ESR Introduction

EU   Ocuther

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 722717.

OcuTher PhD Student Introduction

OcuTher will train a group of 15 high potential young investigators to become professionals in ophthalmics, a recently emerged strategically important field in pharmaceutical drug development. OcuTher will yield valuable insights and the human resources to systematically assess and develop future ocular therapies and their delivery systems. A direct consequence is the reduction of risks and costs associated with ocular drug development which will stimulate biotech to develop more advanced therapies for ocular diseases and pharma to invest therein. Within the project, the consortium aims to advance a number of promising compounds and delivery systems to provide preclinical proof, which will fuel industrial interest.

OcuTher ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) will be trained in a multi- and inter-disciplinary environment that allows ESR to acquire a comprehensive skill set which will position them uniquely in the labour market. OcuTher will provide a high-quality and versatile training. All ESRs will be trained by top industrial and academic players that are at the forefront of their respective fields. OcuTher ESRs will have the opportunity to get trained in highly-innovative, cutting-edge, multi- and inter-disciplinary environments and interact with the best scientists in the field of ophthalmology, nanotechnology, material science, PK/PD modelling and industry.

ESR 1 Amir Sadeghi Boroujeni

Country of origin: Iran

Host Institute: School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finalnd, Finland.

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple ): In my Ph.D. project, I am working on biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of drugs and pharmaceutical formulations in ocular tissues.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: Through my Ph.D studies I had opportunity to do lab work and enjoy efficient and nice team work. Also I had chance to learn a lot through collaboration with other colleagues including OcuTher ESRs.

Corona affecting your situation: During the lock down, I mostly work on writing and compiling the results from previous lab works. It was good time also for make a plan for future studies. During the free time I spend time on cooking and watching TV. Also I started to cut my hair by myself.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 2 Anam Hammid

Country of origin: Islamabad, Pakistan

Host Institute: School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland. Kuopio, Finland

Description of the project In my Ph.D. project, I’m working on the drug-metabolizing enzyme in the ocular tissues of multiple species, identification, and characterization.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: During my Ph.D. I got an opportunity to work in a big pharma company, it was great exposure. I have been traveling around Europe and interacting with various people, including experts in my field. I have been visiting partner institutes in our consortium, that broadens my exposure.

Corona affecting your situation: After the lock-down due to COVID-19, I am drafting my scientific manuscripts and reviewing the literature. I am planning my future experimentations.

Most of my free time is spent with my son and my family. In my leisure time, I am trying new recipes, chatting with my friends.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 3 Iswariyaraja Sridevi Gurubaran

Country of origin: Tamilnadu, Indian Union.

Host Institute: Institute of Clinical medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my Ph.D. project, I am investigating the role of aging related pathogenesis in Age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: Working closely with ophthalmologist Prof. Kai Kaarniranta and Immunologist Prof. Anu Kauppinen, profoundly I have gained insight in the development of retinal degenerative diseases. I also gained vast knowledge in respect to target identification, drug designing and delivery system collaborating with other Ocuther members.

Corona affecting your situation: Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions I was not able to perform my planned secondment at the University of Tübingen. Otherwise with limited access to lab, mostly spending my time writing next manuscript.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 4 Merve Sen

Country of origin: I’m from Istanbul, Turkey

Host Institute Institute for Ophthalmic Research Tübingen in Germany

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my PhD project I’m working on sustainable drug delivery system for drugs reducing retinal degeneration in night blindness.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies During my Ph.D., I have so much amazing experiences. I learned how to learn, how to organize and completed challenging projects independently and effectively. After doing my secondments in foreign countries and attending conferences around the world, I realized that I became more wordly.

Corona affecting your situation: The COVID-19 helps me how to appreciate little things in my life. During a time of social distancing, I tried to slow down and enjoy my staying home/staying lab time. I have found to do many things that I used to postpone like doing yoga, organizing my bookshelf and baking healthy cookies!

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 5 Ada Annala

Country of origin: I’m from Oulu, Finland

Host Institute: Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Institute for Ophthalmic Research Tübingen in Germany.

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my PhD project I’m working on injectable delivery systems for long-term delivery of drugs reducing inflammation to the back of the eye.

 Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: The best thing about studying for a Ph.D. abroad is getting to know different cultures, creating international network and making friends for life!

 COVID-19 affecting your situation: During the lock-down due to COVID-19 I have been working on my manuscript from home and planning my future experiments. I spend my free time baking and cooking food that remind me of my country and taking walks near the canals in my neighbourhood.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 6 Miao Tang

Country of origin: China

Host Institute: Queen’s University Belfast

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my Ph.D. project, I am working on the molecular changes in ageing retina as well as the DNA-sensing pathway in retina.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: During my Ph.D., I had the great opportunities to visit different institutions and meet new friends. As part of the interdisciplinary research project, it is always interesting to learn new knowledge from other subjects.

Corona affecting your situation: After the lock-down, I have started to work from home. I have been working on my thesis and staying in touch with my family and friends by messages and calls.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 7 Stephen Marry

Country of origin: I’m from Dundalk, Ireland.

Host Institute: Queen’s University Belfast, in the Centre for Experimental Medicine.

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my PhD project, I’m working on the role of a transcription factor, Gli1, in the development of choroidal neovascularisation and fibrosis.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: The best thing has been getting to travel abroad for meetings to present my work, and making new friends through Ocuther. Winning an award for best poster at EVER 2019 has been my highlight so far!

COVID-19 affecting your situation: During the lock-down due to COVID-19, I have been working on my thesis, analysing data, preparing figures, and arranging the layout. Most of my free time is spent learning new things on guitar and chatting with friends online.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 8 Daniel R. Ajoy Moreno

Country of origin: I was born in Madrid but I also have Chinese ascendant and was raised in Ecuador.

