PhD Candidate In vitro skin sensitisation/ uptake/ activation for the prevention of food allergy

ESR 7: PhD Candidate In vitro skin sensitisation/ uptake/ activation for the prevention of food allergy

Host organisation: Dermatologie/Allergologie/ DIGD, UMC Utrecht, The Netherlands

Area/topic: Food Allergy, allergenicity models, prediction toolbox, novel food safety, allergy sensitisation, routes of sensitisation

Application deadline: 28 November 2022

Planned start date: March 2023

Do you want to contribute to the development of new tools for the prediction of allergenicity of novel foods and food proteins and enable the production of new and safe food for the future?

If you have knowledge within the area of allergy, immunology, biostatistics, and/or protein-chemistry as well as have experience working with in silico, in vitro or in vivo models and are looking for a PhD fellowship opportunity to put your skills into practice, you have it right here.

As part of the ALLPreT project and as our new colleague in UMC Utrecht, you will be part of dynamic and highly ambitious research and innovation environments with many national and international collaborators from both academia and industries.

Project Description

Many factors appear to govern the allergic response to food proteins including how the timing (age starting to eat the food, how often the food is consumed), dose (amount of food that is consumed) and route of exposure and the context in which the protein is recognised by the immune system. These factors are currently not incorporated in an allergenicity assessment, which might be the reason that current methods are not predictive. In the ESR project 7 we will develop an in vitro skin model to predict the allergenicity of novel food proteins and identify biomarkers (transport, immunological, integrity) that can distinguish food allergens from non-allergenic proteins.

Responsibilities and tasks

For this project, we seek a highly motivated biomedical scientist/immunologist or equivalent background to develop a skin model to measure the effect of the legume reference set of extracts and proteins on transport across the skin epithelium, immunological response and integrity of the skin. The ESR will compare different skin models (e.g., commercial models, models based on skin biopsies and/or surgical tissue from allergic and/or non-allergic patients). Transport will be measured using analytical techniques such as LC-MS, immunoblot, SDS PAGE, and immunochemistry. For the immunological response, cytokine release will be measured together with cell characterization by flow cytometry or CyToF. The integrity of the skin will be measured using ELISA and/or Luminex (e.g., IL-1α or MIF, FLG).

We offer

  • A position part of an innovative and international EU funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral-Network (project ALLPreT - No 101072377)
  • The position is provisional for a period of 1 year, with the prospect of extension for a further 3 years. The goal is a promotion.
  • Full access to the training scheme offered within the ALLPreT project including the development of technical and soft skills (e.g., networking, organization of meetings, grant writing, work/private balance and presenting for different audiences).
  • External stays, including two secondments (for a total period of 5 months) are a mandatory part of your new PhD fellowship position, where the company Mattek in Vitro Life Science Laboratories for a period of 2 months,  and Medical University Vienna, Austria for a period of 3 months will be the hosting institutes.


We are looking for a team player with the motivation and drive needed for making a difference that matters. You should have a critical mindset, be curious and eager to learn. As you will join international teams, a good command of written and spoken English is necessary.

Your CV comprises a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in immunology, Biomedical sciences, biomedical sciences or a related field as well as:

  • cell culturing, LC-MS, FACS, ELISA and Luminex assays

According to the rules for MSCA doctoral networks, applicants should not have resided or worked in The Netherlands for more than 12 out of the last 36 months.

Terms of Employment: 

This is a temporary appointment for a fixed 1 year, with prospect of extension of 3 years if functioning properly. It is a full time position (36h/week). Your gross salary will be in line with the collective labour agreement of the UMC Utrecht, with an indicative start gross salary of 2631,00 Euro/per month based on a fulltime position. The compensation package will comply with the MSCA-DN programme regulations for early stage researchers. The final monthly salary will be confirmed upon offer. Check the UMCU website for more information about working at the UMCU

Information on the host organization/department:

The Department of Dermatology/Allergology of the UMC Utrecht (JCI credited) offers care to patients with skin disorders and allergic diseases and performs scientific research. The department occupies an international top position in the field of food allergies (in children and adults). We are also one of the most important centers in the world in the field of eczema, urticaria/angioedema. Nationally, UMC Utrecht is the only NFU (Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers) recognized expertise center for food allergies and eczema for both children and adults. The research is done in close collaboration with partners of the Center for Translational Immunology within the UMCU, which gives us access to many laboratory facilities equipped with high standard, and very advanced methodologies and instruments.

Application procedure uitklapper, klik om te openen

Candidates can apply for a position using the  ‘apply now’ button before 28 November 2022. Applications received via other channels are not taken into account.

The application should be complete and include the following files:

  • A motivation letter (1 page maximum), please include in your letter alternative ESR positions of interest to you if not selected, if any.
  • A CV

Please note, candidates can apply to max two ESR positions.

Information on the ALLPreT project

Introducing novel foods, such as insects, will strongly contribute to the security and stainability of our food supply. However, these novel foods must be safe (EU regulation 2015/2283). Allergenicity assessment is an essential part of the safety assessment of novel foods. Unfortunately, current methods to assess de novo allergenicity lack predictive power and are not validated. Consequently, food producers and risk assessors struggle with allergenicity assessment, slowing the introduction of novel foods into our food supply. Enabling the safe introduction of novel foods while protecting humans from unacceptable food allergy risks calls for a multidisciplinary approach. The ALLPreT consortium is a highly multidisciplinary group of experts from universities, research institutes, hospitals, patient organisations, and industry arising from the EU COST Action ImpARAS (Improved Allergenicity Risk Assessment Strategy). This puts them in an ideal position to consolidate their previous collaboration and establish an innovative doctoral training network in this area. The overall goal of ALLPreT is to train the next generation of scientists who can tackle the shortcomings in the current food allergy assessment of novel food products. ALLPreT will train 10 PhD students in the core aspects of food allergy risk assessment, immunology, protein chemistry, bioinformatics, in vitro/in vivo/in silico model development and complementary “soft” skills to deliver well-educated young scientists, with a unique position within the EU labour market. The PhD students will explore the new field of research on de novo sensitisation by novel foods and develop a toolbox of in vitro/in vivo/in silico allergenicity prediction tools that are scientifically sound, validated, and easily usable by industry and food safety authorities. This toolbox will contribute to fast and accurate safety assessment, thereby speeding up safety approval and market uptake of novel foods. Read more at

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