PhD Position in Monitoring Production Process of Biologics

Catholic University of Leuven


This PhD project will be conducted in the framework of an FWO Baekeland mandate, of which the aim is to form a bridge between research and industry. Hence, you will work in the Biosensors group (Biosystems department) of the Faculty of Bioscience engineering as well as in a spin-off of the same group, the young start-up company FOx Biosystems. The Biosensors group was founded 14 years ago by Jeroen Lammertyn ( and currently counts 1 research manager, 1 IOF manager, 2 postdocs, 21 PhD students and 1 lab technician. The research activities of the group focus on the development of novel bio-molecular detection concepts and miniaturized analysis systems in the field of food and medical diagnostics. FOx Biosystems (, founded in 2016, is commercializing an innovative fiber optic based SPR system that allows the implementation of immuno- and DNA-based bioassays as well as real-time monitoring of various biomolecular interactions and this in a fully automated fashion.


A biopharmaceutical or biologic is any pharmaceutical drug that is produced from biological sources. Already for decades, they have been playing a very important role in our continuous battle against many illnesses. A well know example are vaccines, which have proven their efficacy in combatting several diseases. Nevertheless, biologics are becoming even more relevant due to many innovations in the medical field. As such, therapeutic antibodies are regularly employed against several illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. More recently, advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs), which are used for gene and cell therapy for example, are also approved as medical treatment. Although the production of these biologics is a mature field, which is industrialized and well controlled, several challenges remain. One of the most important problems are residual host cell proteins (HCPs) after purification of the biologic from the expression host. According to regulations, these HCPs need to be removed as their presence can reduce the efficacy of the drug (by binding to the biologic) or affect the patient itself (by provoking an immune response). While immunoassays are still the gold standard for HCP contaminant detection, massspectrometry techniques are becoming a valuable additional tool. Nevertheless, these tests require multiple hours or even days before results are obtained. However, information on the amount and type of HCPs present during the complete production process (i.e. in the bioreactor, during downstream processing and during purification) by close monitoring, would be beneficial. In fact, this may allow timely intervention in the production process before the end product has been developed or generated, and as such can greatly reduce the economic impact associated with the loss of certain batches or entire products during clinical studies. Hence, the aim of this PhD project is the development of a fast monitoring system for HCP contaminants related to the production of biologics, using fiber optic surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology.


  • You have a Master degree cum laude (> 70%) in Bioscience Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Biosciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences or equivalent
  • Previous experience in the development of bioassays and knowledge on the production process of biologics will be considered as a strong asset
  • You are highly motivated to do research in the dynamic environment of a young start-up company
  • You are communicative, creative and eager to learn
  • You are able to work independently as well as part of the team
  • You are well-organized, flexible, critical-thinking and not afraid to take initiative
  • You have strong proficiency in the English language (knowledge of Dutch is not required)


  • A high-profile research project with scientific potential and societal relevance
  • An excellent and stimulating international research environment at a top-ranked university
  • The unique opportunity to work in the dynamic environmentof a young start-up company
  • State-of-the-art facilities and technology platforms


Starting date: ideally July 2020 (exact date to be determined)

Employment: fulltime

Duration of contract: 4 years (in case of successfully defending the Baekeland mandate proposal, please contact us for more details of the support we offer until the granting of the Baekeland mandate)

For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Jeroen Lammertyn ( or Mrs. Karen Leirs (

You can apply for this job no later than June 19, 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: June 19, 2020
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen

In your application, please refer to