Past Projects

Novel nanoparticle-based filter materials and face masks for SARS-CoV-2 inactivation, 1.01.2020-31.12.2021.

Target grants aimed at solving the problems caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVSG16)

Leader: Dr. O. Bondarenko

Scientific data suggests airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Meta-analysis shows that face masks reduce the risk of the viral infection around 80% in the best cases, mostly less. These masks are single-use and do not contain active virucidal ingredients. The main goal of the current project is to develop new virucidal filtering materials and produce face masks from thereof. We will 1) test a set of antiseptical nanoparticels and choose the ones that are the most effective against SARS-CoV-2; 2) produce nanoparticles-containing filtering materials and the face masks. There are three science partners (NICPB, UT, TalTech) and one industrial partner (Esfil Tehno) in the project. NICPB will characterize nanoparticles, TalTech will develop filtering materials, Esfil Tehno will produce the face masks and UT will conduct virological tests. The main outcome of the project are novel efficient virucidal face masks produced by the local industry.


Center of Nanomaterials Technologies and Research (NAMUR+), 2017-2021.

2014-2020.4.01.16-0123

Leader of the project: Tartu University (Dr. V. Kisand), partners: TTÜ (Dr. M. Kauk-Kuusik) and NICPB (Dr. A. Kahru),
NICPB main contributors: Dr. A. Ivask, Dr. K. Kasemets, Dr. I. Blinova

Aim of the project NAMUR+ is to establish the Estonian Research Infrastructures Roadmap object – an infrastructure/excellence centre for the nanomaterials research and development, and their safety assessment bringing together projects partners’ already exciting and in the future purchased high-technology equipment. The partners of NAMUR+ are Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology and National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics (Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology, leading partner for the nanomaterials safety assessment).


Technology-critical elements: potential ecotoxicological effects of application, 1.01.2020−31.12.2020.

Personal Research Funding,  PRG684

Leader: Dr. I. Blinova

The progress has always been related to the discovery and application of novel materials. However, the successful commercialization of innovative materials depends also on timely forecast of potential associated environmental risks, to avoid ecological and societal problems. Technology-critical elements (TCEs), including lanthanides, are crucial components in many high-tech technologies and due to unique properties their replacement by other elements is very difficult. TCEs are considered emerging contaminants as recent technological developments have resulted in accumulation of TCEs in the soil and water raising a concern on safe environmental levels of TCEs. However, there are large knowledge gaps on environmental fate and potential hazard of TCEs to ecosystems. The goal of the current project is to obtain new scientific knowledge on the potential ecological consequences of elevated concentrations of TCEs (focusing on lanthanides)in the environment.


Novel antimicrobial surface coatings, 1.01.2020−31.12.2020

Proof-of-concept grant, EAG20

Principal investigator: Dr. Vambola Kisand (University of Tartu)
NICPB contributor: Dr. A. Ivask

The aim of the present project is to develop further the technology of manufacturing antimicrobial coatings based on ZnO/Ag nanocomposite particles. First of all, such coatings are planned to be applied in hospitals as well as in public spaces on high-touch surfaces, which would also be exposed to UV-A or solar radiation at some stage. Compared to the products already on the market, the advantage of our solution is three simultaneously acting functionalities: zinc ions, silver ions and reactive oxygen radicals. In addition, on such coatings organic residues from dead microbes are photocatalytically decomposed. During this project, we plan to validate the ZnO/Ag nanocomposite material surface fixation and also to test wearability, stability and antimicrobial efficacy of the surfaces in real-life conditions. According to our previous experience, Estonian companies are interested in such antimicrobial coatings, but our current low technology readiness level has hindered the collaboration.


Opportunities for mitigation of bee losses (ForBee), 2019-2021.

