The international conference “Recent achievements in nanotechnology – 10th anniversary of the BNT Center of the University of Bialystok”

The International Conference “Recent Advances in Nanotechnology – 10th Anniversary of the BNT Center of the University of Bialystok” was held in the period from 28/05 to 01/06/2023 at the University Campus in Bialystok, 1K Ciolkowskiego Str., Bialystok, Poland.

The conference was attended by dr. sc. Nikolina Kalčec and Nikolina Peranić, mag. chem., where they both held their oral lectures.

Dr. sc. Nikolina Kalčec gave a lecture on the topic “Mass Spectrometry Imaging for Nephrotoxicity Evaluation of Different Doxorubicin Formulations” (PHOENIX and SENDER), while Nikolina Peranić, mag. chem presented “In vivo efficacy testing of nanodrugs for Parkinson’s disease treatment” (SENDER).

The main goal of the conference was to create an international platform for the exchange of scientific ideas on the topic of nanotechnology.

The topics were divided into three main thematic panels covering issues related to nanomaterials, their characteristics, applications and biological activity.

Main topics discussed during the meeting:

  • Diversity of nanomaterials
  • Functionalization of nanomaterials
  •  Characterization and modifications of nanomaterials
  • Applications of nanomaterials
  • Nanocomposites
  • Toxicity of nanomaterials

The conference is co-financed from the state budget under the “Doskonała nauka” program, Recent achievements is nanotechnology – 10-th anniversary of BNT Center University of Bialystok (contract no. DNK/SP/548576/2022), project value 124 500 PLN, co-financing 109 000 PLN.

Symposium “Synergy at the interface of chemistry and nanotechnology” – SinChemNano2023

On May 26, 2023, the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Medicine hosted a second symposium organized as part of the SENDER project (HRZZ-PZS-2019-02-4323) and financed and supported under the “Scientific Cooperation” program implemented by the Croatian Foundation for science through funds from the European Social Fund.

The organizing committee of the symposium included the manager of the SENDER project, Dr. Ivana Vinković Vrček, Dr. Nikolina Kalčec, Nikolina Peranić, mag. chem. and Ivan Mamić, mag. pharm., members of the Nanobiofaces research group.

The symposium was opened by the project manager, Dr. Ivana Vinković Vrček, followed by a plenary lecture by Dr. Martine Lihter, from the Institute of Physics. In addition to the attractive plenary lecture, there were also short oral presentations on topics in the field of chemistry and nanotechnology by numerous colleagues from the Institute of Physics, the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Medicine, the Faculty of Physics in Rijeka and the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka.

Nikolina Kalčec’s PhD Dissertation Defense

Dr. sc. Nikolina Kalčec, mag. Appl. chem. Has successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Design and characterization of gold and selenium nanoparticles as potential systems for the delivery of levodopa and dopamine”, under the mentorship of dr. sc. Ivan Vinković Vrček, scientific advisor and prof. emer. Frances Separovic. The defense was held on May 12, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. in lecture room 222 of the Chemistry Department of the Faculty of Science and Mathematics of the University of Zagreb.

Dr. sc. Kalčec defended her dissertation under the title “Design and characterization of gold and selenium nanoparticles as potential systems for the delivery of levodopa and dopamine” before a committee composed of: prof. dr. sc. Snežana Miljanić from the Faculty of Science and Mathematics; assoc. dr. sc. Marko Močibob from the Faculty of Science and Mathematics and dr. sc. Maja Dutour Sikirić, senior research associate at the Ruđer Bošković Institute.

With this, Nikolina Kalčec has successfully completed her post-graduate study in Chemistry, obtaining the title: Doctor of Science.

Podcast “Pod mikroskopom” – Nanotechnologies in Medicine

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In the new episode of the podcast “Pod mikroskopom” dr. sc. Ivana Vinković Vrček talks about the development and application of nanotechnology in diagnosis and medicines and about the benefits and risks of their use.

