Inflammation-based stratification for adjunctive immune targeting in major depressive disorder

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
April 15, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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Inflammation-based stratification for adjunctive immune targeting in major

depressive disorder

(ref. BAP-2023-123)

Last modification : Monday, March 13, 2023

This project is situated within the MIND-BODY RESEARCH group (MBR), one of the research centers of the Psychiatry Research Group (Dept. Neurosciences) at KU Leuven, Belgium. The MBR group has expertise in immuno-psychiatric research and collaborates on this topic both nationally and internationally with other research groups. For the current project, there will be both national collaboration within the framework of the INSTA-MD project and internationally through the Moodstratification project. The MBR group is closely linked to the University Psychiatric Center (UPC KU Leuven), facilitating access to patients for clinical studies. The PhD student will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Stephan Claes, PI, in close collaboration with Dr. Elfi Vergaelen, postdoctoral researcher in the MBR group and expert in immuno- psychiatry.


This doctoral project will focus on the role of the immune system in the treatment of major depression. In 2018, 6% of people over the age of 15 had a depressive disorder in the Flemish Region. In 2019, 36 million people per year were affected by the disease in Europe. The WHO estimates that depression will be one of the leading causes of disease burden by 2030. Depression, however, is very heterogeneous, with an estimate of 33-40% responding poorly or not at all to gold standard treatment. Innovation in the field of treatment could therefore have a major impact. Immune-mediated depression represents a subtype which accounts for approximately 30% of depressive disorders. Patients with this immuno-subtype are more likely to have a higher severity of depression, a lower quality of life, more somatic problems and a higher incidence of treatment resistance.

This PhD project will primarily center around a clinical trial offfering an immunological treatment to patients with immune-mediated depression. Two existing anti-inflammatory drugs will be used as adjuvant treatment in patients with a diagnosis of major depression and signs of inflammation. Both immunological and psychiatric parameters will be collected to assess the evolution. In addition to the clinical trial itself, the doctoral student will also be responsible for database management and coordination with other participating centers. In addition, the student will also be involved in ongoing studies on immune-mediated depression and other immune-mediated psychiatric disorders.


Necessary qualifications

  • Master degree in Medicine, Psychology, Biomedical Science or related disciplines.
  • Excellent knowledge of English, both spoken and written
  • Basic knowledge of statistics
  • Experience in one or more of the following areas is desirable

  • Clinical skills and patient contact
  • Interest in immunology and psychiatry
  • Interest in statistics
  • Proficiency in one or more of the following areas is a plus

  • Analytical skills and well organized
  • Strong communication and social skills
  • Knowledge of the Dutch language
  • Offer

    The successful candidate will be awarded a full-time, 4 year PhD position at KU Leuven.


    For more information, please contact Dr. Elfi Vergaelen ([email protected]), or Prof. dr. Stephan Claes ([email protected]).

    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 [email protected]

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