RITA1/02-10-09

Lead partner: Eesti Maaülikool (Dr. M. Mänd, Dr. A. Viltrop); partners: TÜ (Dr. V. Sõber) and NICPB (Dr. A. Kahru)

NICPB main contributor: Dr. I. Blinova, Dr.  A. Lukjanova, Dr. M. Sihtmäe

Pollinators are vital for natural and agricultural ecosystems. Yet, recent trends indicate declines in their numbers and species richness. This decline is due to multiple stressors acting in parallel and synergizing the effects of each other. Moreover, each region carries its specific characteristics and stressors, creating the need for a region-based approach. The project ‘Opportunities for mitigation of bee losses’ will generate recommendations for efficient conservation as well as beekeeping measures. The new scientific knowledge gained by the project allows us to fill existing data gaps and provide optimal measures to mitigate bee losses in Estonia. The project will create the Project Network; evaluate the effects of habitat- and landscape-level factors affecting pollinators; analyse existing veterinary problems and toxic compounds relevant to Estonian conditions; analyse the severity of existing stressor and generate protocols for policymakers to mitigate the effects.


Nanoparticle-macrophage interactions in vitro: Focus on nanosafety, 2016-2021.

Personal Research Funding, PUT1015

Leader: Dr. O. Bondarenko

Nanoparticles (NPs) offer unique properties for biomedical applications. Therapeutic use of NPs implies their administration into bloodstream, where NPs inevitably come into contact with the immune cells and pose immunotoxicity concerns. Macrophages are phagocytizing immune cells that directly interact with NPs and can be used as in vitro model to study possible immunotoxic effects of NPs. The main aim of this proposal is to reveal physico-chemical properties of NPs that can be modified to reduce NP toxicity to human macrophages, without compromising their beneficial function(s). Medically perspective Fe, Ag and CuO NPs and their novel modifications were selected for the study, aiming to link chemical composition, size and surface coating of NPs to their in vitro effects in macrophages, focusing on toxicity mechanisms and immune responses. As the main output, we will provide novel structure-related immunotoxicity information for NPs that is crucial for biomedical applications.


Evaluation of the potential hazardous effects of microplastic to marine and freshwater zooplankton, 2017-2021.

Personal Research Funding, PUT1512

Leader: Dr. M. Heinlaan

Microplastic (MP) waste (particles ≤ 5 mm) in the waterbodies is accumulating rapidly yet the current knowledge and scientific proof on the potential consequences of this pollution is not sufficient to choose the most effective countermeasures to fight this problem. The main objective of the current project is to evaluate the hazardous effects of of MP on marine and freshwater zooplankton – the base of aquatic food-webs. For that, we will perform hazard assessment of different particle types of the most wide-spread low-density polymers. Special focus will be on linking the particle properties to the observed effects, mapping the sub-lethal effects as early warnings of instability of the aquatic populations in the long-run and evaluating the MP role as the co-contaminant carrier. As the main outcome, novel information, data and hazard assessment protocols will be provided for better understanding the MP waste problem and application for regulatory and further research purposes.


European Network of Vaccine Adjuvants, 2017-2021.

COST CA16231

MC member: Dr. O. Bondarenko

More information from COST.


Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations to prevent infectious diseases (AMICI), 2016-2020.

COST CA15114

MC members: Dr. A. Kahru, Dr. K. Kasemets

More information from COST.


Nano(eco)toxicology and beyond (ToxBe), 2014-2019.

Institutional Research Funding, IUT23-5

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Rapidly developing nanotechnologies offer the mankind countless benefits on the background of limited information on the respective environmental and health risks. ToxBe aims evaluating the existing and obtaining new scientific knowledge on chemical and nanoparticle (NP) safety. For that, we will first critically analyze the existing literature on environmental hazards of NPs, e.g., identify potential descriptors for QSAR models. Targeted (eco)toxicological testing will be used (i) to fill the data gaps on environmental hazard of NPs and (ii) to generate homogenous training sets for QSARs. Further, the toxicological pathways of hazardous NPs – solubilization, induction of reactive oxygen species, interference with biomembranes and -molecules will be identified by refining the existing and designing new cost-effective bioassays. To increase the environmental relevance, environmentally more relevant species, test conditions and simplified laboratory food chains will be used.


Network on technology-critical elements – from environmental processes to human health threats (NOTICE), 2015-2019.

COST TD1407

MC member: Dr. A. Kahru, MC substitute: Dr. I. Blinova

More information from the homepage of the project and from COST.


In vitro toxicological tool-box for targeted design of antimicrobial nanomaterials, 2015-2018.

