The group of Organic Chemistry and Nanobiointeractions at the Department of Biotechnology of the University of Verona, and the Marie Skłodowska – Curie Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) project “DIRNANO – Directing the immune response through designed nanomaterials” OFFERS an Early Stage Researcher (PhD Student) position within the doctoral program in Biotechnology.

The Department of Biotechnology (DB, has a strongly multidisciplinary composition, and research activities are mainly developed in the areas of agricultural, biological, chemical sciences and industrial processes to address issues related to biotechnological applications for the agri-food industry, environment and health. DB has strong ties with companies in areas of great economic significance and is characterized by the presence of 6 spin off companies. DB achieved excellent results in the last national evaluation of the quality of research (VQR 2011-2014) and in 2018, DB has been evaluated as one of the 180 excellent deparments in Italian public universities by the National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research System (ANVUR). The PhD program in Biotechnology is well a established doctoral program belonging to the Graduate School of Natural and Engineering Sciences and enrolls approx. 15 students each year.

One ESR position is now available at the Department of Biotechnology in the group of Organic Chemistry and Nanobiointeractions led by Prof. Roberto Fiammengo.

– This PhD project will focus on the development of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) coated with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) as carriers for tumor-associated self-antigens derived from MUC1. Additionally, different nanoparticles and coatings coming from other partners in the consortium may be developed into cancer vaccine candidates especially in case of promising indications concerning their biomolecular corona.

– The project will involve the synthesis of precursors for nanoparticle coating (maily PEG derivatives), the preparation of gold nanoparticles with suitable and controlled size and their functionalization with tumor-associated self-antigens (glycopeptides). The project also involve an extensive characterization of the nanoparticle properties and their testing in vitro and in vivo.

– The goal of this ESR will be the synthesis of a range of nanoparticle-based vaccine candidates featuring different size, coating, antigens and their testing in vitro for their ability to interact with cells of the immune system together with other partner of the DIRNANO consortium. Additionally, some of these vaccine candidates will be tested in vivo with particular attention to their formulation and administration route assessing the development of humoral and cellular immunity. The in vivo testing will take place in collaboration with the Biomedical Research Centre of La Rioja (CIBIR)-Fundacion Rioja Salud where the candidate is expected to spend a period of secondment.

– Experimental training of the ESR will cover: 1) synthesis and carachterization of organic compounds, 2) synthesis and characterization of nanoparticles, 3) bioconjugation strategies, 4) investigation of the interactions between nanoparticles and cells (in vitro).

Expected results of ESR activity.

The main results expected from this research activity are: vaccine candidates that elicit antigen-specific humoral and cellular immune response in vivo with therapeutic potential alone or in combination therapies on relevant animal models.

ESR09 International collaborations and secondments are foreseen at:

  1. LipoCoat BV, a spin-off of the University of Twente based in Enschede,The Netherlands, under the supervision of Prof. P. Jonkheijm, to be trained on biologically inspired nanoparticle coatings, month 18, 3 months.
  2. Biomedical Research Centre of La Rioja (CIBIR)-Fundacion Rioja Salud, based in Logroño, Spain, under the supervision of Prof. (A. Martinez) to learn the assessment of the immune response after a vaccination campaign, month 30, 4 months.

The ESR09 will be employed and enrolled in the doctoral programme of Biotechnology (PhD in Biotechnology) of the University of Verona.

For further information about the scientific content please contact the principal supervisor: Prof. Roberto Fiammengo (