POLYTHEA – Design and photo-optimization of photosensitizers for human health and food security applications – or “How light can save lives” – is a network gathering 7 universities, 4 industrial partners and 1 research institute. The development of active compounds that can efficiently fight microbial infections and cancer are of upmost importance for food security and human health, two main challenges for Europe. Tetrapyrrolic photosensitizers (PS) are good candidates to meet these expectations. These photo-excitable molecules induce cell death via the formation of oxygen reactive species (ROS) and present very low toxicity in the absence of light. They are already used in photodynamic therapy (PDT) for cancer or skin disease treatments or in photo-antimicrobial chemo-therapy (PACT). Unfortunately, the research and training are still largely fragmented in this field in Europe. Some scientific barriers have to be overcome to increase their efficacy, e.g. improvement of the excitation pathways, ROS production, specific cell targeting, Gram (-) bactericidal effect and prevention and/or eradication of biofilms. The Polythea consortium proposes to develop through 10 fellowships:
- New tetrapyrrolic PS for various types of PDT including anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-activating application, improving their photophysical and biological properties;
- Innovative bio-inspired drug carriers or supports.
In parallel, a multidisciplinary and inter-sectorail training program will be implemented through network events and secondments to non-academic partners. I will provide a common background on PDT to the ESRs, equip them with transferable skill, train them in problem solving and advance their career prospects.