This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 956851.

Call for applicants

Application deadline 1st July 2022

1 PhD position in the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie project COLOTAN (Boosting advanced doctoral training in innovative colon targeting drugs)

PhD project: Design and evaluation of biodegradable polymer coatings for colon specific drug delivery

Applicants are invited for 1 PhD position (“Early Stage Researcher”, ESR) that will be funded by the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Actions within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission through the Innovative Training Network ‘COLOTAN’.

COLOTAN is a network for “Boosting advanced doctoral training in innovative colon targeting drugs”. Its overarching goal is to provide high-level training to 13 early stage researchers in drug delivery, drug disposition and gastrointestinal (GI) (patho)physiology to improve targeting of drugs to the colon and to provide them with the transferable and scientific skills necessary for a successful career. This international training program, combining 10 countries, focuses on innovative technological and scientific developments across a range of interdisciplinary fields such as (physical, analytical and organic) chemistry, drug delivery, drug disposition, cell biology, gastroenterology, microbiology and modelling and simulation. The aim of this project will be achieved by a unique combination of intersectoral research training facilitated by 10 beneficiaries (7 academic and 3 non-academic) and 5 partner organisations. The COLOTAN consortium consists of leading research groups from universities and from innovative pharmaceutical companies.

Each of the 13 ESRs is working towards a PhD degree, supported by a carefully chosen supervisory team that maximizes both scientific excellence as well as interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration. The 13 COLOTAN ESRs will not only receive state-of-the-art science/technology training but will also benefit from a unique soft-skills training programme. The interdisciplinary and inter-domain training will make COLOTAN ESRs highly employable in various industries or academia.

PhD project: Design and evaluation of biodegradable polymer coatings for colon specific drug delivery

The work will be performed in the Drug Delivery and Disposition research group (Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences; KU Leuven) under the direct supervision of Prof. G. Van den Mooter.

KU Leuven is one of the top 50 universities in the world according to the “Times Higher Education” ranking, and declared #1 in Most Innovative University of Europe by Reuters 4 years in a row. KU Leuven offers an exciting multi-disciplinary research environment, a broad range of training courses for PhD students, and full social and medical insurance.


During the past 20 years, a considerable amount of work has been carried out in order to design delivery systems for targeting drugs specifically to the colon (large intestine). Despite this, reliable systems that deliver drugs reproducibly to specific sites in the large intestine are scarce. The large inter- and intra-subject variation in GI pH makes the approach of delivery systems based on pH-dependent polymers less suitable, and despite the fairly constant small intestinal transit time, the possible ‘hold-up’ time at the ileocecal valve is a serious drawback in the use of delivery systems that release drugs after a predetermined lag time. Undoubtedly, the preferred systems are those that rely on conditions that are only encountered in the colon, as these systems will give true site-specific delivery. In this respect, systems that can be degraded by colonic bacteria are very attractive and promising. Delivery systems based on natural polymers, such as polysaccharides are favorable with respect to safety, but their inherent water solubility is disadvantageous. Therefore, in this project, the candidate will design compatible polymer blends of various biodegradable polymers (e.g. polysaccharides) with non-degradable polymers, capable of film formation, and study the relationship between the microstructure of the polymer film and its capacity to be attacked and degraded by colonic bacterial enzymes. In a second step, selected biodegradable polymer blends will be formulated as biodegradable coatings to deliver model drugs specifically to the colon. The site specific drug release will be studied during in vitro and in vivo tests.

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Key info


COLOTAN wishes to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

We expect that applicants hold a university degree that qualifies them for doctoral studies at their recruiting organization. Solid written and oral communication skills in English are prerequisites of any successful application (typically IELTS min. 7, TOEFL internet-based min. 90 or similar level as proven by other tests).

Applicants need to fully respect three eligibility criteria (to demonstrated in the Europass cv):

Early-stage researchers (ESR): ESRs are those who are, at the time of recruitment by the host, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided and should not have been awarded a doctoral degree.

Conditions of international mobility of researchers: Researchers are required to undertake trans-national mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up the appointment. At the time of selection by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.

English language: Network fellows (ESRs) must demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the network training.

The available PhD position to cooperate in a European Network and follow a dedicated training program

Host: KU LEUVEN (Leuven University), Belgium

PhD awarding institution: KU LEUVEN (Leuven University), Belgium

Main Supervisor: Guy Van den Mooter (KUL)

Co-supervisors/mentors: Christer Tannergren (AZ), Wim De Haen (KUL)

Secondment partners: AZ (supervisor: C. Tannergren)


  • Profile: Master degree in pharmaceutical sciences or physical chemistry
  • Research experience: Master thesis work and/or experience in formulation and drug delivery projects, physico-chemical characterization (thermal analysis, IR, NMR,…), etc.
  • Communication skills: Ability to work both independently and in a team, direct communication style. Fluency in spoken and written English is mandatory!


The project is funded by a European Union H2020-MSCA-ITN grant. It covers competitive salary, lab and conference expenses towards the completion of a PhD degree at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of KU Leuven. We offer a full-time PhD position for 2 years, extendable to 4 years after initial positive evaluation.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Guy Van den Mooter, tel.: +32 16 33 03 04, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than 1st July 2022.

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This project is to receive funding from the European Union’s EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020,  Grant Agreement No 956851.