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Final Report Summary - VAIKUTUS (Novel inorgano-bioorganic nanocomposites for biomedical and engineering applications)

VAIKUTUS is an international and multidisciplinary consortium that joins together scientists from 5 countries of 3 continents: Finland, Italy, Brazil, South Africa, and Ukraine. Project is coordinated by the Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry (EOK) of the University of Helsinki (Prof. Dr Andriy Grafov). VAIKUTUS in Finnish means “effect”, “action”. So, principal objective is an action for establishing a long-lasting collaboration that will promote mutual exchanges of research staff and transfer of knowledge. VAIKUTUS includes the Institute for Energetics and Interphases (Padua) and the Institute of Chemistry and Technology of Polymers (Naples), both from the National Research Council of Italy; Prof. E.B.Mano Institute of Macromolecules of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil); The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Cape Town, South Africa), and the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the National Academy of Sciences (Kiev, Ukraine). Main scientific goal of project is the development of knowledge-based inorgano-bioorganic NCs, high-added value biodegradable polymers and composites, tailor made functional coatings, drug delivery vectors, bioactive compounds, pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulas through valorisation of regional natural resources, plant biodiversity, and scientific expertise.
Expertise of the partners is mutually complementary; it encompasses synthesis and testing of new inorganobioorganic NCs for treatment of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and cancer. Nowadays, cancer is the second cause of death in Western countries. 90 % of chemotherapy’s failure are due to cancer cell resistance; lack of specificity, and poor solubility of drugs. The NTDs affect approx. 2.7 billion of poorest population. There is no vaccine available, and treatment is long and expensive, based on highly toxic old drugs developed more than half a century ago. Thus, insect vector control, drug discovery and delivery are urgently needed.
Nanoparticles (NPs) underpin new technology for the production of hybrid nanocomposites, biomaterials, bioconjugate drugs and insect vector control agents, which can be delivered to target site and released slowly. In the area of engineering applications the objective is to develop engineering polymers and hybrid NCs containing natural fillers (fibers, clays, and carbon NPs) for sustainable development applications. Environmentally friendly materials are developed by introduction of biodegradable polymers in the synthetic ones. New surface treatment procedures provide better adhesion and dispersion of the fillers in the polymer matrix, e.g. hydrophobisation of natural fibres by direct fluorination and expansion of natural graphites. Original low-temperature fluorination method of natural fibres and carbon nanotubes was developed. Carbon nanotubes containing up to 23 % of surface fluorine were obtained according to original procedure, paving the way to surface insulated nanoconductors and new hydrophobic stationary phases in chromatography.

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