The podcast, organized by the Student Union of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, University of Zagreb and the Association of Students of Pharmacy and Medical Biochemistry of Croatia, can be listened to at the following links:

Invitation to the symposium “Synergy at the interface of chemistry-nanotechnology” – SinChemNano2023

On behalf of the scientific and organizational committee, we are pleased to invite you to the symposium “Synergy at the interface of chemistry and nanotechnology” which will be held on May 26th, starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb (Ksaverska cesta 2).

The meeting is organized by the research group of the project “Safe approach for the development of nano-systems for the targeted delivery of drugs to the brain – SENDER” financed under the “Scientific Cooperation” Program implemented by the Croatian Science Foundation through the funds of the European Social Fund (led by Dr. Ivana Vinković Vrček ). The meeting is organized in cooperation with the Croatian Chemical Society and the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health.

The aim of this interdisciplinary meeting is to present and connect research groups dealing with topics in the field of nanotechnology, and to establish cooperation between different institutions and exchange experiences.

Young researchers will have the opportunity to present their research or the research of their groups in the form of a presentation, the expected duration of which is 10 minutes. The symposium will be held in English, so we ask all those interested to send their abstracts in English by May 19, 2023 at 12:00 to the email addresses and

Please forward this notice to anyone who may be interested.

We look forward to meeting you!

“The problem of plastic is already evident in the increase in the incidence of diseases and disease states that we did not know before, such as autoimmune diseases and infertility”

Author: Ana Herceg, 23. March 2023 for Poslovni dnevnik

Ivana Vinković Vrček/L. Stanzl/PIXSELL

Ivana Vinković Vrček, consultant at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health about the problem of exposure of the human body to complex mixtures of different chemicals, toxins, materials and micro and nanoplastic particles, but also about the great success of her team in the design of nanoformulation of drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Ivana Vinković Vrček, scientific advisor at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb, is a pioneer in research into the safety assessment of new materials and nanomaterials in Croatia. Her research work on the development of new approaches to regulatory-oriented testing of the effectiveness and safety of chemicals and materials enabled her to play a leading role in projects funded by the European programs Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.

She is an extremely active mentor to young scientists, so she currently supervises nine doctoral students and three postdoctoral students, and her exceptional success in managing projects and mentoring doctoral theses is also visible through publication in renowned journals and the engagement of young researchers. Ivana participates as a volunteer in the work of expert councils and commissions – Thematic Innovation Council for Health and Quality of Life and the Program Committee for Nanotechnology of the European Food Safety Agency.

Climate change caused by pollution and the filling of our planet with plastic are among the most current topics today. The fact is that only a very small percentage of plastic can be recycled, so we will never actually be able to get rid of it. But it turns out that the fact that it is around us is a smaller problem, and the fact that she has become a part of us is much bigger. What do we inhale, what do we drink, what do we eat, that is, what do we put into the body and what poses the greatest danger?

The exposure of a person during his life is an extremely demanding problem from the aspect of risk assessment, because we are exposed to complex mixtures of different chemicals, toxins, materials, including, among others, particles of micro and nanoplastics. Therefore, one of the main goals of the European Union (EU) strategy for a sustainable climate-neutral and circular economy is to protect human health and the environment by addressing pollution from all sources, as stated by the European Green Deal program.

Current EU legislation does not provide a comprehensive and integrated risk assessment of the combined effects of different chemicals and materials taking into account different routes of exposure, while the regulatory requirements for mixtures have not changed significantly since 2012 despite being a research priority since 2001.

The problem is further compounded by plastic all around us. Plastic is a central material for modern life because it is a multi-purpose, resistant, easy to process and affordable material. Despite this, its use has become a problem due to the increasing pollution of the environment with plastic. In addition, plastic in the environment is subject to slow photo-, chemical, physical and biological degradation and fragmentation into micro- and nano-particles.

Chronic human exposure to plastic is already a health problem – from nanoplastics in cosmetics and synthetic fibers in clothing to plastic particles in water and air. We interact with plastic without fully understanding what it means for our planet, much less for our own bodies. Understanding plastics, their additives and how they interact with our bodies is now more critical than ever. Analysis of human feces has shown that micro-sized plastic particles can be excreted through the gastrointestinal tract.

