PhD-candidate at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for Assessing the safety of lab-grown dairy proteins

PhD-candidate at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for Assessing the safety of lab-grown dairy proteins

Published Deadline Location
8 Jun 22 Jun Maastricht

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Do you want to perform research on the safety and functionality of the next generation of alternative food proteins?

Job description

To get our diet within planetary boundaries, a shift towards alternative food systems is urgently needed. Cellular agriculture is a revolutionary approach to produce proteins. The current project focuses on three different cellular approaches to produce milk proteins.  How safe are such cellular production processes and their resulting proteins?  And how well are these novel proteins digested and absorbed?

The growing world population and its increasing demand for sustainable and high-quality food protein has a strong impact on future societal and scientific research topics. The production of animal proteins as sole protein source not only has an enormous environmental impact with its low production efficiency, and raises ethical concerns about the living conditions of cattle. Animal agriculture also has an impact on human health through animal-borne diseases and the use of antibiotics. While 906 million tons of milk were produced in 2020 alone, the scepticism of consumers towards dairy products is rising for the aforementioned reasons. A novel and highly promising alternative approach for the production of dairy proteins is cellular agriculture. This is the production of animal-based proteins from cell cultures using various cell lines, bacteria, yeast, fungi, and microalgae.

Cellular agriculture is a major revolution that will allow us to meet future food protein needs very efficiently and with high sensorial and nutritional quality, while requiring hardly any agricultural land. However, not much is known about the safety of the cellular production processes as well as the resulting novel proteins, so the basis for future investment decisions is unclear. Therefore, the present project will focus on toxicologically assessing these novel dairy proteins produced by cellular agriculture.

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to analyse the safety of novel functional proteins which are ingredients for the next generation of dairy alternatives. The research will involve toxicological studies from in vitro to in silico with regards to various end points of the cellular milk proteins in order to assess their safety. This will contribute to safe ingredients for the next generation dairy alternatives. The PhD position will be based at Maastricht University in the department of Pharmacology & Toxicology in collaboration with the department Food Claims Centre Venlo.

The position is funded by the NWO project Protein 2.0, with co-funding from a large number of international companies. The aim of this project is to investigate the potential of new protein sources, produced through three techniques: tissue engineered milk, precision fermentation derived milk proteins and single cell proteins. The project is focused on exploring the bottlenecks that currently hinder affordable large-scale production, including protein quality, mild downstream processing, but also EU legislation and safety. The project is a collaboration with Wageningen University, Utrecht University and Hogeschool van Hall Larenstein.


Maastricht University (UM)


We are looking for a PhD-candidate with the following qualifications

Candidates will be judged on the basis of the requirements outlined below.

  • You completed successfully a Master of Science (MSc) in Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Life Sciences, Chemistry, Food Technology, Food Safety or any related field; 
  • You have a solid theoretical background in and affinity with toxicology, biochemistry, and/or food safety; 
  • You have hands-on experience (and strong analytical capacity) with standard molecular techniques such as HPLC, GC, PCR, cell culture, RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunocytochemistry;  
  • You have a real researcher’s mentality: open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and accurate; 
  • You possess strong communication skills in English (fluent at C1 level), including scientific English writing and presenting and who has the ambition to share research outside of regular scholarly activities (such as writing publications);
  • You are a team player enjoying working in a multidisciplinary, international and growing team.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 48 months.

Before the end of the first year, an evaluation takes place and a go-no go decision will be taken for the other three years. Each year an evaluation will take place.

Your salary would be € 2.443,- gross per month in the first year up to € 3.122,- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. An 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance is also provided.

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > About UM > Working at UM.


Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 22,000 students and about 5,000 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.
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NUTRIM - School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism 

NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism initiates and catalyzes translational research into nutritional health benefits and risks focusing on metabolic and chronic inflammatory diseases. Through its research master and PhD program NUTRIM aims to educate scientists of high academic excellence and ambassadors to support and develop the field of nutrition, metabolism and toxicology within and outside the Netherlands. Sixteen biomedical, clinical, and behavioural-science departments are incorporated within NUTRIM

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Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

This project is situated within the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology where a multidisciplinary team of biologists, chemists and toxicologists is working together to address mechanisms by which chemicals and oxidative stress alter cellular processes to cause diseases and study the way in which intervention is possible. To reach these goals, the department's laboratory is well equipped with facilities for chemical analysis including mass spectrometry (MS) and electron spin resonance (ESR), the analysis of DNA damage and multiple state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques.


  • PhD
  • Health; Food
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • AT2022.249


Maastricht University (UM)

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Universiteitssingel 50, 6229 ER, Maastricht

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