Cancer immunomodulation by tumour-selective targeting of innate immune checkpoints

Keywords: innate immunity, checkpoint targeting, bispecific antibody, nanoparticles, surface modification, drug-delivery

1st Hosting institution: Location: UMCG, Groningen, Netherlands; Duration: 18 months

2nd Hosting institution: Location: Surflay, Berlin, Germany; Duration: 18 months


Intended start date: June 2019

Job Description: PhD-student position (3 years): This PhD student position offers an exciting and innovative research project that aims to develop targeting of innate immune checkpoints for cancer immunotherapy. In brief, novel bispecific antibody-based approaches that selectively remove important checkpoints, such as CD47/SIRPalpha interaction, on innate immunity at the site of the cancer will be developed. Herewith, we aim to reactivate innate as well as adaptive immunity through enhanced antigen presentation and, thereby, trigger curative anticancer immunity. These immunotherapeutics will be formulated using nanotechnology to ensure timely and tumor-localized release of bioactive drug. This approach will be tested in in-house developed model systems for tumor cell-selective binding and functional immunomodulatory activity.

The PhD candidate will be working as part of an international consortium on their search for an immunotherapeutic approach to cancer treatment and will start their 3 year research project at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) / Netherlands, one of the leading academic centers of the Netherlands, for another 18 months. At the UMCG, new checkpoint targeting immunotherapeutics will be constructed, developed and preclinically evaluated. After 18 months, the candidate will continue in Berlin / Germany at the nanobiotechnology company Surflay Nanotec GmbH. Surflay is a leading company in nanoparticle formulation, microparticle design and binding analysis using whispering galley mode. The candidate will exploit this expertise for further formulation of checkpoint immunotherapeutics and analysis of mode of action. With this project, the candidate will acquire experience in both industrial and academic research. This research project will end with a PhD thesis defense at the University of Groningen.

This project is part of a collaborative training network of 10 closely related projects in which PhD students will benefit from networking opportunities. This includes a multidisciplinary training programme with network-wide training events that will be provided to the candidates. Herewith, the PhD project will provide the candidate a unique opportunity to obtain knowledge/expertise on important facets of both academia and industry.

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