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PhD opportunity



KU Leuven is hiring a PhD student to obtain a PhD on the project entitled ‘Autoantibodies in autoimmune mediated thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: from mechanistic insights towards the first steps in targeted therapy’. The 4-year project will be executed at KU Leuven Campus Kulak Kortrijk, Kortrijk, Belgiumwith a secondment of 8-10 months at Semmelweis university, Budapest, Hungary.


Summary of the project:


Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a rare and life-threatening microangiopathic disease caused by a severe deficiency in the plasma metalloprotease ADAMTS13 (A Disintegrin and Metalloprotease with Thrombospondin Type 1 repeats, member 13). Hyperactive ultra-large von Willebrand factor (UL-VWF) multimers in circulation cannot be cleaved when this metalloprotease is absent or dysfunctional. Consequently, microthrombi are formed by spontaneous binding of UL-VWF multimers to platelets, depriving organs from oxygen supply. Ninety-five % of the patients develop anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies (immune mediated TTP, iTTP) that inactivate or clear the blood protease ADAMTS13 [3]. The immune response in iTTP patients is polyclonal with an immunodominant epitope in the ADAMTS13 spacer domain. The exact mechanism how anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies induce ADAMTS13 deficiency is unknown. Unravelling the exact mechanism is, however, an unmet need to allow development of a targeted therapy in iTTP patients.

In the current project aims at further unraveling how anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies induce ADAMTS13 deficiency and at developing a targeted therapy.


Profile of the PhD student

  • You have a master degree with distinction in biomedical sciences, biochemistry, bioengineering or pharmacy
  • You are fascinated by scientific research and innovation
  • You are motivated, enthusiastic and eager to learn
  • You are being able to work methodically and accurately
  • You are being able to work independently yet also being a team player
  • You have excellent communication skills and fluently spoken and written English
  • You have a creative mind and strong skills for solving problems
  • You have a good writing and oral expression
  • In frame of your PhD youwill work mainlyin Belgium (at KU Leuven Campus Kulak in Kortrijk) and for 8-10 monthsin Hungary (at Semmelweis university, Budapest, Hungary)

Offer of the KU Leuven group

  • An exciting research environment in the field of the autoimmune disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
  • A PhD-title after 4 years of research at KU Leuven, Belgium
  • A thorough scientific education with opportunity to become a world-class researcher
  • Access to strong international network of experts in the field of microangiopathies and especially in the autoimmune disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
  • Membership of KU Leuven, Belgium one of the largest research universities of Europe ( and Semmelweis University, the largest medical university in Hungary (
  • Opportunities to present research findings at national and international conferences
  • Opportunities to publish research findings in international journals
  • Opportunities to learn to present research to the general public
  • A competitive salary
  • Employment contract with social coverage



  • Applicants should submit a detailed curriculum vitae, PDF of degrees, a letter of motivation and contact information of 2 referees by email. Please mention “PhD application iTTP” as subject.
  • For more information please contact prof. Dr. Karen Vanhoorelbeke, tel: +3256246061, email: or Dr. Nick Geukens, +3216377177, email: or prof. Dr. Zoltan Prohaszka, tel: +3613251379, email:
  • To know more about the laboratory at KU Leuven Campus Kulak Kortrijk, please visit (
  • To know more about the laboratory at Semmelweis university, please visit (
  • You can apply for this job no later than September 3rd
  • Pre-selected candidates will be invited to the final selection round in Kortrijk, Belgium held in the week of September 10th 2018(date to be announced). Travel expenses will be reimbursed up to 100€.
  • The PhD will start October 1st 2018