Personal Research Funding, PUT748

Leader: Dr. A. Ivask

Nanosized (1-100nm) materials have big expectations in almost every industrial domain. Currently one of the most important areas is development of novel nanoantimicrobials. From nanotechnological consumer products currently on the market about 30% are designed to avoid spreading of unwanted microbes. These products involve novel nanomaterials for surface treatments, incorporation into various textiles as well as creating new biocidal preparations to desinfect the skin. The main goal of the current project is the development of a biological tool-box – a suite of in vitro methods using various bacteria and mammalian cells – for ’safe-by-design’ approach in developing highly efficient nano-antimicrobial materials with minimum unwanted side-effects to humans. The main emphasis will be given to design and testing of silver, copper, titanium dioxide and zinc nanoparticles that could be later used in surface coatings, antibacterial matrices e.g., textiles, and potentially, skin disinfectants.


Project on Estonian ambient air pollutants to review the current limit values of non-prioritized but hazardous air pollutants, 2016-2017.

Ordered by Ministry of the Environment, financed by Environmental Investment Centre

Leader: Dr. M. Sihtmäe

The transfer of engineered nanomaterials from wastewater treatment & stormwater to rivers (ENTER), 2013-2017.

COST ES1205

MC members: Dr. I. Blinova and Dr. K. Kasemets, MC substitute: Dr. A. Kahru

More information from the homepage of the project and from COST.


Adverse effects of nanosized Ag, Au and CuO to particle-ingesting crustaceans: an integrated approach, 2012-2017.

ETF grant No. 9347

Leader: Dr. M. Heinlaan

Environmental impacts of multiwall carbon nanotubes as studied in a microbial food chain, 2014-2016.

Post-Doctoral Research Funding, PUTJD16

Leader: Dr. M. Mortimer

Modelling Nanomaterial Toxicity (MODENA), 2012-2016.

COST TD1204

MC member: Dr. A. Kahru, MC substitutes: Dr. M. Heinlaan and Dr. V. Aruoja

More information from the homepage of the project and from COST.


EC FP7 project MODERN (MODeling the EnviRonmental and human health effects of Nanomaterials) 2013-2015.

Call: FP7-NMP-2012-SMALL-6; NMP.2012.1.3-2: Modeling toxicity behavior of engineered nanoparticles

Collarborative project with 7 partners. Coordinator: Dr. Francesc Giralt (URV, Spain). NICPB PI: Dr. A. Kahru

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FP7 lipp ja logo

The main goal of MODERN is to establish new modeling approaches suitable for relating nanotoxicity with the intrinsic molecular and physicochemical properties of eNPs at environmental exposure levels and to implement safe-by-design nanoparticle design strategies. This implies three specific objectives: (i) To apply computational models for the characterization of the structural and physicochemical properties leading to QNPRs and safe-by-design strategies for eNPs; (ii) to develop in silico models (QNAR) of biological activity of eNPs in the body and in the environment; and (iii) to establish a categorization and hazard ranking protocol for eNPs based on structural similarity principles and in the analysis of their toxicological profiles.


EC FP7 project NANOVALID (Development of reference methods for hazard identification, risk assessment and LCA of engineered nanomaterials, 2011-2015.

Call: NMP.2010.1.3-1; Reference methods for managing the risk of engineered nanoparticles (grant agreement No 263147).

FP7 Large-scale integrating Collaborative Project with 35 partners. Coordinator: Dr. Rudolf Reuther (NordMiljö, Sweden). NICPB PI: Dr. A. Kahru

NanoValid_logo200FP7 lipp ja logo

The growing development, production and use of engineered nanomaterials and associated products will increase exposure of both humans and ecosystems to these new materials.However, current knowledge is still incomplete and established test methods are as yet inappropriate to reliably assess the extent of exposure and risk of materials at the nanoscale. There is an urgent need to develop methods to overcome the current limitations of existing hazard and risk assessment schemes and to generate the body of reference data needed as the basis for regulative requirements and for measures to safeguard production, application and disposal of nanomaterials. The proposed project will mobilize the critical mass of international scientific knowledge and technical expertise required to address these questions. Current analytical and toxicity test methods and models will be put to test and subjected to rigorous intercalibration and validation. Where necessary, methods and test materials will be modified, adapted and validated, and new reliable reference methods developed, in cooperation with international standardization bodies and the concerned industry, to support both pre- and co-normative activities and to make the applicability of existing RA and LCA schemes to ENPs more reliable. The feasibility of validated measurement, characterization and test methods will be assessed by selected case studies to help the significant improvement of the performance of existing exposure monitoring systems as well as the development of new risk management and reduction strategies.


