PhD position in Milk and Plant derived Bioactive Proteins for Immune Health (1.0 FTE): In a prior PhD project we showed that unprocessed milk in contrast to its heated counterpart reduced allergic symptoms in models for food allergy and allergic asthma. Immune modulation was shown using in vitro and in vivo models.

 Processing techniques like heating changes multiple characteristics in milk, bacteria that could act as probiotics are killed, bioactive proteins are made ineffective and new epitopes might be built. In the project BioactivePP4IH we study the protective immune modulatory capacity of mildly processed milk & milk and plant derived bioactive components in relation to allergic disease, inflammatory disorders and infections.

To reach this goal we developed advanced in vitro cell systems (e.g. epithelial cells, T-cells, mast cells and combination of cells in co-cultures) and in vivo models. A proof of concept clinical study is part of the strategy. We are aiming for a sustainable immune modulating product using mild processing techniques.

You, as our PhD candidate, will help us achieve the goal of the project: to study the Immune modulation of milk and plant derived bioactive proteins in allergic disease, inflammatory disorders and infections. With this we are aiming for a sustainable milk or vegan nutraceutical using mild processing techniques.

This project is embedded within the strategic alliance between the Pharmacology Division of the Utrecht University and Danone/Nutricia Research B.V. which both join forces to gain insight into mechanisms by which novel sustainable processing techniques lead to a product for Immune Health.

Within the strategic alliance  there are currently two PhD positions available for which we are simultaneously recruiting. For more information on the other PhD position, please visit our website: PhD position in Human Milk Oligosaccharides for Immune Development (HMOS4ID) (1.0 FTE)


Are you the enthusiastic, highly motivated, cooperative and curious PhD candidate with a Master in Biomedical (Health) Sciences, Biology, Pharmacy or Nutrition to take on this challenge? And do you meet the criteria below? Then we look forward to receiving your application.

  • experience with cell culture, and with immunologic and cell biology techniques (e.g. flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, western blotting and qPCR);
  • affinity with using complex in vitro models and/or in vivo models for disease;
  • good communication skills especially important given the public-private-partnership relations in the project;
  • you are able to work focused on your own project goals and like to help out others in the project team.
  • good command of written and spoken English is required.
  • We consider a background in immunology as an advantage.


  • You get the opportunity to work in an inspiring environment where sufficient help from analytical staff is available to assist you throughout the project;
  • A full-time position for 4 years;
  • A full-time gross salary ranging from €2,541 in the first year to €3,247 in the fourth year in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. You can watch the Utrecht University Campus Tour for an impression of our university.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 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 at Working at the Faculty of Science.

The Pharmacology division of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences is one of the five pillars of the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS), and is part of the Faculty of Science of Utrecht University. UIPS, including the Pharmacology division, focusses on the discovery, development, and use of drugs and medical nutrition for diverse medical purposes.

Over the last twenty years the group of Pharmacology has built an exciting and broad expertise in the field of immune modulation by dietary components in inflammatory diseases and food allergy and asthma in particular, using novel developed complex in vitro models and animal experimental models.

This PhD position is part of a project which is embedded within the strategic alliance between the Pharmacology Division of Utrecht University and Danone/Nutricia Research B.V. As mentioned above there are currently two PhD positions available within this project for which we are simultaneously recruiting.

The two PhD projects (of which the other one is called PhD position in Human Milk Oligosaccharides for Immune Development) built on the available expertise from the angle of sustainable developments in protein transition (from animal to plant derived) and early life disease management (from prevention to treatment).

The two PhD candidates in this project tackle these different topics which are complementary in contributing to the field of immunonutrition and sustainability, and mainly focus on early life immune development. These PhD positions will be carried out within the Pharmacology Division in close collaboration with Danone/Nutricia Research B.V. Danone/Nutricia Research B.V. and the Pharmacology division of Utrecht University are located in Utrecht Science Park within walking distance.

Aanvullende informatie

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Dr. Betty van Esch (Senior Scientist) at Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

If you are enthusiastic about this position, just apply via the “Apply” button! Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • the email addresses of at least two references.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.  Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

Applications deadline is 08/05/2023


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