FUNDING -  H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN)
ELBA – Grant Agreement no. 765492

PROJECT: ELBA - European Liquid Biopsies Academy  - Towards widespread clinical application of blood-based diagnostic tools  

Liquid biopsies have been heralded as a game changer in cancer management, with blood tests offering a minimally invasive, safe, and sensitive alternative or complimentary approach for tissue biopsies. Despite its potential, the field of liquid biopsy diagnostics is hampered by a lack of integration between the different biomarker sources including assay development, standardization, clinical validation and implementation. Widespread deployment requires creative next-generation researchers with an innovative mindset that know how to circumvent the obstacles on the liquid biopsy development.

The European Liquid Biopsy Academy (ELBA) Consortium brings together 7 academic and 2 non-academic (commercial) beneficiaries and 12 partner organizations from 10 European countries with a focus on harmonizing the liquid biopsies field and solving societal challenges. ELBA will address these challenges by training a new generation of researchers (15 Early Stage Researchers - ESRs) that can fast-track the development and clinical validation of these innovative diagnostics.

Key disciplines that ELBA will integrate:


We are looking for two enthusiastic, creative and ambitious Early Stage Researches (ESRs) with MSc degree in Biomedical, Molecular Biology/Life Science or equivalent to join our team at the VU Medical Centre (VUMC) – Cancer Centre Amsterdam (CCA), located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ESRs are supported by MSCA ITN ELBA for 3 years of full-time study to undertake a PhD. Both ESRs will be appointed at the Neuro-Oncology Research group headed by prof. dr. Tom Wurdinger (ELBA Coordinator). The group focuses on the development of a highly sensitive, innovative methods for isolation and analysis of tumor-educated platelets (TEPs) as blood-based cancer diagnostics platform (Best MG et al. Cancer Cell 2015 and 2017). We offer an intellectually stimulating and diverse learning and working environment in a team of motivated co-workers.

Project Title: Analysis of Tumor-Educated blood Platelets for lung cancer detection and therapy selection

For this project we offer two positions:

ESR1 - Comprehensive characterization of nucleic acid composition in TEPs

ESR2 - Diagnostic utility of nucleic acid composition in TEPs

PhD candidates will work on optimization and validation of blood-based biopsy assays utilizing TEPs as a source of biomarkers for the detection of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). To maximize biomarker discovery you will use state-of-the art assays to comprehensively characterize nucleic acid composition in TEPs from NSCLC patients (ESR1) and will work towards the selection of optimal detection methodologies for biomarker validation and computational analysis (ESR2).

Both ESRs will be trained to use a novel approach, which is the combination of biosources and new techniques, including ultra-deep and massive parallel Illumina sequencing, droplet digital PCR, Nanostring technology, and EPISPOT functional assays. You will combine nucleic acid-based biomarkers with functional assays through state-of-the-art approaches such as targeted-NGS for detecting cancer-specific modifications of nucleic acids (DNA/RNA). Detection and usage of cancer-driven alterations of the biological properties in DNA/RNA molecules as cancer-specific features enriches a critical new dimension of biomarker discovery. ELBA consortium is enforced with a strong computational core team with innovative machine learning models that will guide your computational analysis to exploit different bio-source combinations in order to provide a biological rationale for the functionality of the detected biomarkers.



H2020 MSCA ITN Specific requirements:

Job related requirements


Qualifications and Skills

Abilities and attitude

·         Interpreting scientific literature and incorporation into project and understanding the research process

·         Organizing and prioritizing work within the project timetable

·         Maintaining accurate and up to date records

·         Flexible and co-operative

·         Self-motivated to achieve project demands and targets; enquiring, critical approach to work;

·         Able to travel to workshops and for research collaboration in other EU countries (e.g. secondments)

Conditions of employment

Employment basis: Temporary for specified period

Duration of the contract: 36 months

Maximum hours per week: 36

Additional conditions of employment: The terms of employment and the monthly gross salary will be according to the MSCA ITN 2017 rules and in line with the Collective Labor Agreement for University Medical Centers in the Netherlands (CAO UMC). (

Candidates selection

The recruitment process adopted by the consortium will be based on a competitive

basis, following usual academic practices. It will be transparent and consistent with the

principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the

Recruitment of Researchers, including information on conditions of employment.

Pre-selection process will be carried out and only the most suitable candidates will be notified by email regarding further selection process. We will notify 10 candidates for a teleconference/skype interviews. A maximum of three candidates per position will be selected for a second round of interviews. The ELBA Recruitment Committee will assist during interviews for the selection of the final candidate.


Applicants should submit a personal statement explaining their motivation (maximal one page), a CV including MSc degree courses and grades, and two academic reference as one single PDF file.

Please include in the email the following reference (vacancy numbers):

ESR1 - Comprehensive characterization of nucleic acid composition in TEPs

ESR1 vacancy number: ELBA-VUMC-ESR1-2018

ESR2 - Diagnostic utility of nucleic acid composition in TEPs

ESR2 vacancy number: ELBA-VUMC-ESR2-2018

Additional ESR PhD position related to the ELBA Consortium can be found on EURAXESS

You can apply for ESR positions at the VUMC/CCA before the 10th of May 2018 by sending your application to:

Prof. dr. Tom Wurdinger and dr. Danijela Koppers-Lalic
Neuro-oncology Research Group
Department of Neurosurgery
VUmc/Cancer Center Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1117
The Netherlands