“Scientific Coordinator” Staff Scientist in the Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism

24/01/23

Location

Leuven, Belgium

Vacancy

The laboratory of Angiogenesis & 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 Faculty at the KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium). The lab of Prof Carmeliet has an open position for a “Scientific Coordinator” Staff Scientist.

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.

Background project

The Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism headed by 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.

The Carmeliet lab explores the innovative concept that endothelial cells (ECs), which line blood vessels, play a more important role in immune responses than previously anticipated. Recent projects, combining single-cell transcriptomics with bulk multi-omics (transcriptomics, (epi)-genomics, proteomics & metabolomics) revealed novel insights in EC 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.

The lab developed – and uses – innovative integrated approaches (e.g. scRNA-sequencing, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning-based tools, multi-omics analysis) to efficiently discover new, biologically important, and therapeutically attractive targets. The ultimate goal is to bring promising validated scientific targets, upon translation, to the level of drug development. In the meantime, the Carmeliet lab has successfully discovered and validated multiple mystery genes, some of which are now being considered for drug development. The project is conducted in a multidisciplinary environment at the interface of an academic and clinical environment, where animal surgery expertise and clinical samples are available. See below for more information concerning the research group and project details.

Job Description

The lab is looking for a highly motivated “Scientific Coordinator” Staff Scientist to achieve the above-stated goals. We are interested in ambitious, 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 (see below), 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.), and are prepared to go the extra mile. Candidates should be able to work independently, but in close consultation with Prof. Carmeliet and his senior staff. You are sufficiently mature to interact with other colleagues via in-person and virtual meetings and to communicate in a professional manner.

We will only consider candidates who seek long-term career opportunities and change.

Your principal tasks will be (these tasks may change, over time, depending on the needs of the laboratory):

  • To supervise junior scientists & lab technicians in person on a daily basis
  • To assist junior scientists and lab technicians in planning their experiments, in coordinating and conducting their projects as well as to follow-up external collaborations
  • To interpret research results & to provide critical feedback
  • To coach junior scientists in developing their communication and presentation skills
  • To keep up to date with the scientific and technological developments in the field, and to assist with establishing or optimizing novel in vitro and in vivo functional models and assays
  • To acquire expertise in and to learn new cutting-edge technology & to transfer this knowledge and expertise to lab members
  • To provide support/assistance in preparing grant applications, reports, manuscripts, or other types of communication (e.g. MTAs, research agreements)
  • To collaborate with scientists of the Aarhus & Khalifa University labs, affiliated with the Leuven lab, when hosting them in the Leuven lab, as well as when visiting them on-site in Aarhus and Abu Dhabi

You will report directly to Prof. Peter Carmeliet.

Your profile

  • Candidates have an MD or Ph.D. in biology/ biomedicine, pharmacy, or related fields – expertise in vascular biology, bioinformatics/computer science, and immunology is an advantage, but not mandatory. A minimum of 4 years of successful research experience is requested.
  • You have a strong publication record in peer-reviewed international journals, and you have written your papers yourself.
  • You are willing to learn the theoretical and practical aspects of the techniques used in the lab so that you can interpret the results, give advice about experiments, and guide junior scientists. The Carmeliet Lab uniquely integrates both dry (artificial intelligence (AI) / machine learning (ML); bioinformatics) and wet (in vitro & in vivo mouse experiments) lab expertise. You are willing to get acquainted with these technologies and approaches. An AI/ML team of 5 experts will assist you, so you do not need to perform dry lab experiments yourself, but you need to understand them in order to facilitate a bridging between the dry and wet lab worlds for the junior scientists. Your input in wet lab experiments is mandatory.
  • You actively engage with scientists and keep updated on the literature to identify necessary expertise and maintain state-of-the-art competencies within the field.
  • Having scientific knowledge within drug discovery platforms is a plus.
  • You are interested and motivated to work on ambitious (medical) research projects with great translational potential in an open, dynamic, competitive and driven team.
  • You have excellent organizational and supervisory skills, you can work in a team as well as independently.
  • You have a strong ability to multi-task, to meet timelines, to work accurately; you are stress-resistant.
  • You have good communication skills in spoken and written English in a professional manner & participate in seminars and provide advice & assistance to our Project Writer for grant/manuscript writing.
  • You are able to identify priorities and find solutions for complex or difficult tasks.
  • You demonstrate a high level of initiative, and are able to flexibly and rapidly adapt and respond to changes in priorities – a strength of the Carmeliet lab is to flexibly introduce the newest state-of-the-art technologies and approaches. For instance, our lab is one of the few labs with expertise in dry lab (AI/machine learning; bioinformatics) and wet lab (in vitro & in vivo experiments).
  • You are willing to travel to the twin labs at Aarhus University and in Khalifa University.

We offer

  • The unique opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary international team 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 (stem) cell culture, FACS, metabolomics, (single cell) genomics/transcriptomics, bioinformatics, 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.
  • We aim for a candidate with long-term career perspectives.
  • After an interview round, selected candidates will be asked to perform a certain type of writing test (e.g. summarize a research paper in 1 page or give feedback/correct a scientific text).
  • Starting as soon as possible.

The group

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