I’ve always been interested in the correlation between structure and properties of molecules, their synthesis, characterization and biological activity. Therefore, I studied pharmacy and chemistry, and also completed a doctorate in organic chemistry. At that time, my research was mainly focused on the design, synthesis and photophysical investigation of phthalocyanine derivatives with improved photochemical properties and solubilities for the photodynamic therapy (PDT). My interests gradually shifted to photophysics and organometallic chemistry, as well as photoactive nanostructured materials. As a chemist, I like elegant approaches to novel structures; as a pharmacist, I want to find biomedical applications for them. My current scientific interests range from the design, synthesis and characterization of electroluminescent metal complexes for Organic Light Emitting Diodes technology (OLEDs), to the realization of multifunctional nanoarchitectures for (photo)biomedical applications.
OLEDs can be found in flexible displays and new efficient lighting technologies. They require electroluminescent materials that emit from the excited triplet state, and for this purpose I’m particularly interested in alternative heavy metal complexes. The research is funded by the BMBF in the frame of the project So-Light (www.so-light.de). We have recently discovered that it is possible to reach up to 90% photoluminescence quantum yield in gelating nanoassemblies of organometallic compounds by judiciously choosing the substituents of the ancillary ligands.
Nanotechnology will play a fundamental role in the therapeutic approaches of the future. Multifunctional systems at the nanometric scale should allow selective targeting of pathogens, label them (for diagnostic purposes) and kill them (therapy). It is important to show that such architectures can be rationally designed and realized with a straightforward approach, and that they are able to perform as expected. Light-driven materials are particularly interesting due to the low energies that characterize the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition, the affected area can be selectively addressed with a targeted light source, i.e., optical fibers. We have developed a new class of trifunctional hybrid nanoparticles that are able to simultaneously target, label and photoinactivate pathogenic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, using industry-standard dyes and a well-known solid support. These results were published in Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. (Abstract) as VIP (“Very Important Paper”, also cited in Chemistry World News (Article).