Thomas Michiels

CRIG member
Thomas Michiels

Doctoral fellow 
- Department of diagnostic sciences (Faculty of Medicine and Health sciences) 
- Department of biomolecular medicine, Center for Medical Genetics Ghent (Faculty of Medicine and Health sciences)
Principal investigator: prof. Bart Vandekerckhove (MD, PhD) 
Co-promotors: prof. Björn Menten (PhD), prof. Karim Vermaelen (MD, PhD) & prof. Filip Van Nieuwerburgh (PhD)


Research focus

In Flanders, more than 5000 individuals are diagnosed annually with lung cancer. Five years later, 85% of these individuals will have died despite intensive treatment. In response to these poor survival rates, the therapeutic focus has recently shifted towards a personalized approach with the development of cancer vaccines targeting neoepitopes. In this approach, the immune system is actively stimulated to recognize and attack tumor cells, while simultaneously establishing immunological memory for continuous tumor suppression. 

The neoepitopes, targeted by cancer vaccines, are highly tumor-specific antigens stemming from somatic mutations that arose during the developmental process of the tumor. Currently, neoepitopes are selected for each patient based on genetic heterogeneity, incorporating only those expressed by the majority of cancer cells into the vaccine design. However, this approach is not sensitive enough to detect small subpopulations of highly proliferative or metastatic cells that can induce relapse. 

My PhD project aims to optimize neoepitope vaccines by integrating both genetic and transcriptional heterogeneity into their design, which will allow us to zoom in on harder-to-eliminate subpopulations. To achieve this, we perform full-length single-cell RNA sequencing (Smartseq3express), as it can identify and characterize genetic and transcriptionally distinct subpopulations. With this approach, our goal is to incorporate, alongside tumor-wide neoepitopes, also neoepitopes targeting specific subpopulations into the vaccine design, enhancing its effectiveness and mediating long-term remission.


  • Master of Science Biomedical Sciences: Medical Genetics

Contact & links

  • Lab address: campus UZ Gent, MRB2 (entrance 38), Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Ghent
  • Thomas Michiels is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks