Samuel Sánchez wins an ERC Consolidator Grant to study the collective behaviour of self-propelled nanorobots


Samuel Sánchez, Group Leader at IBEC and ICREA Research Professor, has been awarded the prestigious “Consolidator Grant” of the European Research Council (ERC). With his i-NANOSWARMS project, Sánchez and his team at the Smart Nano-Bio-Devices Group will study the collective behaviour of nanorobots capable of self-propelling, and thus study their possible application in drug delivery and imaging diagnosis.

The highly sought-after ERC Consolidator grants are awarded to EU-based principal investigators with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after his PhD who have demonstrated talent and scientific potential.

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With an average funding of 2 million euros per project, granted by the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, selected researchers will be able to consolidate their research teams. In this call, 2453 proposals were submitted, of which 301 have now been selected for funding, with a total value of 600 million euros.

Thanks to this funding, provided for up to five years, Samuel Sánchez aims to study the collective behaviour of nanorobots with self-propelled capacity. So far, artificial nanobots had been explored at an individual level. The study of their collective behaviour, the one that arises from the interactions that occur between them through chemical and hydrodynamic fields and through environment mediated interactions is yet to be properly studied.

Sánchez explains that much progress has been made in recent years, since he and his colleagues in Dresden, Germany, developed in 2012 the first nanomotors that moved using toxic fuels. In a further step, researchers in Stuttgart and IBEC in Barcelona managed to make the nanomotor fuel biocompatible. According to Sánchez “Now, this is a great time to study how nanomotor swarms behave, the next step towards applications in fields such as medicine.”

Studying how nanoparticles are propelled, navigate and communicate in biological relevant environments can have a great impact on nanomedicine.

Samuel Sanchez, IBEC Group Leader

To this end, Samuel Sánchez and his team will develop, within the i-NANOSWARMS project, enzyme-powered nanobot swarms capable to self-propel using biocompatible and bioavailable fuels and display their cooperative behaviour by studying communication among them, as well as, with the host environment. In addition, the project will be a proof-of-concept of the applicability of intelligent nanoswarms for biomedical applications, for enhanced drug delivery and medical imaging.

Read the ERC press release here