Photopharmacology develops bio-active molecules whose activity can be controlled by irradiation with light (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Reprinted with permission from J. Am. Chem Soc. 2014, 136, 2178–2191. Copyright 2014 American Chemical Society

This is achieved by using photoactive molecular tools (Fig. 2): photoswitches and photocages. With those, the activity of a drug can be transiently “caged”, or reversibly controlled by introducing a molecular photoswitch into the pharmacophore. The latter approach results in the existence of two isomeric forms of the drug that can be interconverted using light of different colors. The resulting reversible change of properties of the photoswitch translates to a difference in biological activity, which can be leveraged to activate the drug with very high spatial and temporal resolution using light.

Figure 2. Reprinted from Chem. Sci. 2020, 11, 11672-11691.

This concept can be exemplified by our report on antibiotics with photocontrolled activity (Fig. 3). In the thermodynamically stable trans-form, the biactive compound shows low antibacterial activity and, in principle, would not cause the emergence of bacterial resistance in the environment. However, when irradiated by light prior to administration, the compound is temporally activated, after which it inactivates again within a few hours. This highlights the opportunities offered by photopharmacology for solving drug-related problems.

Figure 3. Reprinted with permission from Nat. Chem. 2013, 5, 924–928. Copyright 2013 Nature Publishing Group

International Symposium on Photopharmacology, 16th February 2017

The First International Symposium on Photopharmacology took place at the University Medical Center Groningen on February 16th, 2017. We were proud and happy to welcome an amazing line-up of speakers and very high number of subscriptions (over 130) from all over the World! It was fantastic to see so many different aspects of our young field, ranging from photochemistry and organic synthesis to vision restoration and brain research. The poster session contributed further to making this day a scientific highlight and we congratulate Luca Agnetta from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg on the occasion of winning the poster prize! We thank all the people speakers, participants and people who helped us organize this special day.


Michael Decker, Würzburg

Ben Feringa, Groningen, Winner of 2016 Chemistry Nobel Prize

Edith C. Glazer, Kentucky

Pau Gorostiza, Barcelona

Morten Grötli, Gothenburg

Stefan Hecht, Berlin

Amadeu Llebaria Soldevila, Barcelona

Christian Peifer, Kiel

Dirk Trauner, New York

G. Andrew Woolley, Toronto

Organizing Committee

Wiktor Szymanski

Stephanie Schouwenburg-Stoppels

Friederike Reeßing

Mark Hoorens

Picture Gallery

Pictures courtesy of Dusan Kolarski