PhD Position in the Human Virome in Respiratory and Skin Disorders
Catholic University of Leuven

The Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics (part of the Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology) at the Rega Institute is headed by Prof. Jelle Matthijnssens, and focuses on the role of the virome in human health and disease. The Matthijnssens lab currently holds seven PhD students and a lab technician. Our group is now looking for a highly motivated new student to join our dynamic research team, and to start a 4-year PhD project under the umbrella of the Doctoral School Biomedical Sciences (, and in collaboration with the R&D department of GSK Vaccines in Rixensart, Belgium. GSK is a science-led global healthcare company that consists of 3 global businesses that research, develop and manufacture innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. GSK Vaccines has a broad portfolio and innovative pipeline of vaccines to protect people of all ages. The GSK Vaccines R&D organisation brings together expertise in virology, bacterial infection and different adjuvant platforms and is organized across three global R&D hubs: Rockville, USA; Rixensart, Belgium and Siena, Italy, which are focused on discovering and developing novel vaccines across a range of pressing public health threats. The KU Leuven is ranked in the top-20 of best Universities in Europe, and the Rega Institute is worldwide renowned for its research on viral immunology and antiviral therapies.


The Ph.D. candidate will:

The human virome, the collection of eukaryotic and prokaryotic viruses living in and on our body, is an integral but underappreciated part of the microbiome. Viruses interact with the immune system and other members of the microbiome to shape human health and disease. However, technical challenges remain for performing comprehensive virome analysis on low-biomass clinical samples. The objectives of this project are the development of sensitive virome detection and analysis pipelines, introducing minimal bias, for skin and sputum samples, two challenging sample types with low biomass. These virome analysis pipelines will build upon the existing NetoVIR method established at the Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, combining the purification of viral particles, Illumina sequencing and bio-informatics analysis.

These pipelines will be applied to study the virome component in samples from clinical studies. Integrating the virome component into larger epidemiology studies will help to increase our understanding of disease etiology for specific skin and respiratory disorders. A more holistic view on the human microbiome, including a detailed analysis of its virome component, should support a better definition of vaccine targets, discovery of new biomarkers and/or development of personalized vaccine strategies.

The Ph.D. candidate will:

  • Validate and improve the NetoVIR protocol for respiratory and skin samples.
  • Use the optimized wetlab procedure, to investigate viruses present in the samples collected for several clinical studies.
  • Both eukaryotic and prokaryotic viruses will be investigated in detail.
  • The host of identified bacteriophages will be determined using various bio-informatics approaches and validated with the 16S data.
  • Correlations will be identified between viral components and clinical parameters.


  • You are passionate about scientific research!
  • You hold a Master of Science degree in Biomedical sciences, Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Biochemistry, Biology and/or an adjacent field.
  • You should have graduated with at least one degree of distinction (>68%, KU Leuven eligibility criterion to start a PhD), although preference will be given to candidates with higher grades.
  • You like working in a wet lab. Preferentially, you have experience with next-generation sequencing both in wet lab (BSL2) as well as in silico. Knowledge of scripting languages (R, Python, Unix) is considered a strong plus.
  • You can work both independently as well as in an international team. Fluency in English is required.
  • You have strong analytical skills, an appropriate problem-solving attitude, you can approach complex issues in a systematic way, are a good planner and able to meet deadlines.
  • You can execute activities respecting regulations when working with human biological samples and document and monitor these activities rigorously.


  • A doctoral position for 4 years. Work to be performed both at university and company laboratories.
  • Work experience in a dynamic and internationally oriented research team, as well as in the R&D department of a global healthcare company.
  • The opportunity to perform virome research of medical significance with access to samples from relevant patient cohorts.
  • Many training opportunities and access to state-of-the-art technologies and infrastructure.
  • Starting date: as soon as possible. Practically we envision the start of the project on February 1st 2021


Do you think you are the right person for this challenging PhD project?

Send us:

Your motivation letter, explaining why you are the perfect candidate for this position.

Your Curriculum Vitae

Transcript of obtained grades

A list with at least two references (with name, function, email, address, phone number)

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jelle Matthijnssens, tel.: +32 16 32 11 61,

You can apply for this job no later than October 30th,2021 via the online application tool

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

You can apply for this job no later than October 30, 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 30, 2020
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Medicinoxy


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