Postdoc on EV-mediated CRISPR-Cas9 delivery (2024)

CRISPR-Cas9 can be employed to create dsDNA breaks, generate precise mutations, or incorporate specific sequences, regulate RNA transcription. One major hurdle in the development of Cas9-based therapies is the intracellular delivery of Cas9-sgRNA complexes. To address this challenge, your project will focus on the development of extracellular vesicle-mediated strategies for CRISPR-Cas9 delivery, and apply these strategies to integrate DNA sequences into target cells.

Your job

Over the last decade, CRISPR/Cas9-based techniques have been developed for various genomic engineering strategies in eukaryotic cells. Using single guide RNAs (sgRNA) containing specific targeting sequences, Cas9 can target precise genomic locations. Thus, CRISPR/Cas9-based techniques are of substantial interest for the development of novel therapies to treat genetic diseases. Moreover, as they can be targeted to precise genomic targets with high specificity, they have considerable therapeutic potential for currently “un-druggable” pathologies. Unfortunately, one of the major hurdles in the development of CRISPR/Cas9-based therapies is the intracellular delivery of Cas9-sgRNA complexes. Cas9-sgRNA complexes are unable to cross the cell membrane due to their large size, as well as their negative charge. Moreover, Cas9-sgRNA complexes need to be shielded from opsonization and degradation in circulation, do to their immunogenicity. Your project will focus on the development of extracellular vesicle (EV)-mediated strategies for CRISPR/Cas9 delivery to address these challenges.

Under the combined supervision of Dr Olivier de Jong (UU) and Dr Pieter Vader (UMCU) you will develop and optimise extracellular vesicle-mediated loading and delivery strategies of CRISPR-Cas9 ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes and DNA templates and study the uptake pathways and kinetics in target cells. As a functional readout, the engineered EVs will be studied for their efficiency in genomic engineering based on hom*ology-independent targeted insertion (HITI) and hom*ology-directed repair (HDR) pathways. You will design and test fusion proteins through conventional cloning techniques in DNA plasmids. These fusion proteins will consist of EV-enriched proteins, Cas9, and previously confirmed cleavable linker sequences. These plasmids will then be transfected into EV-producing cells to test their efficacy in Cas9 loading and delivery. Initial DNA templates will encode fluorescent (eGFP) reporter genes and will be tested on various cell lines. If successful, DNA sequences of CAR-T cell receptors will be loaded into EVs and delivered to various relevant cell types, including Jurkat cells and PBMC-derived T-cells. To gain a better understanding of the cellular processes that play a role in EV-mediated cargo delivery, cellular uptake, intracellular trafficking, and delivery will be studied using confocal microscopy. Experimental work will be performed at the department of Pharmaceutics at Utrecht University, as well as at the CDL Research department at the University Medical Center.

This project is funded by the Eurostars funding programme, and this postdoctoral research position will be part of a collaboration between various academic partners (Utrecht University, dept. of Pharmaceutics; University Medical Center Utrecht, CDL Research dept.) and industrial partners (ExoVectory and EVerZom). The goal of this consortium is to combine the expertise and technologies of the consortium members to develop novel strategies for EV-mediated delivery and genomic integration of DNA sequences using CRISPR-Cas9. These expertises consist of EV-mediated Cas9 delivery (UU), EV uptake and trafficking (UMCU), DNA loading and delivery (ExoVectory), and up- and downstream processing for scalable EV production (EVerZom), respectively.

Your qualities

We are looking for a candidate who meets (several of) the following requirements:

  • a PhD in the field of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, or related fields (or close to graduation);
  • a background in at least one of the following areas: CRISPR-Cas, extracellular vesicles, cell biology, cloning / protein engineering, or virology;
  • preferablyexperience with cell culture and analysis (e.g. Western Blot, Microscopy, Flow Cytometry, and/or qPCR);
  • excellent communicative skills in English, both in writing and speech;
  • excited to collaborate with both academic and industrial research partners.

Our offer

We offer:

  • a position for 1 year, with an option to extend for an additional 1.5 years (2.5 years total);
  • a working week of38-40hours and a gross monthly salary between €3,877 to €4,036 in the case of full-time employment (salary scale 10.4-10.5under the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU);
  • 8% holiday pay and 8.3% year-end bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible terms of employment based on the CAO NU.

In addition to theterms of employmentlaid down in the CAO NU, Utrecht University has a number of schemes and facilities of its own for employees. This includes schemes facilitatingprofessional development, leave schemes and schemes forsports and cultural activities, as well as discounts on software and other IT products. We also offer access to additional employee benefits through our Terms of Employment Options Model. In this way, we encourage our employees to continue to invest in their growth. For more information, please visitWorking at Utrecht University.

About us

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. AtUtrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards majorstrategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability.Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

At theFaculty of Science, there are six departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us onYouTube.

The Pharmaceutics division is one of five divisions within the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences and is an internationally renowned top-research group in the field of drug delivery. The core activity of the department is the design and pre-clinical testing of tailor-made drug delivery systems for site-specific, time- and/or rate-controlled delivery of small molecular weight drugs, therapeutic proteins, nucleic acids (including DNA and siRNA), and antigens for therapy and prevention of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, inflammation, and infectious diseases. The Pharmaceutics team consists of scientists from all over the world who like to work in a multidisciplinary environment in which fundamental research and applied sciences are interconnected.

More information

For more information, please contact Dr Olivier de Jong ato.g.dejong@uu.nland/or Dr Pieter Vader

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to

Apply now

As Utrecht University, we want to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

If you are enthusiastic about this position, just apply via the 'apply now' button! Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two referees;
  • a copy of your PhD certificate, or a letter from your university stating when your defence will take place.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

The application deadline is 17 June 2024.

Postdoc on EV-mediated CRISPR-Cas9 delivery (2024)
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