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New Iridium(III) complex with application as photo-catalyst and for the cancer treatment

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Partner keyword: 
Inorganic Chemistry
Cytology, Cancerology, Oncology
Pharmaceutical Products / Drugs
Drug delivery and other equipment
Pharmaceuticals/fine chemicals


Researchers from a Spanish university have patented a synthetic process of cationic Iridium(III) complexes with characteristics that differentiate them from the known complexes (activity as photocatalysts or photosensitizers), so can be used as drug, particularly interesting for antitumor use in photodynamic therapy. They expect to collaborate with chemical or pharmaceutical industry and R&D institutions under license agreement, manufacturing agreement and/or research cooperation agreement



The Spanish research group has a wide experience in structural health monitoring and instrumentation of civil engineering structures and belongs to a medium-sized Spanish university founded in 1994, housing others 76 research groups more. The university has been very active in several European reseach and innovation programmes (H2020 and previous FPs, LIFE, Justice, ERASMUS+, Interreg, COST, LLP, IEE, Research Fund for Coal and Steel, D. G. for Competition Policy and Strategy, Science for Peace and Security Programme-OTAN…) with over 50 European projects; with the role of coordinator in 22 projects and over 8.4 M€ overall EU funding received. Currently, this university participates in 26 on-going projects (in 12 of them as coordinator) in 8 different EU programmes with an average of 1.7 M€ of EU funding in the last 4 years.

This North Spanish university has a long history in the development of new technologies. In addition, it aims to promote the connection between the university and business environment, promoting a more entrepreneurial university in its task of creating and transferring technology.

In the case of Iridium(III) complexes described have characteristics that differentiate them from known complexes. They show significant activity as photocatalysts or photosensitizers, absorbing energy from light and transferring it to oxygen to form reactive species that act as oxidants. Furthermore, the synthesis of the Iridium III) complexes is carried out under mild conditions and shows good yields.
Cationic Iridium(III) complexes of formula (M+)nXn- are characterized in that the Iridium atom is coordinated to two 2-phenylpyridinate ligands, by the nitrogen atom of the pyridine ring and one of the carbon atoms of the phenyl group; and to a ligand derived from β -carboline, via two nitrogen atoms. These complexes can be used as photocatalysts in organic synthesis or as photosensitizers.

In organic synthesis, these allow the regioselective thiocyanation of indoles to be carried out, in the C-3 position, in a one-pot process and from the corresponding indolines. First, there is a dehydrogenation of indoline and, subsequently, thiocyanation. Both reaction steps involve the use of oxygen in the presence of light and the use of Iridium(III) complexes as photocatalysts.

Potential applications of the new Ir(III) complexes are as follow:
- Photooxidation reactions in organic synthesis.
- Use as photocatalysts in thiocyanation reactions of indoles.
- Photosensitizer in photodynamic therapy in the treatment of cancer.
- Preparation of a drug for the treatment of cancer, in combination with radiotherapy, that is, where said drug is administered together with, or before, the administration of radiotherapy.

The type of associations sought by the researcher group are license or manufacturing agreement, and/or research cooperation agreement, with other R&D institituos or industry of chemistry or pharmaceutical sectors. Additionally, further development, testing new applications and/or adaptation to specific needs are offered to the potential partner.

Advantages & innovations

Cooperation plus value: 
The main innovations and advantages of this new Iridium(III) complexes are: • In the regioselective thiocyanation of indoles, the process is one-pot, so it is more economical: it is not necessary to isolate and purify the intermediate products. • In therapeutic applications, the ability to penetrate light with a higher wavelength through the tissues, allows the treatment of internal tissues and organs. • As photocatalysts, the use of the less energy light is a lower risk of secondary reactions in photocatalysis and therefore more selective processes. • High stability of Iridium(III) complexes, together with hydrogen bonds and other soft interactions that stabilize the crystal structure, represents a significant increase in possible applications. • They present photostability under different light sources, then the range of possible applications increases considerably and therefore more selective processes.

Stage of development

Cooperation stage dev stage: 
Available for demonstration

Partner sought

Cooperation area: 
License agreement - Type: research organization and industries. - Activity: pharmaceutical and medical products, and R&D. - Role: development of the drug as an anticancer, development of the catalyst for use in the chemical industry. Manufacturing agreement - Type: pharmaceutical and basic chemical companies. - Activity: pharmaceutical production and experience in chemical production. - Role: development of the drug as an anticancer, development of the catalyst for use in the chemical industry. Research cooperation agreement - Type: research organization and industries. - Activity: pharmaceutical and medical products, R&D, chemical research experience. - Role: development of the drug as an anticancer, development of the catalyst for use in the chemical industry.

Type and size

Cooperation task: 
SME 11-50,R&D Institution,>500 MNE,251-500,SME 51-250,>500


Molecular structure


Photocatalysts or photosensitizers activity