PhD position – Precision biomanufacturing of hierarchical joint implants

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
October 22, 2022
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PhD position – Precision biomanufacturing of hierarchical joint implants

(ref. BAP-2022-661)

Last modification : Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The aim is to optimize in vitro cell expansion processes as a basis for engineering joint implants for osteochondral regeneration

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Project

Introduction: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a highly prevalent disease, affecting 1 in 8 adults worldwide and is projected to increase by 60% in the next two decades. It is ranked as the 11th highest contributor to global disability, with impact on mobility, physical function, sleep and mood. Large population studies reveal (osteo)chondral injuries as a major risk factor in the development of knee OA. Therapy of OA is limited to removing or modifying existing cartilage autografts and is predominantly palliative and does not regenerate the osteochondral defects. Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering (TE) holds great promise to repair efficiently damaged tissues. A recent paradigm shift in the TE-field underscored the benefit of microtissues/organoids as living-building-blocks to repair larger defects as opposed to single cells. Spheroid and organoid technologies enable cells to follow developmental events in vitro and accomplish their developmental-like programs upon implantation and this “Developmental Engineering” approach is rapidly gaining ground. A possible approach is to use different types of micro-cartilage intermediates (μCI), each type corresponding to the biological properties of the respective zone in the joint. The formation of microtissue based implants is becoming the next frontier in the field of tissue engineering. Despite progress in engineering distinct microtissue modules, their integration in a single complex and potent implant is yet an elusive process. In the BIOARCHiTECT project we propose to address the outstanding issues by developing an end-to-end scalable and high-precision bioprocess, adopting bioreactor and bioprinting technologies starting from single stem cell production through (in silico) design of zonated osteochondral implants.

In the PhD position offered, the aim is that you optimize the needed in vitro cell expansion processes by making use of novel high-throughput bioreactors and scaling it up to clinically relevant cell numbers. You will develop online sensor read-outs to monitor the growth kinetics of the cell populations while adapting the feed-rate based on the information gathered. You will combine hardware sensors with data-driven soft sensing approaches and apply model- based control methods to steer the feed-rate, temperature and dissolved oxygen. To develop the models of the considered non-linear time-varying cellular systems, you will apply and combine methods from time series modelling and machine learning, including deep learning.

Your PhD work will be framed in and supported by Prometheus (https: // www. mtm.kuleuven.be/Prometheus), the internationally renowned KU Leuven division of skeletal tissue engineering that houses 50+ researchers specialized in the fields of cell biology, medicine, orthopaedic surgery, (bio)engineering and modelling. For the data analysis and algorithm development part you will be supported by M3-BIORES, an internationally renowned research group active in monitoring and control of biological systems (https: // www. biw.kuleuven.be/biosyst/a2h/m3-biores).

Responsibilities

• Work collaboratively with the research team leader and team to produce excellent research results in optimisation of cell expansion processes and their scale-up.

• Perform high quality cell expansion experiments as well as analyse the generated data and develop beyond state-of-the-art algorithms for optimizing the cell expansion processes.

• Write reports and research papers, and present findings to collaborators and scientific community

• Demonstrate effective collaboration skills with high standard of personal integrity & handling of confidential information

Profile

We are looking for:

• You have ambition to become an international expert in the field of precision biomanufacturing processes for tissue engineering. The field of tissue engineering is rapidly expanding, meanwhile the field faces important technical challenges.

• You are eager to learn designing and running a research project to a high standard. This requires a drive to deliver excellent results in your research, reflected in future publications.

• You are an excellent collaborator within multi-disciplinary teams and you communicate effectively to deliver high quality science. Our strength is in our project team, and our team is multidisciplinary with experts from domains of cell biology, medical doctors, (chemical) engineering and modelling. This mix of backgrounds stimulates the generation of innovative ideas and interesting discussions and drives us to achieve impact with our science.

• You are willing to become an expert in data analysis and process optimisation with state-of-the-art and novel methodologies, and to understand how to balance performance with complexity to achieve implementable technologies. Our team works utilizes real-world data and aim to develop implementable solutions for our partners.

• You are creative individual and have a "persistent itch" to develop innovative solutions. Our team looks to translate novel technologies and ideas to enable breakthroughs in what is possible.

Requirements

• Master degree in the field of data science, computer science, electronic engineering, biomedical engineering, bio-engineering or related field

• Basic knowledge in the field of data analysis, time series analysis, control theory, machine learning and algorithm development

• Knowledge on machine learning with Python or MATLAB

• Strong analytical skills with the ability to collect, organize, analyse, and disseminate significant amounts of information with attention to detail and accuracy

• Adept at report writing and presenting findings

• Stress resistant and passion for excellence.

Desirables

• Genuine passion for developing technology solutions that contribute to improving human health and well-being

• Analytical, structured and result-oriented; you are able to work independently and make decisions without direct supervision involvement; you have excellent work organization and communication skills

• Highly self-motivated, flexible, logical thinking, goal-oriented, team player; Continuously searching for new knowledge and for continuous improvement; demonstrated ability to learn new technologies and skills

• Capability and interest write scientific papers

Offer

If you see yourself in the above description then we would really like to speak with you.

We recognize that this is challenging position and will pay accordingly. KU Leuven offers access to state-of-the-art infrastructure, a competitive salary and outstanding health care benefits. The project offers a PhD position for 4 years which should be sufficient to complete a PhD on the topic.

Proposed starting date: 1 October 2022

Interested?

For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Jean-Marie Aerts, tel.: +32 16 32 14 34, mail: jean-marie.aerts@kuleuven.be.

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 diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

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