Plastic particles have also been detected in human colectomy samples, human blood and human placental tissue. Considering the specific physico-chemical properties and reactivity of materials on the nanoscale, plastic micro/nanoparticles can adsorb and accumulate toxic chemicals from the environment, acting as a “Trojan horse” for hazardous substances, thus further complicating the risk assessment that needs to take into account the effects, action and toxicity of complex, complex mixtures.

With the aim of minimizing the possible harmful effect of economic activities on the ecosystem, the EU has launched a series of plans and programs, including the 8th Environment Action Programme, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment, the EU Strategy on Chemicals for sustainability towards a toxin-free environment, the Resolution towards an EU Comprehensive Framework on Endocrine Disruptors (2019/2683(RSP)), the Commission’s Communication on Endocrine Disruptors and the Biodiversity Strategy.

If the environment is so contaminated with microplastics and nanoplastics and the composition of the land, air and water has changed so much, is it even possible to grow an animal somewhere in the world or produce food that is ecological, 100 percent clean and healthy?

This is a difficult question and it is not possible to give a simple and unequivocal answer. However, it should be taken into account that every human activity, both in the past and now, is also the cause of public health problems.

For example, cooking food on open fires in the past represented an extreme danger to human health, despite the fact that food may have been richer in macronutrients and micronutrients. Since the problem today is the excessive production of exhaust gases on the roads, it should be taken into account that the former heating with fossil fuels also polluted the atmosphere, that is, the air we breathe.

I would say that it is not possible to live in a health-free environment, because every development of the economy and the implementation of human activities implies changing the environment and the conditions in which we live.

However, the key question is what and what the cost of development is. Therefore, the main idea of ​​the European strategy on chemicals for sustainability towards a toxin-free environment is to promote sustainable development that includes concern for human health. It should be kept in mind that everyday human activities should also be modified in the direction of sustainability.

Therefore, EU legislation is moving in the direction of banning the use of single-use plastic products. For example, it is completely unsustainable to buy coffee in a disposable plastic cup, mix it with a disposable plastic spoon and then, after drinking the coffee, throw it all in the trash.

At the same time, it should be noted that a huge amount of such waste really ends up in a landfill, and does not go through the circular economy. I am afraid that the problems with plastic will not be solved without legislative decrees and bans. By nature, people are prone to conformism and comfortable behavior. Thus, most people would rather buy a drink in a single-use plastic packaging, which they will throw away after consuming the drink, than to buy the same drink in a returnable glass packaging.

How does all this ultimately affect the human body? And what do we pass on to new generations?

The problem with plastic escalated precisely because of the lack of restrictions, regulations and neglect of the fact that people are comfortable and lazy by nature. The price will be paid by the new generations, and the problem is already evident in the increase in the incidence of diseases and disease states that we did not know before, such as autoimmune diseases and infertility.

American scientist Dr. Shanna Swan (professor of ecology and public health at one of the most prestigious American medical schools, the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York) claims that this especially affects our ability to reproduce. Her terrifying research shows that in the past 70 years, since the increased production of plastic and PVC, the number of sperm in men has drastically decreased, and if it continues to decrease at the same pace until 2050, that number will be zero! Further, in the American Center for Disease Control, she came across research that found high levels of phthalates in the urine of pregnant women and reduced levels of testosterone in the male children they gave birth to. What is your view of the future, will plastic really exterminate us in the end?

Again, I have to admit that it is difficult for me to give a simple answer to that question. All the information you provided is correct. My research group is also intensively dealing with the problem of human exposure to complex mixtures with nanoplastics that can have a negative effect on our endocrine system.

For example, we discovered that non-toxic concentrations of drugs, preservatives and additives are very toxic and disturb the hormonal balance when human cells are exposed to mixtures of these non-toxic concentrations, and especially when nanoplastics are introduced into the mixture. This actually means that the paradigm of classical toxicology is completely changing and that it is no longer reasonable to examine the effects of a single chemical or material, but it is necessary to apply a holistic approach and investigate the effects of complex mixtures.

And what now? Can we change anything anymore? How much sense do all these green and sustainable policies that governments and all big business players who care about reputation and consumers have? And what influence can we as individuals have?

