dr. Rein Verbeke (PhD)

CRIG member
Rein Verbeke

Postdoctoral researcher - Lab for General Biochemistry & Physical Pharmacy, Dept. Of Pharmaceutical Sciences (UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Stefaan De Smedt (PhD)


Research focus

The focus of our research has been the development of biomaterials for cancer immunotherapy, where a patient's own immune system is harnessed in the battle against cancer. In the last three decades, an improved understanding of the mRNA pharmacology, together with novel insights in immunology have positioned mRNA-based technologies as next-generation vaccines. In general, the success of an mRNA vaccine formulation will be determined on its capacity to deliver mRNA into antigen presenting cells, enabling transient production and presentation of mRNA-encoded antigens for T cell priming. In addition, the mRNA vaccines that are currently being evaluated in first-in-human trials depend on a self-adjuvant effect, associated with a type I interferon (IFN) response. However, this type I IFN immune cascade has the downside of inducing anti-mRNA (anti-viral) reactions, which makes it challenging to strike a balance between evoking a robust immune activation and obtaining adequate levels of mRNA expression.
My current research focused on the development of a lipid nanoparticle for the systemic delivery of mRNA to antigen presenting cells. In addition, we hypothesized that it could be of benefit to uncouple the translation and type I IFN activities of mRNA vaccines, and to replace the type I IFN response by another, but “smarter” adjuvant. As such, we proposed a novel nanovaccine for the co-delivery of “immunosilent” mRNA and the natural killer T cell activator α-GalCer. We were able to demonstrate that this GALSOME approach holds advantages over state-of-the-art mRNA vaccines, by providing a controllable, multifaceted, and effective antitumor immunity, especially when combined with checkpoint therapy.


Rein Verbeke obtained his Master’s Degree in Drug Development from Ghent University in 2013. In 2019, he obtained his PhD in pharmaceutical and medical sciences at Ghent University under the supervision of Prof. Stefaan De Smedt. His current work focuses on the development of nanoparticulate based strategies for cancer immunotherapy. His research interests include mRNA delivery, NKT cell biology, liposomal carriers and cancer immunology.

Rein is also active in science communication, and organizes the science festival “Pint of Science” (Bruges). 


Key publications

  • Broadening the Message: a nanovaccine Co-loaded with Messenger RNA and α-GalCer Induce Antitumor Immunity through Conventional and Natural Killer T Cells. ACS Nano, 2019 (PMID: 30742405)
  • Co-delivery of nucleoside-modified mRNA and TLR agonists for cancer immunotherapy: Restoring the immunogenicity of immunosilent mRNA. Journal of Controlled Release, 2017 (PMID: 28987878)
  • Nanoparticle design to induce tumor immunity and oppose the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Nano Today, 2014  (doi 10.1016/j.nantod.2014.10.001)
  • Particle-mediated intravenous delivery of antigen mRNA results in strong antigen-specific T cell Responses despite the induction of type I Interferon. Molecular Therapy-Nucleic acids, 2016 (PMID: 27327138)
  • Choose your models wisely: How different murine bone marrow-derived dendritic cell protocols influence the success of nanoparticulate vaccines in vitro. Journal of Controlled Release, 2014 (PMID: 24960224)

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