aarhus) and to contribute to the discovery and development of novel drug targets.
  • Access to, and training in, state-of-the-art technologies in biomedical research. The Leuven lab has multiple core-facilities, with expertise in (single cell) genomics/transcriptomics, bioinformatics, (stem) cell culture, FACS, metabolomics, animal surgery, mouse transgenesis, immunohistochemistry & in situ hybridisation (RNAscope) and imaging (https://vibcancer.be/expertise-centers).
  • Opportunities to interact with and become acquainted with start-up companies, involved in developing new vascular medicine and/or "big-biological data management companies" involved in target discovery. 
  • A dynamic working environment in which quality, professionalism, and team spirit are encouraged. A stimulating scientific surrounding in a young, enthusiastic, motivated team (with English as the main language).
  • Training in project management (e.g., supervision of students, budget management). Excellent training conditions within a team of experts. Long-term career opportunities.
  • Starting as soon as possible.

The Project

The Carmeliet lab recently started a twin lab at the Department of Biomedicine of Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark (https://pecar@biomed.au.dk) and at the Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, United Arabic Emirates; https://www.ku.ac.ae/), which are closely intertwined with the lab at VIB-KU Leuven, Belgium (https://carmelietlab.sites.vib.be/en). The Leuven and Aarhus / Khalifa lab will function as one virtual lab, and synergistically combine their joint forces and focus to study similar fundamental questions in vascular biology, and to develop more efficiently new vascular medicine. There will be frequent interactions and exchanges of junior/senior scientists and lab technicians between both labs, offering unique opportunities for multi-disciplinary training at both locations. Complementary settings and conditions at each location will create unprecedented extra-added opportunities to quantitatively and qualitatively increase the research output and translational development at a higher level.

The Aarhus, Khalifa, and Leuven labs apply their expertise and therapeutic focus to evaluate and develop novel therapeutic concepts into clinical development with the ambition to change the life of patients with vasculature-related disorders. Standard gene modulation strategies (conditional gene targeting) are exploited as well as sophisticated novel disruptive high-throughput multi-omics approaches (bulk and scRNAseq, scATAC, etc.) and computational modelling and biology (AI/machine learning), both for hypothesis-generating and hypothesis-testing purposes. For instance, recent successful efforts in generating a single-cell transcriptome atlas of ECs from various healthy and pathological (including tumor) tissues from preclinical models and clinical patient samples revealed the existence of previously unknown EC subtypes, including ECs with a putative immune-modulatory role (termed “IMECs”). In addition, we developed novel AI-based tools to predict mystery genes in ECs, which we use to develop alternative therapeutic strategies.

A major challenge of current medical research is to translate the obtained high-profile insights into new medicine. Pharma is not interested in early-stage scientific results (even when published in high-profile journals) because of the risk that these candidates are insufficiently validated for drug development, while academic scientists generally lack funds to provide more validation to bridge this gap ("the valley of death"). We aspire to not only discover more new therapeutic targets but also to "bridge the valley of death" in order to improve drug development by applying in-house developed, less expensive novel approaches for target validation at a rapid pace and throughput. Spinning out a start-up company belongs to future options (like we did in the past with Montis Biosciences; see https://www.montisbio.com).

How to apply?

Applications for this position should be submitted online and contain:

  • Complete CV
  • Motivation letter
  • List of publications
  • Summary of past research
  • Contact information or reference letters of 2 or 3 referees

If you have questions about this position, please contact Prof. Peter Carmeliet: peter.carmeliet@kuleuven.be or Katie Van Geyte: katie.vangeyte@kuleuven.be.