All the research and all the ingenious scientific results are completely useless if man himself does not change his behavior. If each individual does not stop behaving unreasonably and, dare I say it, arrogantly. For example, why is it necessary to change the wardrobe every year, why do we have to buy products packed in 5 types of packaging, why is it necessary to change the car every 5 years, why is it necessary to go to work by private car and not by public transport or, if at all possible, by bike or on foot… I can go on and on. Our behavior must be reasonable at every level and in every occasion, both at home, in the workplace and on the street. Considering that it is difficult to expect that people will radically change their behavior patterns on their own, this should be imposed on them not only by decrees, laws and prohibitions, but the state apparatus should also engage experts in shaping public opinion who would design and organize actions and promotions of the so-called conscientious and socially responsible behavior.

What is your research group currently working on?

I lead an exceptional multidisciplinary research team in which young, talented people of different profiles work, from chemists, chemical technologists, biologists, biochemists, pharmacists and all the way to doctors.

We are currently active on 4 large projects in the field of nanomedicine and risk assessment, which are financed as part of the Horizon program of the European Union and the European Social Fund.

One of our biggest current achievements is the success of our idea to design nanoformulation drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

The results of our research showed that design based on biogenic components is more effective and represents a real innovation.

“Nano2Clinic – Synergies for Clinical Translation of Nanotechnology in Cancer Therapies” meeting held

The scientific conference Nano2Clinic – Synergies for Clinical Translation of Nanotechnology in Cancer Therapies was held on March 3 in the Great Hall of Školska knjiga in Zagreb. The event was organized under Nano2Clinic: Cost Action CA17140 – Cancer nanomedicine – from the bench to the bedside. With the support of ‘’Pharmaceutical Open Innovation Test Bed for Enabling Nano-pharmaceutical Innovative Products’’ – PHOENIX (funded by European Union Horizon 2020 Programme under grant agreement nº 953110) and ‘’Safe-by-Design Approach for Development of Nano-Enabled Delivery Systems to Target the Brain’’ – SENDER (funded by the European Social Fund).

The local organizer of the meeting was the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb under the leadership of Ivana Vinković Vrček, while additional support was provided by seven sponsors (Biovit, AlphaChrom, Croatian Tourist Board, City of Zagreb, Yasenka, Medic, Gorea Plus). The scientific program of the lectures focused mainly on three factors discussed by the participants: safety aspects, regulatory aspects and aspects of training and education for a well-qualified workforce and patients. The event was attended by 47 participants from as many as 15 countries.

The meeting was officially opened by the main organizer Ivana Vinković Vrček, after which the deputy director Irena Brčić Karačonji gave a few words on behalf of the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health. Afterwards, Ivica Malnar from HALMED, the agency for medicinal products and medical devices, gave an introductory lecture on the Croatian market and regulations.

After the introductory greetings and lectures, presentations on the goals and successes of the Nano2Clinic and Phoenix projects followed by the lecturers: Sabrina Pricl, University of Trieste, CA17140 Chair; Cost Action CA17140 Nano2Clinic achievements and lecturers: Nazende Günday-Türeli, MyBiotech GmbH, PHOENIX-OITB Coordinator; PHOENIX-OITB project presentation.

 Then, in the second part, the topic of discussion was best practice, where presentations were given by lecturers: Elisabet Gonzales, Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (CSIC)-CIBER-BBN; Best practice: Clinical translation of orphan nanodrug, and lecturer: Marija Plodinec, CEO ARTIDIS; Best practice: Nanotool for cancer diagnostics.

In the third section of the meeting, there were three presentations on the importance of regulations by the lecturers: Jon de Vlieger, Strategy Director at Foundation Ligature; International regulatory advances for Nanomedicines and their follow-ons, lecturer: Mike Isles, Executive Director, The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines; The importance of having the right policies and regulations in place to ensure patient safety – the case for nanomedicines, lecturer: Marco Giardiello, University of Liverpool, British Society for Nanomedicine; Novel Approaches to Theranostic Nanomedicine Design.

