Context and research challenge

The current clinical approach for differential diagnosis of Dementia-related syndromes (DRS) is based on an arbitrary distinction between the time of onset of motor and cognitive symptoms. However, the need of more specific biomarker-based technologies for early diagnosing and following up DRS in affected patients is becoming imperative. 
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been shown to play a role in the mechanisms behind neurodegeneration and neuronal loss, and to hold promise as new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for DRS. Adequate technologies to fully exploit the potential of specific EVs subsets in the clinic are needed. The goal of the project is the development of a multiplex biomarker-based toolkit for targeted isolation and detection of EV subsets from liquid biopsies for DRS differential diagnosis.


Starting from a DRS-related EV biomarker profile, identified by clinical discovery proteomics at VITO, high-affinity binders will be selected and an adequate labeling approach designed to obtain optimal signal output for biomarker detection at the single EV level using high-sensitivity flow cytometry. Based on successful detection of individual biomarkers, a strategy for multiplexing will be designed and tested. Using the acquired knowledge of DRS-specific targeting molecules, also a sorting method for direct, selective purification and enrichment of EV subsets from liquid biopsies will be optimized. The performance of the toolkit components will be assessed on a set of EV isolates from different sample matrices (cerebrospinal fluid, plasma) of the original biomarker discovery and validation studies, and compared with targeted LC-MS and other, conventional techniques (ELISA, Western Blot).

With this call, we invite researchers to submit their resumé (including track-record) and a one-page project description, that will be the basis for selecting candidates with whom we will collaborate for developing a competitive MSCA-PF proposal. 

For the clinical test case of DRS, the EV biomarker panel and clinical sample access, collaboration with the team of Prof. Inge Mertens (VITO/UA Centre for Proteomics) is established. Furthermore, we foresee collaboration with Amsterdam University Medical Center (The Netherlands) for a dedicated secondment on standardization of high-sensitivity flow cytometry workflows for EV analysis in clinical samples.

Deadline application to VITO

Interested candidates should submit their resume (incl. track record) and a one-page note describing the project for which a Marie Curie grant will be applied, as soon as possible and no later than Friday 30 April 2021 17h Brussels time.


Successful candidates will be supervised by Dr. Inge Nelissen, Team leader Nanobiotechnology. 


Deadline MSCA-PF 2021

Wednesday 15 September 2021 17h Brussels time. 

Target start date

The EU informs the results on the MSCA-PF applications in February 2022. Successful candidates are expected to be available to start within the following two months and no later than summer 2022.


We invite applicants to propose a more detailed and focused research approach within the scope of this MSCA-PF Fellowship as a part of their application. We are primarily looking for experienced researchers who wish to use this period as an opportunity to further develop their research and skills, and to develop longer-term research collaborations with VITO and other institutions conducting research in the field. 
The candidates as in principle must be eligible for a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship – please refer to the conditions set-out in the Horizon Europe MSCA-PF-2021 Work Program, including taking into account the new MSCA Green Charter principles.

The following assets will be advantageous:

  • A background in physics and/or chemistry with biomedical affinity
  • Hands-on experience with flow cytometry and/or other fluorescence-based analytical technologies, bioconjugation and characterization of nanomaterials
  • An excellent track record in research, necessary for being able to develop a competitive Marie Curie Fellowship application;
  • Already published relevant research work in prestigious scientific journals;
  • An open and cooperation-oriented nature, but with strong abilities for independent research work;
  • Highly proficient in spoken and written English.

Initially, we offer assistance in developing competitive Marie Curie Individual Fellowship proposals. 

Then, to successful applicants to the Marie Curie programme, we offer;

  • An exciting opportunity at VITO, the independent Flemish research organisation driven by the major global challenges. Our goal? To accelerate the transition to a sustainable world;
  • Participation in a dynamic professional research & innovation community;
  • Flexible working conditions;
  • An inclusive and friendly work environment;
  • On-boarding assistance and other services.