PhD Position in the Endothelium is a Central Mediator of Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease

Catholic University of Leuven


The host laboratory of Prof. Peter Carmeliet, Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism, is especially focusing on the development of blood vessels (angiogenesis) and vascular metabolism. The lab currently studies how ECs change their metabolism during vascular branching, exploring the therapeutic potential of targeting EC metabolism for anti-angiogenic strategies. The role of several key metabolic targets in EC biology and angiogenesis in vivo is under investigation. The laboratory of Prof. Carmeliet is located at the Center for Cancer Biology (CCB), one of the research departments of VIB (Vlaams Instituut Biotechnologie) located in KU Leuven - Campus Gasthuisberg and consists of 60 driven researchers and lab technicians. It is structurally organized into several core facilities, focusing on selected topics, and managed by senior technicians with a high-degree of specialized expertise. These technical core-facilities provide the necessary support to perform and learn top-notch experiments. The core facilities of the host lab offer expertise and support in: (i) production of vector constructs and viruses; (ii) histology & imaging; (iii) isolation of ECs from mice/human tissue, and blood samples; (iv) metabolite profiling by state-of-the-art MS; (v) bioinformatics scientists who developed in-house a user-friendly software to integrate several “omics” datasets; (vi) mouse husbandry & genotyping; and (vii) mouse surgery. As part of the VIB, members of the lab have access to a broad range of training opportunities to stay at the frontline in life sciences, and expend their career development.


The focus of the host lab (under supervision of Prof Carmeliet) is to characterize the regulation of cell metabolism and its role in endothelial cells (ECs), cells lining the blood vessels. When deregulated, the endothelial metabolism participates in the development of several pathologies including cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Recent evidence indicates that cystic fibrosis (CF) - the most frequent life-threatening genetic disorder in the Caucasian population with an incidence of 1 to 2,500-4,000. Pulmonary disease and lung transplant related complications are the main cause of death. Due to improved supportive care and targeted therapy with modulators and correctors, life expectancy is increasing continuously. 

The PhD candidate will work under the co-supervision of Prof. Peter Carmeliet (Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism, VIB-KU Leuven CCB) and Prof. Peter Witters (clinician at UZ Leuven and specialist in CFLD). Prof Witters showed the involvement of ECs in CF pathology where they act as a semipermeable barrier, a key regulator of angiogenesis, coagulation, the vascular tone and inflammatory responses. It could contribute to different aspects of the disease including cardiovascular symptoms, excessive blood vessel formation, pulmonary and portal hypertension and CF-related diabetes. Despite the important role of vascular endothelium in many biological processes, it has largely been under investigated in CF.

In this exciting project you will analyse single cell RNA sequencing data in explant lungs of CF patients. This will allow studying the specific contribution of ECs to the pathogenesis of CF lung disease. Validation of the findings will be performed by using immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridisation and biochemistry assays on collected lung tissue. Elucidating the pathophysiology will allow for the discovery of biomarker for endothelial disease in CF (e.g. microvesicles) and would lead to new therapeutic options which will be tested in vitro using cellular models (HUVEC, BOEC) and in vivo using murine models.

Altogether this project will increase our understanding in the pathophysiology, define relevant biomarkers and could lead to novel therapies.


You have a Master Diploma in Biomedical sciences, Biology, Bioengineering, Life Sciences or Molecular biology

You obtained excellent scores for your bachelor and master degree.

Experience in cell and molecular biology techniques is an advantage

You have an interest in molecular biology and translational medicine

You have a positive working attitude, enthusiasm and capacity to work in a multi-cultural team

You speak English. You have excellent writing skills to prepare manuscripts for international refereed journals.

Very good communication and organization skills. You are a team player who can work together with researchers

Able to work independently (& in a team)

You have good organizational and project management skills

Responsibilities of the candidate:

Perform scientific research in preparation of a PhD thesis (see project)

Assistance/guidance of Master thesis students within the research topic


A PhD position for one year, to be prolonged to three/four years in case of positive evaluation.

You will work in Leuven, a historic, dynamic and lively city located in the heart of Belgium, within 20 minutes from Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and less than two hours from Paris, London and Amsterdam. KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. It is highly focused on inter- and multidisciplinary research and tops Reuters ranking of Europe's most innovative universities. It provides its students with an academic education that is based on high-quality scientific research.

You will work in a multi-disciplinary team having excellent reputation and track record in endothelial biology.

Successful completion of the PhD program will result in a doctoral degree in Biomedical Sciences.

The possibility to participate in international conferences and collaborations. 


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Peter Witters, tel.: +32 16 32 11 66, mail:

Your application must contain:
• A motivation letter, CV, and transcript of degrees/classes
•Contact information of 3 referees.
•Name of your current supervisor and Master thesis topic (1 page) (if applicable).
This vacancy is open until a candidate has been selected with the skills needed; hence, we recommend applying as soon as possible and no later than 15th of October 2020. The position will be available from November 2020, but the start date of the contract is flexible.
You can apply for this job no later than October 15, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: October 15, 2020
  • Tags: Geneeskunde

In your application, please refer to


amsterdam uni

antwerp uni

cambridge uni

florida uni

hamburg uni

harvard uni

hiroshima uni

oslo uni

purdue uni

ryerson uni

shanghai jiao tong uni

stockholm uni