 Lastly, the final three presentations on risk assessments of nanomedicines were held by the lecturers: Ulf Kahlert, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg, Faculty of Medicine; Target efficacy vs. Off-target risk of nanodrugs: Lessons learned from individualization of chemotherapies using co-clinical organoid test system, lecturer: Blanca Suarez Merino, Regulatory Affairs Director, Nanotechnology Industries Association NIA; Regulatory aspects of clinical translation of nano-enabled products, lecturer: Maria Dusinska, RiskGone Project Coordinator, Norwegian Institute for Air Research – NILU; Risk Assessment in Nanomedicine.

The presentations were followed with great attention by the participants, and each lecture was followed by a rich discussion. The ceremonial closing of the meeting was enriched by the Ethno Club Zagreb, where the dancers through song and dance, presented Croatian cultural heritage, thus brightening everyone’s mood.

This meeting aimed to strengthen relationships between industry, the R&D&I sector, regulatory agencies, clinics, and patients with the ultimate goal of fostering the clinical transfer of nanomedicine from table to bedside. By promoting scientific exchange, technological implementation, and innovative solutions, the meeting enabled a dialogue to rationalize and focus EU-level research efforts in the face of the great challenge of translating nanomedicine for cancer therapies.

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International Day of Women in Science

On Friday, February 10, 2023, IMI joined the Zagreb University of Applied Health Sciences in celebrating the International Day of Women in Science.

On that occasion, IMI scientists gave two expert lectures to the gathered students, external collaborators and teachers of the University under the titles:

  • Nanotechnology in modern medicine (Dr Ivana Vinković Vrček)
  • The importance of communication skills in science (Dr Sanja Stipičević).

The participants of the event were presented with the new research capacities of IMI and current international projects on the application of in vivo and in vitro methods for assessing the safety and effectiveness of nanomedicines. Through several examples of public health communication campaigns, the need to strengthen communication between scientists and society was emphasized.

We would like to thank the University for the invitation and warm friendship.


Nano2Clinic – Synergies for Clinical Translation of Nanotechnology in Cancer Therapies

March 3rd, 2023 – Zagreb, Croatia

Školska knjiga – The Great Hall, Masarykova Street 28

Nanotechnologies fundamentally change the current therapies and enable development of novel treatments and diagnostic approaches. The improvements in medical therapies and diagnostic achieved through innovative medical nanoproducts has a great and direct clinical importance and provide benefits for the patients. Hence, best practices in design and development of such nanoproducts will contribute to societal prosperity and welfare, by providing access to better and safer treatments.

This meeting aims to strengthen relations between industry, R&D&I sector, regulatory agencies, clinics, and patients with the ultimate goal of fostering the clinical translation of nanomedicine from bench to bedside. By promoting scientific exchanges, technological implementation and innovative solutions, the meeting will enable dialogue for rationalizing and focusing research efforts at the EU level in dealing with the grand challenge of nanomedicine translation for cancer therapies.

The meeting will focus on several factors that need to be discussed and considered in order to achieve the best societal impact:

1) Safety aspects: by discussing the best practices for the application of the Safe-by-Design concept during early stages of development and production of novel medical nanoproducts.

2) Regulatory aspects: by discussing necessary steps for regulatory acceptance of novel nanoproducts.

3) Training and education aspects for a solid skilled workforce and patients: by facilitating and expanding cross-disciplinary training for researchers, medical care providers, public health professionals working in industry, government, and academia, as well as for patients.

Participation is free of charge. If you would like to register, sign up with the link down below until the 20th of February 2023.

Organizer: NANO2CLINIC: Cost Action CA17140 –
Cancer nanomedicine – from the bench to the bedside

Supported by: PHOENIX-OITB: Pharmaceutical Open Innovation Test Bed for Enabling Nano-pharmaceutical Innovative Products

SENDER: Safe-by-Design Approach for Development of Nano-Enabled Delivery Systems to Target the Brain

Local organizer:
Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb, Croatia

For updated information and agenda visit:

The PHOENIX-OITB project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon  2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 953110. COST Action CA 17140 “Cancer Nanomedicine from the Bench to the Bedside”  is supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology).  SENDER Safe-by-Design Approach for Development of Nano-Enabled-Delivery Systems to Target the Brain is a project financed within the “Research Cooperability” Program of the Croatian Science Foundation funded from the European  Social Fund.