Where Ideas Grow

PhD students at i3S receive support from FLAD

Paulo Faria and Sofia Dias, students from the Doctoral Program in Biomedical Sciences at the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS) and carrying out their research project at i3S, were two of the 18 winners of this year’s edition of the R&D@USA scholarship program, driven by FLAD – Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (the Luso-American research foundation).

This support will let them undertake a six-month scientific internship in renowned academic and scientific institutions and complement the research they are carrying out in the i3S group Nanomedicines & Translational Drug Delivery (led by Bruno Sarmento). Paulo Faria will join the group of researcher Mansoor M. Amiji, from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, in Boston, and Sofia Dias will carry out research in the group of scientist Michael J. Mitchell, from the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Nanovaccine to treat glioblastoma

The focus of Paulo Faria’s work is the “development of a more effective therapy for the treatment of glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive brain cancer, through the production of a ‘nanovavaccine’ with chemo- and immunotherapeutic potential, which will be administered locally to increase therapeutic efficacy and reduce undesirable side effects”.

The ultimate objective, says the student from the ICBAS doctoral program, is “to obtain a treatment that is more effective and safe compared to what currently exists in the clinic, and to educate the patient’s own immune system to recognize and eliminate tumor cells that may arise in the future, thus preventing the recurrence of glioblastoma, the frequency of which is quite high”.

In Boston, Paulo Faria will optimize this nanovaccine and “evaluate its efficacy and safety in preclinical models of the disease to determine its therapeutic potential”. This opportunity, he emphasizes, “will benefit me greatly in scientific terms as I will be part of a group that is a leader in my field of study, as well as a city and a country where science is one of the great pillars of society and scientific advancement is encouraged and celebrated”.

Colorectal Cancer Cellular 3D Models

Sofia Dias, for her part, will “develop 3D cellular models of colorectal cancer, as more representative platforms for this disease, and explore the field of nanomedicine applicable to the treatment of the pathology, to validate these models”. The objective, she explains, is to apply these models during the process of developing new drugs, to “evaluate their potential therapeutic effect in a pre-clinical phase and make the process of developing new therapies faster and less expensive”.

This opportunity to do a six-month internship in the United States, says Sofia Dias, “is essential to explore a new scientific environment and knowledge in my field of study, using innovative techniques and experts in the field. This experience will boost my academic goals, but also reinforce my personal progress”.