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PhD position Fibroin from tobacco cells for medical use

This research project contributes to the Biobased Value Circle objectives by focusing on the production of biobased materials for medical applications. …

ongeveer 2 maanden geleden


Urmonderbaan, Geleen, Limburg
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht


This research project contributes to the Biobased Value Circle objectives by focusing on the production of biobased materials for medical applications.

Fibroin is the basic component of silk, a natural and biodegradable material with exceptional mechanical properties, highly suited for biomedical applications. Because recovering and regenerating of silk fibroin from its natural sources alters its intrinsic physical and mechanical properties, there is the need to establish an efficient production platform for soluble fibroin monomers, which can then be polymerized and processed in different ways depending on the application. Fibroin are large, repetitive proteins and this poses serious challenges to their production. Plant-based expression systems are flexible and versatile platforms for recombinant protein production. Most importantly, they are especially suited for the expression of highly repetitive constructs due to their genetic stability compared to microbes.

Results: The goal of this project is to establish a tobacco cell culture as a reproducible production system for fibroin. Two main approaches will be followed: on one side, the metabolism of plant cells will be optimized towards the high-level production of these repetitive proteins; on the other side, different fusions and expression strategies will be explored to increase fibroin solubility, accumulation and recovery. In collaboration with Fibrothelium GmbH (Germany), we will test the mechanical, physical and biological properties of the recombinant proteins and evaluate how to implement these raw materials into the established manufacturing routines of a medical device supplier.


The general requirements for all Biobased Value Circle positions apply here, i.e.:

  • you may already be in a PhD program but you cannot be a PhD holder,
  • you must have less than 4 years of research experience, i.e., you should be an early-stage researcher,
  • you must not have resided or carried out your main activity in the country of the hiring organization for more than 12 months during the last 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment (short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account), and
  • you should have a high-level knowledge of the English language.

Furthermore, the position-related requirements are:

  • Master’s degree in Biotechnology or other applicable Master’s degree. Knowledge in polymer science will be considered a plus.
  • enrollment as a doctoral student at UM within four months,
  • 20 months secondment to Fibrothelium GmbH,
  • positive attitude to both analytical and practical research work, and
  • ability to work independently as a member of UM research team and of the Biobased Value Circle community.


  • We offer a rewarding career at a young university in the heart of Europe, with a distinct global perspective and a strong focus on innovative research and education;
  • The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO), supplement with local UM provisions. For more information on terms of employment, please visit our website www.maastrichtuniversity.nl > Support > UM employees;
  • We offer a 4 year full-time appointment as PhD candidate. The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended for another 3 years.  Start date as soon as possible;
  • Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of €2.395,- with a yearly growth to €3.061,- gross a month, based on a full-time appointment (38 hours/week);
  • On top of this, there is an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end of the year allowance;
  • We offer an attractive package of fringe benefits such as, reduction on collective health insurance, substantial leave arrangements, optional model for designing a personalised benefits package, sport facilities which staff may use at a modest charge and application for attractive fiscal arrangements for employees from abroad;
  • We provide a stimulating, collaborative and interdisciplinary work environment with excellent opportunities for professional and personal development;
  • Maastricht University has an excellent international reputation, and Maastricht itself is a beautiful, open-minded city located in the center of Western Europe.

Additional information

For more information on:

Research topic, contact your future supervisor

Luisa Bortesi, luisa.bortesi@maastrichtuniversity.nl