Joke Devoldere


Joke Devoldere

Laboratory for General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy
Ghent University
Ottergemsesteenweg 460
9000 Gent
Tel: 0032 9 2648047 (secretary)
Tel: 0032 9 264 8360 (direct)




PhD Candidate and Teaching assistant of FWO-Vlaanderen and Ghent University at the Lab of General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy (Faculty of  Pharmaceutical Sciences)
PhD dissertation: “Potential and pitfalls of non-viral mRNA delivery for ocular therapies” with focus on the intracellular immune system

Master in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ghent University
Master thesis: “Optimization of ultrasound induced transfection and elucidating the sonoporation mechanism with confocal microscopy”, at the Ghent Research Group on Nanomedicines
Magna cum laude

Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Magna cum laude


Ph.D. fellowship of the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO)
Research interests:
Non-viral gene therapy, lipid-based delivery, modified mRNA, intracellular innate immunity, ocular delivery, intravitreal, subretinal, cellular barriers, vitreal mobility
Educational tasks:

•    Lab instructor and tutor for the Pharmaceutical Bachelor Proof (2013-2015)
•    3 years of teaching assistant for the practical courses on the subject of Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy (2015-2017)
•    Supervisor of 5 student’s during their Master/Bachelor thesis (2014-2018)
•    Supervision of 2 students of the Honours Programme in Life Sciences (2016-2018)
•    Tutor Problem-based learning 2nd Bachelor (2014-2018)

Grants, awards & prizes

November 2015: “Best poster” award 3rd International mRNA Health Conference, Berlin, Germany

April 2016: “Best poster” award 6th Student Research Symposium, Ghent, Belgium

December 2016: Award of 10.000 from the Funds for Research in Ophthalmology (FRO)

September 2017: Award for “best oral presentation” at F-tales meeting on Nanomaterials in Biomedical Sciences, Ghent, Belgium

Summary of Research Project(s)

My research project focuses on the non-viral delivery of chemically modified mRNA for ocular therapies.
Retinal cell degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss and irreversible blindness in many ocular diseases. Despite ongoing efforts to find new treatments, there are currently few effective options in the clinic. Given the benefits that the retina offers as a target tissue, it has been at the forefront of clinical gene therapy. However, the risk of insertional mutagenesis and unpredictable duration of protein expression, still remain a critical concern for the use of pDNA- and viral vector-based therapeutics.





picture Joke

In this project, we unraveled, for the first time, the potential of non-viral mRNA delivery for ocular applications. After overviewing the different strategies that can be used to suppress the innate immune response induced by synthetic mRNA, we focused on one specific cell type which makes an ideal target for mRNA-based retinal gene delivery, namely the Müller cell. Aiming to efficiently transfect these cell types, we evaluated the use of two non-viral lipid-based carriers and determined the localization and extent of mRNA expression after administration in vitro, ex vivo to bovine retinal explants and in vivo injections in mice. My research showed that mRNA has substantial potential to induce the expression of proteins in the retina. We found that the physicochemical properties of the particles are crucial to efficiently deliver the mRNA molecule to its target site. Finding the right delivery materials will therefore be of major importance for the future development of mRNA-based retinal therapies.