Metal-based nanoparticles toxicity assessment in vitro: Saccharomyces cerevisiae model, 2012-2015.

ETF grant No. 9001

Leader: Dr. K. Kasemets

Effect of pharmaceuticals and engineered nanoparticles on the wastewater treatment and antibiotic resistance gene transfer in the environment, 2012-2015

Leader: Dr. K. Kasemets

The aim of the project is to investigate how the antibiotic residues and nanoparticles (NPs) may act separately or in tandem on the wastewater treatment effectiveness and microbial community as well as on the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the wastewater treatment system. Additionally, the impact of wastewater composition on the physical-chemical properties of NPs (e.g. size, ζ-potential) will be assessed and the dissolved fraction of the metal ions will be quantified by the recombinant metal-specific bacteria.


Design and application of novel levansucrase catalysts for the production of functional food ingredients, 2012-2015.

Supporting the development of R&D of biotechnology

Leader: Dr. A. Ivask

Smart aerogels based on the nanostructured wood Cellulose – SmaCell, 2012-2015.

National R&D program „Materials technology“.


Ciliates as model systems to study genome evolution, mechanisms of non-Mendelian inheritance, and their roles in environmental adaptation, 2011-2015.

COST BM1102

MC members: Dr. M. Mortimer and Dr. A. Ivask, MC substitute: K. Juganson

More information from the homepage of the project and from COST.


Science-based forecast and quantification of risks to properly and timely react to hazards impacting Estonian mainland, air space, water bodies and coasts, 2012-2014.

“Environmental protection and technology R&D programme (KESTA)” of the measure “Supporting environmental technology research and development activities”

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Reduction of CO2 emission of CFB boiler by enrichment of combustion air with oxygen, 2012-2014.

National R&D program „Energy“.

Leader: Dr. K. Kasemets

Interactions of engineered nanoparticles with biological systems: interplay of structure, chemistry and biology, 2011-2014.

ETF grant No. 8561

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Risk Management and Remediation of Chemical Accidents (RIMA) – EU Interreg IV A programme, 2011-2013.

European Union and European Regional Development Fund grant; Budget according to contract – 257,897 eur (ERDF funding 219,212 eur)

Finnish-Estonian project, 3 partners. Coordinator: S. Kauppi. NICPB PI: Dr. I. Blinova

Logod RIMA jaoks

The main objective is to improve prevention to chemical transportation accidents in Southern Finland and Estonia where the importance of transportation is emphasized because the joint border with Russia. Increasing information about transported chemicals enhance the protection of soil, surface waters and groundwater. The aim is by risk assessment to help local authorities to predict environmental fate and effects of chemicals in various accident situations and pay their attention to the most hazardous chemicals. The main academic tasks of NICPB are: collecting data on transported chemicals, on the history of transport accidents in Estonia; collection of data on (eco)toxicity and environmental fate of chemicals from literature and the existing databases; laboratory toxicity testing of selected chemicals, communication and networking with target groups in Estonia and organizing meetings in Tallinn.


Mechanisms and interactions in toxicology and toxinology: in vitro models, 2008-2013.

NICPB Target Financed Project SF0690063s08

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

The project will seek for new scientific knowledge on toxic effects and mechanisms of action of REACH-relevant industrial chemicals, synthetic nanoparticles and natural toxins of snake venoms. Applying 3Rs approach (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement), simple prokaryotic and eukaryotic model organisms will be used with special attention on cellular molecular targets, molecular interactions and integrated organism-level responses. New worked out testing strategies will be useful for hazard evaluation of nanoparticles but also for implementation of EC new chemical policy REACH. This mechanism-oriented research provides knowledge and tools for targeted design of drugs, antidotes and new antioxidants.


Bioavailability of contaminants in Estonian lakes and rivers, 2009-2012.

ETF grant No. 8066

Leader: Dr. I. Blinova

In vitro toxicity of metal oxide nanoparticles: eukaryotic models, 2008-2011.

ETF grant No. 7686.