Host Institute: University of Strasbourg.

 Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): In my PhD project I’m working on the development on a method using magnetic nanoparticles to deliver treatments from the surface to the back of the eye.

 Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: The opportunity of working abroad and collaborate with many different laboratories and fields is one of the highlights of our project.

COVID-19 affecting your situation: A bit before the lockdown I had just started one of the exchanges planned in our project. This delayed the experiments planned and meant a shift to home working and writing. The extra time spent at home meant a bit of a change in my daily schedules but now I am really good at baking cookies.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 9  Chiara Pretto

Country of origin: I was born in Vicenza, Italy

Host Institute: Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple ): In my PhD project, I’m working with virus-like particles to achieve oligonucleotide delivery to the posterior segment of the eye .

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: During my PhD, I had the opportunity to visit and collaborate with different research groups all around Europe. I also really appreciated attending several multidisciplinary conferences and the possibility to create my own working network.

Corona affecting your situation: During the lock-down due to COVID-19, I have been working from home, writing scientific manuscripts and correcting my student’s thesis. I spend my free time painting, cooking and having online aperitifs with my friends and family.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 10 Eva Kickova

Country of origin: I am from Spisske Podhradie, Slovakia.

Host Institute: Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Padova, Italy

Description of project: In my Ph.D. project, I’m working on the organic synthesis of polysaccharide conjugates for the intraocular sustained drug release of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: Most exciting thing was the selection for this special project in which I got opportunity to expand my experience in the organic synthesis and to be more skilled in biological tests. To have a chance to travel around Europe and interact with different types of scientists, to attend several interesting conferences and be part of international network.

Corona affecting your situation: In March 2020, I started my secondment in Germany. During required quarantine, I studied the new techniques which are used in ex vivo organ cultures. Institute for Ophthalmic Research in Tübingen remains open and gives me a chance still work on my project during the COVID-19 while most of the labs and cities are lock-down including my labs in Italy.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 11 : Md AL-Amin

Country of origin: Bangladesh

Host Institute: University of Padova, Italy

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple): I am working on surface engineered liposomes for small molecule delivery in the treatment of posterior segment ocular diseases.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: The most exciting thing of doing PhD for me is the scope of collaboration we are having. Visiting different universities across Europe and sharing ideas with some amazingly talented people.

Corona affecting your situation: My laboratory was closed for 50 days due to covid 19 pandemic. It was difficult to focus on work from home. Somehow, I tried to write my PhD thesis and deliverables during this time. Now I am back to lab and have started working.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 12  Blessing C. Ilochonwu

Country of origin: I was born in Nigeria but raised in Italy

Host Institute: Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Netherlands

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple ): In my Ph.D. project, I’m working on hydrogels for long-term delivery of proteins to the back of the eye to treat AMD.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: During my Ph.D. I have had the opportunity to travel around Europe to present my research topic. I have been able to interact with different types of audiences. Winning two awards for the presentation of my work has been one of the major highlights so far.

Corona affecting your situation: After the lock-down due to COVID-19, I had to adapt to working from home, which involves writing scientific manuscripts and supervising student thesis report. Most of my free time is spent chatting with friends on social media. Cooking new recipes and staying active has also kept me happy.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 13  Charis Rousou

Country of origin: Nicosia, Cyprus

Host Institute: Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Description of project: My PhD research focuses on the effects of ultrasound and microbubbles for administration of pharmaceutical compounds to the posterior eye via the blood circulation.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: Being part of a high scientific level research group and at the same time participating in the OcuTher consortium gives me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge as researcher while specializing in my topic. Through several conferences, meetings, seminars and visits to other countries I have gained numerous lifetime experiences in professional and personal level.

COVID-19 affecting your situation: A good life’s example proving that things might not always go as planned, nevertheless a nice opportunity to slow down my rhythms, read many scientific articles and improve my baking skills!

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 14 Marco Bassetto

Country of origin: Italy

Host Institute: OZ Biosciences SAS

Description of project: In my Ph.D. project, I worked on the synthesis and application of magnetic nanoparticles for the delivery of drugs and small interfering RNAs to the retina.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: this kind of Ph.D. is very precious to me because it boosted the improvement of my intellectual acuity. After these three years, I feel like to say that science begins with the serious revision of one’s own notion of common sense.

COVID-19 affecting your situation: lockdown might be very funny in certain circumstances. On my way back home from a collaboration within Ocuther, I have been “trapped” in a foreign country during 1 month. Fortunately, I was carrying fresh new data with me to process. Adventure starts only when the plan fails.

*************************************************************************************************

ESR 15 Anam Fayyaz

Country of origin: I was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Host Institute: Certara/SImcyp , Sheffield, United kingdom

Description of project (max three lines, keep it simple ): In my Ph.D. project, I’m working to develop vitural pharmacological models to predict the drug behaviour in the eye.

Highlight/Most exciting thing about Ph.D. studies: During my PhD I have had opportunity to interact with people from academia, pharma industry and drug regulatory authorities providing me with deep insight in to drug development trend across Europe and USA. I travelled around the EU and learned alot about the cultural diversity.

Corona affecting my situation: During COVID-19 I have been working from home around my project and manuscript. I am learning to adapt to work from home as it has been a new learning process for my how to discipline myself. But I am taking time out to do yoga and go outside for jogging to keep myself active. Also, I try to stay well connected to my friends and family. Cooking has always been my passion so I am putting more time on it now to create new recipes and share it with my housemates.