Center for Medical Biotechnology (CMB) PhD program

Ghent VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology

15 Nov 2023


VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology



30 Nov 2023

About VIB

VIB is an entrepreneurial non-profit research institute, with a clear focus on groundbreaking strategic basic research in life sciences and operates in close partnership with the five universities in Flanders – Ghent University, KU Leuven, University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Hasselt University. VIB is an independent research institute of the government, with about 1900 scientists from more than 77 countries.

About VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology

The VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology (CMB) focuses on the development of new and innovative molecular tools and technologies to challenge human health problems. The Center translates its novel technologies and insights to widely applicable research tools, vaccines, diagnostics, and biopharmaceuticals. Our research pushes the boundaries of protein- and DNA-focused biomolecular and bioinformatics research and engineering technologies. CMB educates and trains the next generation of medical biotechnology researchers and informs the public on the impact of biotechnology on human health.

Ph.D. projects

  • Computational mass spectrometry – Martens Lab

Mass spectrometry is the method of choice for the high-throughput analysis of small molecules and proteins, with modern instruments providing detailed information on these fascinating (bio-) molecules in the form of fragmentation spectra, liquid chromatography retention times, and, increasingly, ion mobility behaviour. The interpretation of this acquired information is, however, non-trivial, and sophisticated data processing and analysis approaches have therefore been developed over the years to make sense of mass spectrometry data. Recently, the field has seen the widespread adoption of machine learning and AI approaches at various stages of the data interpretation pipeline, ranging from the prediction of analyte behaviour in the instrumentation (e.g., fragmentation spectra, retention time, and ion mobility predictions), over the contextualization of observed sequences and their modifications (e.g., phosphorylation, acetylation, or ubiquitinylation), to functional protein association network derivation and digital tissue deconvolution approaches. This Ph.D. thesis will focus on machine learning applications in mass spectrometry-based proteomics, with an emphasis on powerful solutions for data-independent acquisition data analysis in the context of clinical applications.

  • Development and exploitation of a novel glycosylation-enabled antibody-drug conjugate technology – Callewaert Lab

The antibody-drug conjugation (ADC) paradigm in biopharmaceutical innovation aims for targeted delivery of drugs that would otherwise be too toxic for indiscriminate exposure of all cells and tissues. In recent years, the structure-activity and structure-safety relationships of antibody-linker-drug properties have become more clear and several ADCs have been developed that are making a major impact in the clinic. Our lab has developed proof of concept for a new site-selective ADC production technology that strikes an optimal balance between desirable ADC properties and ease of scaling of the production without requiring highly complex chemistry. In this Ph.D. project, this glycoprotein-engineering/biocatalytic/chemistry technology will be fully developed. Using this, we will engineer novel ADCs targeting new aspects of disease biology studied within VIB, that optimally make use of the technology’s unique features, incl. but also beyond the traditional application field in oncology, in collaboration with disease biology experts.

  • Development and exploitation of novel proteomics technology to hunt for novel immunotherapy targets on cancer cells – Callewaert Lab

Most of the targeted cancer immunotherapy modalities require the availability of a highly specific molecular target on the surface of the cancer cells or their immediate environment. There are unfortunately quite few such targets known, especially for carcinomas, severely hampering progress in the immunotherapy field. In our lab, we have obtained proof of concept for a completely new methodology to discover glycopeptides with cancer-associated structure, and directly quantify these on tumor vs. healthy tissues. In this Ph.D. project, the enzymatic/chemical sample preparation, mass spectrometrical proteomics, and bio-informatics aspects of this new discovery pipeline will be optimized and streamlined. Using this, we will engage in discovery of such new immunotherapy targets in a set of tumor entities where a high unmet need exists, in collaboration with clinical collaborators.

  • Functional studies on N-terminal proteoforms of tRNA ligases – Gevaert Lab

An aminoacyl-tRNA ligase loads a tRNA molecules with an amino acid, which is then transferred by a ribosome to form proteins. These enzymes are essential for RNA translation and protein synthesis but have extra domains that enable interactions with various proteins, including those involved in tumorigenesis and angiogenesis. In this way, they play important roles in other cellular processes with implications for health and disease. In earlier studies, we identified a number of N-terminally shorter tRNA ligases (N-terminal proteoforms) which we will here functionally explore by means of interactomics and localization studies amongst others.

  • Coronavirus control – Saelens Lab

There is a pressing need for broadly neutralizing, affordable, and stable anti-coronavirus biologics. The aim of this Ph.D. project is to design vaccines that can induce immunity against a broad range of coronaviruses. Complementary to that, the second aim is to identify antibodies with broad coronavirus-neutralizing activity.

What we are looking for

What we can offer you

  • A working environment with enthusiastic fellow Ph.D. students, technicians, postdocs, and group leaders.
  • Swift access to state-of-the-art tools and infrastructure that are needed to fulfill your Ph.D. project.
  • A stimulating and supportive international research environment.
  • Institutional training opportunities to broaden your expertise and skills

How to apply?

For more information, please contact Nele Vervaet ([email protected]).

Please apply online and upload your resume and motivation letter.

Your application must include the following documents:

  • A cover letter in which you specify and motivate the research topic of your choice
  • Your CV and an overview of your study results (merged into one pdf file).
  • Your diploma with the required degree (if already in your possession). If you have a foreign diploma in a language other than our national languages (Dutch, French, or German) or English, please add a certified translation in one of the mentioned languages.  

Note that the maximum file size for each field is 10 MB.

As VIB and Ghent University maintain an equal opportunity and diversity policy, everyone who satisfies the eligibility criteria is encouraged to apply for this position.


VIB values diversity - in backgrounds and in experiences. The institute needs people from all backgrounds and ways of life to help build a thriving scientific environment. VIB is therefore looking for candidates who are not only strong in their own aptitudes but care deeply about supporting each other's growth. VIB's collaborators are people with different strengths, experiences and backgrounds, who share a passion for science that generates impact in science and in society. Diversity not only includes race and gender identity, but also nationality, age, disability status, sexual orientation, religion and many other parts of one’s identity. All of VIB’s employees’ points of view are key to its success, and inclusion is everyone's responsibility.