Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands invites applications for a PhD Position on Novel universal delivery systems for mucosal vaccination: a whole-body approach for application in warm water fish in 2019.

Project details:

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-producing sector worldwide. However, aquaculture has to face the impact of infectious diseases and establishing prophylactic and therapeutic strategies is of utmost importance, especially within One Heath context. Currently, most effective vaccines for aquaculture species are delivered by injection. However, injection is associated with handling stress and local side effects. Although, mucosal vaccination of farmed fish, e.g. via immersion, would be preferred, it generally triggers only weak and/or short-lasting protection. The problem is that mucosal surfaces (skin, gills, intestine), have an intrinsic irresponsiveness referred to as ‘mucosal tolerance’. The mechanisms underlining mucosal tolerance in fish and the conditions required to overcome tolerance are largely unknown. In humans and veterinary species, live recombinant viral vectors are very effective, representing the latest generation of mucosal vaccines.

The interdisciplinary project combines novel vaccine technology never used in fish before with whole-body advanced high-resolution microscopy in the context of a long-standing collaboration between the laboratories of the involved Partners. This will allow them to 1) develop novel mucosal vaccines against warm-water fish pathogens, and 2) provide a whole-body analysis of vaccine delivery and mucosal responses to immersion vaccination in an adult fish.

For the in vivo selection of promising candidates and detailed analysis of mucosal response, we will use transgenic zebrafish marking relevant leukocyte subpopulations. Their small size and transparency, combined with high-resolution real-time microscopy, will allow visualization of antigen capture, leukocyte recruitment, antigen presentation, and cell-cell interactions at mucosal sites after vaccination. Finally, we will provide the proof-of-principle of the efficacy of selected candidates in a commercially relevant warm water species, common carp.

Worth of Award

Full-time position for an initial period of 15 months with the possibility of extension to 4 years. Gross salary per month € 2325,- in the first year rising up to € 2972,- per month in the fourth year.

In addition, They offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities at reduced prices on campus

They offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.


  • an MSc in (Medical) Biotechnology, Molecular Life Sciences, Biology or equivalent.
  • good proficiency of written and spoken English language (fulfilment of the IELT test is a prerequisite to start in the PhD program).
  • excellent presentation and communication skills
  • excellent project and time management skills
  • an interest in working within vivo animal models and microscopy.
  • enthusiasm in working in a very international team and in two countries (The Netherlands and France)

Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated experience in (some of) the fields listed below

  • Good background in Immunology and/or Virology
  • Good background in molecular biology
  • demonstrated experience with working with cell culture
  • demonstrated experience with working with Viruses (Rhabdoviruses, Alphaviruses or similar)
  • experience with reverse genetics or virus manipulation
  • demonstrated experience with microscopy techniques including, but not limited to, fluorescent, confocal, spinning disk and/or two-photon microscopy.
  • familiarity with working with zebrafish or common carp is appreciated but not a requirement.

How to Apply

  • You can only apply via the website of Wageningen University & Research;
  • Please include a cover letter (max. 1 A4) with a statement of research interests, explanation of your motivation and suitability for the project, a CV, and names and contact information of at least two professional references who can document the applicant is self-motivated and can work independently.
  • For additional questions regarding the project, you can contact Dr. Maria Forlenza: [email protected] via e-mails are not eligible.

Deadline: Applications will be open until August 30, 2019. The candidate should be available to start preferably by the 1st of December 2019.


Click here for more details and to apply

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