ERC-grant for Utrecht cancer scientist Sabrina Oliveira

Grant for exploring commercial potential of research

Pharmaceutical scientist Sabrina Oliveira received a Proof of Concept grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC announced the 62 awarded projects on July 25th. Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, aim to help researchers explore the commercial or societal potential of their work. Oliveira was awarded the grant to ascertain the technical and commercial viability of her recently developed therapy: nanobody-targeted photodynamic therapy for head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancer is the 6th most common type of cancer in Europe. The complexity of the head and neck region limits current treatment options. Photodynamic therapy is a promising local treatment approach capable of activating the immune system. In this treatment a non-toxic photosensitizer is administered and taken up by tumor cells before being activated by light of a specific wavelength. Activation with light effectively and quickly kill the tumor cells.

In 2016 Oliveira was awarded a ERC Starting Grant that enabled her to explore this new targeted therapy further, which was developed in 2012 when she received a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Research (NWO).