Where Ideas Grow


Our group is interested in developing precision medicine technologies, based on molecular bionanomaterials, to underpin research in cancer, infection, neurodegenerative diseases and tissue repair/regeneration. Our research is centered around 3 research pillars (RPs):

RP1: Developing enzyme-responsive nanobiomaterials for targeted diagnosis/therapies and coordinated tissue repair
Improving the diagnosis pipeline for life-threatening and debilitating diseases is critical to saving lives and improving patient’s quality of life. Using enzyme-responsive nanobiomaterials, we aim to create innovative and more precise theranostics with unprecedented in situ sensing capability and instant response for early diagnosis and timely therapeutic interventions. These nanobiomaterials can transport monitoring probes and therapeutic agents to target tissues or cells to sense the local environment and provide a desirable response (delivery of therapy and its follow-up in situ).

RP2: Engineering molecular drugs to develop more effective therapies for life-threatening and debilitating diseases (infections, cancer, neurogenerative diseases)
Using better-existing drugs, by improving their availability and effectiveness, we can treat diseases in better ways that are more affordable and with fewer side effects.

RP3: Self-assembling (supramolecular) biomaterials for regenerative medicine and advanced in vitro models
Organ-on-chip models are proven alternatives to animal testing and will become essential tools in routine drug discovery programs, already adopted by major pharmaceutical companies in their pre-clinical drug testing. Patient-specific disease models will enable the development of treatments that are personalized and can be life-changing. Using our molecular engineering tools, we are developing 2D and 3D in vitro models with unprecedented biological relevance and functionality, which would enable the study of diseases with higher specificity and accelerate the development of treatments with improved efficacy.



Our group has a strong track record of research and collaborative work on peptide-based biomaterials with publications in Science, Nat Chem, Adv Funct Mater, Nano Lett. Using natural building blocks, such as amino acids, peptides can be designed and synthetically created to form a range of supramolecular biomaterials with high functional versatility and biological relevance. Junior Researcher: Dr Pedro Brandão

Our lab has been using peptides and polymers to fabricate hydrogels by self-assembly. By combining the properties of both building blocks, peptide/polymer hydrogels offer important advantages over their individual counterparts, such as improved mechanical properties, responsive behavior, and enhanced bioactivity. Our Group is interested in developing such type of supramolecular hydrogels and exploiting them for applications in cell culture (mechanistic studies), in vitro 3D models and regenerative medicine. Junior Researcher: Dr Joana Silva

Many tissues in the body are stratified (e.g., skin, retina, cornea, kidney glomerulus, skeletal muscle) separated by basement membranes (BMs). BMs are specialized extracellular matrices that provide not only tissue separation and barrier functions, but also an instructive substrate for cell signaling and tissue shaping. Different BMs undergo dynamic transformations throughout life (development, ageing and disease) and abnormal changes in the chemical and mechanical properties (crosslinking, thickening) of the BM are implicated in diseases, such as cancer cell invasion of the BM.
Our group has developed thin, soft membranes formed by interfacial self-assembly between rationally designed peptides and hyaluronic acid. These membranes offer a collection of properties desirable for developing BM equivalents. Using this membrane technology, we are interested in establishing in vitro blood-brain barrier (BBB) models to verify structural and functional properties under physiological and cancer conditions. Assistant Researcher: Dr Rui Pereira

Molecular biomaterials developed in the group and some examples of their interactions with biology.


Ongoing Projects

Recreation of the blood-brain barrier microvasculature network by integrating innovative molecular engineering approaches and 3D printing technologies
Reference: 2022.01690.PTDC
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-MAR-23 to 28-FEB-26