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Functionalized Magnetic Nanoparticles and their Application in Chemistry and Biomedicine

Final Report Summary - MAG(NET)ICFUN (Functionalized Magnetic Nanoparticles and their Application in Chemistry and Biomedicine)

The Marie Curie Initial Training Network Mag(net)icFun – Functionalized Magnetic Nanoparticles and their application in Chemistry and Biomedicine - consisting of six academic and four industrial partners, investigates magnetic nanoparticles in an interdisciplinary setting between Material Science, Chemistry, Biology and Medicine. 12 ESRs (early-stage researchers) aiming at their PhD degree and two experienced researchers (ERs) work in the fields of material design, catalysis, bioanalytics and biomedicine, in addition, a total of 16 ESRs who are conducting their PhD outside of Mag(net)icFun were invited for short research stays (3-6 months) to broaden the network. By April 2017, 9 out of the 12 ESRs will have been awarded their PhD, six of those are receiving a dual degree PhD degree from two partner institutions. The ESRs and ERs had the opportunity to do at least one secondment within the network, both with academic or industrial partners.
The key aspect of Mag(net)icFun is the development of magnetic nanoparticles as platforms for various and diverse applications. Those included the development of smart catalysts that can be rapidly retrieved with the aid of a magnet, magnetic scavengers to remove toxic metals from environment, agents for magnetic resonance imaging or hypothermia, or biogenic magnetic nanoparticles for cellular magnetic response. While each ESR worked on their specific project, owing to the network and exchange between the partners through network meetings and secondments, many collaborations were started, being documented by joint publications. As of March 31, 2017, the scientific outcome during the four years of project duration could be published in more than 50 peer reviewed articles (source WebofScience, search string Grant No “290248” or “MagneticFun”), many of those were jointly published by two or more network partners.

The published articles have received an extraordinary high reception in the scientific community (570 citations, i.e. > 10 per article) and beyond (coverage in newsmagazines, radio and TV stations, internet blogs). In addition, more than 35 peer reviewed publications related to the topic of Mag(net)icFun but supported from other funding sources were published by the partners.
Equally important, an extensive training program is organized for the fellows. 7 work-shops have been held at project partner institutions ICIQ Taragona, ETH Zürich, IITG Genoa, University of Regensburg (2x), Trinity College Dublin, University of Keele / Nanotherics, focusing on scientific as well as on soft skill training such as scientific writing and presentation, entrepreneurship, or intellectual property. In addition, the ESRs took part in various training measures at their respective host institutions, both scientific and non-scientific courses, especially they were taking language classes. Besides their direct PhD work, the ESRs also took part in various outreach activities such as Science Days, Girls Science Days, Public Speaking and also had the chance to give interviews to magazines, radio and TV stations about their work (The Guardian (GB), NBC News (USA), La Stampa (IT), Arte (TV), Radio1Rai, ChemiePlus, Nachrichten aus Chemie etc.). Included into the American Chemical Society conference 2015 in Boston (>13000 participants), Mag(net)icFun organized a dedicated symposium – open to all participants of the ACS meeting - on Magnetic Nanoparticles with internationally renowned speakers from the US, Europe and Asia. Within this symposium, all ESRs were also giving presentations on their PhD work.

Mag(net)icFun has had four successful project years and we are proud to have helped assist the careers of 14 junior scientists having worked within as well as 16 visiting ESRs from outside of the network. The ESRs who have finished their PhD have subsequently found employment in academia or industry. Notably, one of the ESRs has founded the company Haelixa to commercialize some of the technologies she developed during her work within the Mag(net)icFun project. This endeavor has already received significant recognition (RSC Emerging Technology Competition finalists, Venture Leaders, Nominated for IChemE awards) as well as financial support (funding as an “ETH Pioneer” by the ETH Foundation, Winner of the Venture-Kick Initiative (total of 130’000 CHF investment), further research funding by the Gebert-Rüf-Foundation). The company was recently selected as one of the “Top 50 Swiss Startups” by the magazine “Bilan” and was featured in “The Economist” on March 16th 2017.
Several developments relevant for society have been made by Mag(net)icFun: For example, functionalized magnetic nanoparticles that are able to remove mercury from contaminated water down to levels that are acceptable for drinking water were successfully established on large-scale. Nanomaterials based on DNA comprising nano-tags have been developed: With these novel materials, various hydrophobic liquids such as olive oil can be tagged allowing to establish at any time their identity and origin by reading out the DNA in the tag. Applications in biomedicine such as nanomagnetic gene transfection as tool for molecular neurobiology studies, or in catalysis such as nanocubes for the efficient oxidation of toxic carbon monoxide. These applications how the diversity that are possible with functionalized magnetic nanoparticles.

Mag(net)icFun (
Prof. Dr. Oliver Reiser (Coordinator)
University of Regensburg, Germany