Leader: Dr. K. Kasemets

EC FP6 project OSIRIS (Optimized Strategies for Risk assessment of industrial chemicals through integration of non-test and test information), 2007-2011.

FP6-2005-GLOBAL-4 (OJ 2005 C 177/15), Proposal N° 037017-2

Integrated project with 31 partners. Coordinator: Prof. G. Schüürmann (UFZ, Berlin). NICPB PI: Dr. A. Kahru
Osiris

Goal: to develop integrated test strategies fit for REACH that make it possible to significantly increase the use of non-testing information for regulatory decision making, and to effectively reduce animal testing to the level needed from a risk perspective.


Kinetics and efficiency of biogas production from Estonian wastes and crops, 2009-2010.

Ecotoxicological studies within the framework of contract between AS Eesti Energia and Estonian University of Life Sciences

Leader: H.C. Dubourguier

Environmental impact of oil shale combustion ashes on topsoils in Narva Powerplants region: combined geochemical and ecotoxicological approach, 2008-2010.

EMP 45 grant

Joint project between Tallinn University of Technology and NICPB. Leaders: Dr. L. Bitjukova (TUT) and Dr. A. Kahru (NICPB).

Mechanism-based study of toxicity: recombinant microbial models, 2007-2010.

ETF grant No. 6974

Leader: Dr. A. Ivask

Bioavailability and (eco)toxicity of metal oxide nanoparticles: effects and mechanisms, 2007-2010.

ETF grant No. 6956

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Bioavailability of key environmental pollutants in different environmental matrices: from quantification to mechanism, 2007-2009.

Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation Grant

Leader: Dr. A. Ivask

Collections of specimen of natural sciences in cellular biology and toxicological research, 2004-2008.

National Programme: Collections for the Humanities and Natural Sciences, project HLK04-4

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru.

Evaluation of biological effects of nanoparticles, 2006-2007.

NICPB Basic Funding Project

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Goal: to study the biological effects of nanoparticles (e.g., nanosized metal oxides TiO2, ZnO, CuO) on in vitro models (recombinant microorganisms, non-vertebrate animals, human and animal cell cultures)Main tasks:- to evaluate hazardous effects on different level of biological organisation/complexity and transfer via food-web; – to elucidate the mechanisms of toxic action


Investigation of the influence of different diffuse pollution sources on the nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from watersheds in Estonia, 2005-2007.

ETF grant No. 6199

NICPB PI: Dr. I. Blinova

Toxicological risk assessment in vitro, 2003-2007.

Target Financed Project 0222601Bs03

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Combined risk assessment of agricultural soils polluted by industrial activities, 2000 -2007.

Cooperation with Dr. F. Douay and Prof. H.C. Dubourguier, ISA Institut Supérieur d’Agriculture, Lille, France

Bioavailability of toxic heavy metals: recombinant luminescent biosensors and environmental reality, 2005-2006.

Mobility grant for coperation between Estonia and France (a Parrot framework)

Leaders: A. Kahru (NICPB) and H.-C. Dubourguier (ISA, France)

BioSpinno 2 project, 2004-2006.

Funded by Enterprise Estonia (via EU structural funding).

The project involves sub-tasks on dissemination of ecotoxicological knowledge to Estonian industries and environmental authorities, elaboration of international networking. The organizing of ETS-SSCT 2005 Meeting “Chemicals, human, environment” was one of the involved activities.


Bioavailability, toxicity and mobility of main industrial and urban pollutants in soil, sediments and solid wastes, 2003-2006.

ETF grant No. 5551

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Risk based environmental site assessment of the oil-shale industry in Estonia, 2002-2003.

Funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Integration Program for EU Candidate Count

Coordinator: Dr. J.-E. Sørlie, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), Norra. NICPB PI: Dr. A. Kahru

Evaluation of composting and fungal treatment technology for remediation of PAH contaminated soil, 2002-2003.

NATO Collaborate Linkage Grant EST CLG No 978297

Coordinator: Dr. Trine Eggen, Norway

Analysis of bioavailable heavy metals and organic compounds in the Baltic Sea by using sensor bacteria, 2001-2003.

Maj ja Tor Nessling Fondi Grant

Coordinator: Dr. M. Virta, University of Turku.

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