Doctoral Candidate (DC1) – University of Antwerp

Published on: June 30, 2022

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Protease-guided tumor targeting tools to revolutionize cancer diagnostics and treatment (OncoProTools)

Doctoral Candidate (DC1) – Design and discovery of novel GrnzB ligands and their evaluation as diagnostics tools in CAR T cell therapy assessment

About OncoProTools:

OncoProTools is an MSCA Doctoral Network that is currently starting up. The mission of OncoProTools is to develop tumor targeting strategies for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, to make them more effective, selective, patient- friendly and personalized. Tumor targeted diagnostics and therapeutics are molecules that are typically equipped with a vector unit. The vector unit binds to a protein that is overexpressed on cancer cells or in the Tumor Micro-Environment (TME), causing the diagnostic or therapeutic payload to accumulate in the tumor. Exciting, recent innovations rely on small molecule vectors that target TME proteases. Proteases are ideal candidates for tumor targeting: they are often strongly overexpressed in the TME and possess an active site that allows high-affinity anchoring of vectors. Members of this consortium have played a leading role in these recent developments.

OncoProTools wants to force breakthroughs by:

  • Exploring innovative venues for protease targeting in cellular
  • Discovering novel vectors that bind to other TME proteases, like cathepsins and
  • Personalized applications of protease targeting: deliver innovative diagnostics through deeper understanding of TME

OncoProTools will deliver a training program to 10 Doctoral Candidates that truly captures the MSCA values, hence providing them with all capabilities to become leaders of tomorrow’s R&I in Europe.

About the University of Antwerp

The University of Antwerp is a young, dynamic and forward-thinking university. It is a merger (2003) of the former three university institutions in Antwerp. It ranks 18th in the “QS Top 50 Under 50 2020”. The University has ca. 1850 PhD students, 680 tenured professors, over 350 assistants and over 3400 tenured researcher and education staff members. It produces over 3600 peer-reviewed scientific publications per year. The European Commission has awarded the

University the “HR Excellence in Research” quality label and the University has a Gender equality Plan in place.

Tasks description

This interdisciplinary doctoral position is jointly hosted by the Medicinal Chemistry (UAMC) and Radiopharmacy groups at the University of Antwerp. The Medicinal Chemistry group (UAMC) has expertise in bioactive compound discovery and optimization, among others in protease inhibitors and derived tool compounds. The Radiopharmacy group focuses on the radiolabeling and evaluation of cancer-specific radiopharmaceuticals that can be used for molecular imaging (PET, SPECT) and/or radiotherapeutic applications. In this position, you will:

  • Design, synthesize and characterize novel granzyme ligands and transform optimal ligands into radiolabeled, fluorescent and biotinylated
  • Perform analytical, biochemical and biological investigations on the
  • Write project reports for your local and network supervisors on a regular
  • Enroll in the Antwerp Doctoral School (ADS) and comply with ADS’s doctoral training
  • Participate actively to OncoProTools’ training, dissemination, communication and valorization program.
  • Prepare a doctoral thesis, and publish scientific articles related to the research project.

Furthermore, the selected candidate will take part in the following planned secondments:

  • Academic secondment to University of Bern (1 month, Switzerland) to evaluate the fluorescent GrnzB probes in tumor

Industrial secondment at CellCarta (6 months, Belgium) to evaluate fluorescent GrnzB probes in biopsies.

Profile & requirements

  • Applicants must hold a master’s degree or equivalent in the field of (Bio-) Chemistry, (Bio-) Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences or equivalent.
  • Master students in their final year may apply. Transcripts of the master’s degree should be obtained before signing the
  • Applicants must have a solid knowledge of organic chemistry and
  • Applicants obtained outstanding academic results.
    • Applicants must have an ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English to a level that is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the network training.
    • Applicants must be eligible to enrol on a PhD programme at the host institution.
    • Applicants must have the necessary academic skills and background to make the success of a doctoral
    • Applicants can be of any nationality but must comply with the Horizon Europe MSCA eligibility criteria:

    HORIZON MSCA Mobility Rule: researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays and time spent by the researcher as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.

    HORIZON MSCA eligibility criteria: supported researchers must be doctoral candidates, i.e. not already in possession

    of a doctoral degree at the date of the recruitment. Researchers who have successfully defended their doctoral thesis but who have not yet formally been awarded the doctoral degree will not be considered eligible.


  • The selected candidate will be employed by the host organisation for 36 months. In line with university of Antwerp regulations and following a positive evaluation by the doctoral committee, the host institution may provide additional funding for a maximum of 12 months to complete a doctoral
  • The start date will be from January, 1st 2023
  • Doctoral candidates are offered a competitive remuneration based on the MSCA allowances in line with the MSCA WP 2021-2022. The gross monthly amount at UAntwerpen corresponds to the amount for doctoral scholarship Moreover, funding is available for technical and personal skills training and participation in international research events.
  • the opportunity to be part of an MSCA Doctoral Network: the selected candidate will benefit from the designed training programme offered by the host organisation and the OncoProTools
  • The selected candidate will participate in international secondments to other organisations within the OncoProTools network and in outreach activities targeted at a wide

Please, find additional information in the Horizon Europe Work Programme MSCA from p.75 onwards.


Ukrainian researchers are eligible to benefit from the Science4Refugees initiative without the need of holding the refugee status.

Additional information

For additional information about the research project and this individual position, please contact:

Prof. Pieter Van der Veken; Email: Prof. Filipe Elvas; Email:

Disclaimer: please note that this offer is subject to the signature of the grant agreement nr° 101073231 expected by mid July 2022

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