PhD candidate in Societal Impact of Stem Cell Therapies for Rare Diseases

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 31 May 2022

In this unique project you will assess normative and societal aspects regarding the use of iPSCs in combination with gene-editing technology and potential application of bioreactor-derived gene-corrected autologous stem cells for transplantation. Together with our User Committee, representing all stakeholder groups (donors, patients, clinicians, policymakers, regulatory bodies, general public) you examine the fragile balance between individual and collective interests within the ethical and legal boundaries of these evolving therapies and technologies.

We are looking for a PhD candidate Responsible Research & Innovation in the development of stem cell therapies for rare diseases

This project is part of the large Consortium Programme TRACER ( treating hereditary anemias through stem cell research). A short summary of the TRACER programme:

The production or function of blood cells is impaired in a plethora of diseases presenting early in life such as congenital anemias, and blood formation also decreases upon aging. Blood transfusion is often the only therapeutic option, and stem cell transplantation the only curative treatment for severe anemias. Unfortunately, a lack of immune-matched cells often hampers these therapies. Incomplete knowledge of disease mechanisms, often due to scarce availability of patient-derived HSCs, impedes development of new therapies. Our multidisciplinary team aims to employ iPSCs to: 1) study disease mechanisms, 2) generate engraftable HSCs and 3) develop curative therapies. We will focus on mechanisms involved in congenital anemias, and on the production of mature blood cells and HSCs from gene-corrected iPSCs. Advanced single-cell analysis methods will delineate how HSCs are generated from iPSCs. Bioreactor technology will be applied to expand and differentiate iPSCs under controlled conditions. To ascertain maximal benefit, we will examine the ethical, legal and societal impact of these new technologies on patients, clinicians, policymakers, regulatory bodies, pharmaceutical enterprises and the general public.

More information on the TRACER programme and the consortium members can be found on our website

As a PhD candidate on this multidisciplinary scientific project, your tasks are to:

  • Conduct a literature review and automated text analysis of traditional and social media articles and posts about iPSCs for biobanking, research, and as gene-edited products for transplantation;
  • Conduct focus groups and obtain (expert) opinions of different stakeholder groups on the use, culturing, processing and editing of iPSCs for their personal lives or respective work fields;
  • Administer a survey and vignette study of different scenarios about development and application of iPSC-derived products in combination with gene-editing technology among a representative sample of the general public;
  • Organize meetings with the User Committee and other stakeholders; (fluency in Dutch is necessary)
  • Organize dissemination and outreach activities with stakeholders and other interested parties.

The research team
This project is a collaboration between the department of Donor Studies at Sanquin Research and the department of Cell Biology at Erasmus MC.

The PhD candidate will probably be enrolled in the Graduate School of Social Sciences of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with which the department of Donor Studies has a longstanding collaboration.

The department of Donor Studies is an internationally recognized center for high-quality (blood) donor research. Staff at the department consists of about 15 researchers, including 5 PhD students. The Erasmus MC Department of Cell Biology has ~100 researchers, including ~25 PhD students.

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