ERC success for Lorenzo Albertazzi

The Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine junior group leader was successful in the European Research Council’s 2017 call for Starting Grants, of which just 17 out of the total of 406 have been awarded to scientists working in Spain.

Lorenzo’s project, “Design of Nanomaterials for Targeted Therapies Guided by Super Resolution Imaging” (NANOSTORM), plans to use super resolution microscopy to examine nanomaterials that have potential as therapies for cancer, and understand their interactions with their target: the diseased cells. Doing so will help identify the key principles that are needed to rationally design the next generation of targeted, super-efficient cancer treatments

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“Nanomaterials such as self-assembled nanoparticles and nanofibers have huge potential as cancer therapies,” explains Lorenzo. “Nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems can identify the molecular markers of a disease very precisely and attack only the pathogenic cell population, leaving the healthy cells alone.”

So far, however, no targeted nanomaterial has been approved for clinical use, because there’s a lack of knowledge about how these materials behave and react with their surroundings once they’re in the body.

Lorenzo’s group at IBEC is home to a Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscope (STORM) which offers unprecedented high-resolution imaging, even at the nanoscale. The NANOSTORM project plans to use STORM to image new, synthesized nanomaterials in the biological environment, unveiling their interactions with healthy and tumorous tissues at the single molecule level for the first time ever.

“If we can see how nanoparticles respond in the body, we’re much closer to being able to design better ones that target drugs much more effectively to tumors,” says Lorenzo. “NANOSTORM will focus on prostate cancer in particular, but its principles of high resolution imaging of subcellular structures will be applicable to all sorts of cancers.”

This latest grant puts IBEC’s all-time ERC count to twelve.

Left: NANOSTORM will use super resolution STORM microscopy will generate new knowledge about material–cell interactions to guide the development of targeted cancer therapies