Collaborative structure


SENDER aggregates the expertise and efforts of its team members by applying best practices in common activities. The SENDER team encompasses expertise in all aspects of nano(bio)materials for their use and application in medicine, mainly in their design, synthesis, biodistribution & biological fate, pharmacology, toxicology & physico-chemical characterization. All partner institutions are internationally respected over multiple sectors. Combination of complementary profiles, together with broad perspective of the design, medical use and risk assessment of nanotechnology, ensures a prosperous and rewarding working environment. The SENDER team members have been selected for their competence, track record, synergy and complementarities, collectively bringing together the infrastructure, resources, equipment and specialist expertise to meet the project’s impact-focused aims and objectives. All team members will undertake specific tasks (see PZS-2019-Work plan for full details) according to their particular facilities and expertise.

Project leader is Dr Ivana Vinković Vrček, who pioneered safety-oriented research in Croatian nanomedicine. Indeed, her research group is a unique multidisciplinary team in the Republic of Croatia focused on nanomedicine with expertise in risk assessment of nanomaterials for biomedical applications, interaction of nanomaterials with biological systems, and synthesis, characterisation & functionalization of nanoparticles for biomedical applications. This multidisciplinary team has expertise in chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry and medicine. Dr Vinković Vrček is leader of a number of national and bilateral research projects, member of European Foundation for Clinical Nanomedicine, BioNanoNet and involved in the Nano4P Flagship Initiative. She actively participates in H2020 project RiskGone and different COST actions in the field of nanomedicine and nanosafety. Her group performs groundbreaking activities and efforts in Croatian nanomedicine, which has resulted in significant enlargement of collaborative actions with other European and international nanomedicine groups. A special emphasis of her work is the investigation of nano-bio interactions as core element of Safe-by-Design approach to development of innovative nanomedical tools. From the instrumental point of view, she will be responsible for UV-Vis, fluorescence and CD spectroscopy, ICP-MS, DLS and ELS. Besides project management, her main engagement during project will be to lead design and development of BRaiND, as well as to guide implementation of Safe-by-Design approach into SENDER strategy. She will be supervisor of PhD student employed within the project.

Project co-leader Dr Frances Separovicis an internationally recognized expert in biology, mathematics and physics, which provides a strong foundation for research in biophysical chemistry and NMR spectroscopy. Her primary research interest is the determination of the structure and dynamics of membrane components in situ using solid-state NMR spectroscopy and has published in the area of amyloid peptides from Alzheimer’s disease. She is very active in the area of membrane biophysics and structural biology and is Secretary of the Biophysical Society (USA) and member of IUPAB Council, former President of Australian & New Zealand Society for Magnetic Resonance (ANZMAG), past-President of the Australian Society for Biophysics (ASB); a committee member of International Society for Magnetic Resonance (ISMAR); former treasurer of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the Lorne Protein Conference. Frances has organized > 40 major national and international conferences and published over 230 peer reviewed papers. Her contributions to biophysics and NMR have been recognized by awards including 2009 ASB Robertson Medal and 2011 ANZMAG Medal. In 2017 Frances was named an IUPAC Distinguished Woman of Chemistry/Chemical Engineering and inducted in the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2018. F. Šeparović will be responsible for NMR and AFM evaluation of interaction between BRaiND and biomembranes (model, BBB, in vitro and in vivo). She will co-manage SENDER and co-supervise newly employed PhD student and Post-Doc.

Željko Debeljak, PhD, has a wide-ranging expertise in drug design, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical data investigation and interpretation, which is of great relevance to the Project objectives. His hands-on and technical skills include analytical development of methods based on liquid chromatography, electrophoresis and mass spectrometry in GLP environment. He is responsible for pharmacokinetic profiling and biodistribution studies of BRaiND employing LC-MS/MS and iMScope TRIO Imaging Mass Microscope, but will also help during BRaiND design. He will supervise Post-Doc to become expert in employing LC-MS/MS and iMScope TRIO Imaging Mass Microscope in pharmacology of nano-enabled drug delivery systems.

Ivan Pavičić is a molecular biologist, experienced in different cell culture setups and wide range of methods molecular biology and biochemistry. He is engaged in research of interaction between BRaiND with BBB and human brain cells. His responsibilities include cell culture laboratory, fluorescence microscopy, SDS-PAGE, Western blotting and microplate reader measurements.

Marija Ćurlin is a molecular biologist experienced in hysto- and cytopathology, techniques of molecular biology and electron microscopy. She is responsible for employing immunocyto(hysto)pathology, TEM and flow cytometry techniques for safety assessment and biodistribution studies on human brain cells and animals.

Barbara Pem is pharmacists with 2-years experience in design, synthesis, characterization and transformation of innovative nanomaterials for medicine. She is currently engaged in the complementary project NanoFaceS (HRZZ-IP-2016-06-2436), which is led by I. Vinković Vrček. Her extraordinary skills are valuable for development of BRaiND and evaluation of their interaction and fate in biological environment.

Krunoslav Ilić is molecular biologist with 5-years experience in wide range of cell experiments. He is currently engaged in the complementary project NanoFaceS (HRZZ-IP-2016-06-2436), which is led by I. Vinković Vrček, and is engaged in evaluation of permeability studies, cell targeting and safety evaluation of BRaiND.

Marc-Antoine Sani, PhD, is a senior post-doctoral fellow with expertise in membrane biophysics and solid-state NMR spectroscopy. He is engaged in investigation of interaction of BRaiND with biomembranes and BBB. 

Shiying Zhu, MSc, is a PhD student whose research project is based on biological solid-state NMR studies of biological membranes. He closely collaborates with M-A. Sani on interaction of BRaiND with biomembranes and BBB using solid-state NMR. 

Nikolina Kalčec – PhD student is engaged for design, development, characterization of BraiND and their interactions with proteins, biomembranes and BBB.