Universiteit Leiden

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Sylvestre Bonnet

Professor Chemistry

Prof.dr. S.A. Bonnet
+31 71 527 4260

Sylvestre Bonnet studies the (photo)chemistry of metal-based molecules in biological and biomimetic environment. By combining bioinorganic chemistry and photochemistry his group makes new light-activatable prodrugs for use as targeted anticancer agents with minimal side effects. Another part of the group studies how to assemble metal-based photosensitizers and catalysts to trap the sun energy into a solar fuel.

More information about Sylvestre Bonnet


Sylvestre Bonnet is Full Professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry at Leiden University. He obtained his PhD in 2005 at the University of Strasbourg, France, in the group of Nobel Laureate Jean-Pierre Sauvage. He then moved to The Netherlands as a postdoc, where he successively worked in the groups of Gerard van Koten (Utrecht), Jan Reedijk (Leiden), and Antoinette Killian and Bert Klein Gebbink (Utrecht). Between 2009 and 2014 he completed a Tenure Track position in Inorganic Chemistry at Leiden University, where he was tenured in 2015 and became full professor in 2020. He obtained several prestigious grants, including a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (2013), a Transition grant from the European Innovation Council (2023), and three young investigator grants (VENI 2008, VIDI 2012, VICI 2019) from the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). He is alumni of the Young Academy of Europe, of which he was a board member (2017-2020). His expertise lies at the crossing point between bioinorganic chemistry, photochemistry, and lipid membranes. His current research interests are anticancer photoactivated chemotherapy, supramolecular photocatalysis, and upconversion.

Curriculum Vitae

Current and previous research positions

2020 - now   Full Professor in Bioinorganic chemistry, Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Leiden University, The Netherlands
2015 – 2020   Associate Professor in Inorganic Chemistry, Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Leiden University, the Netherlands
2009 – 2014   Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Leiden University, The Netherlands
2008 – 2009   Postdoctoral Researcher, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (Prof. B. Klein Gebbink and Prof. A. Killian)
2007 – 2008   Postdoctoral Researcher, Leiden University, The Netherlands (Prof. J. Reedijk)
2005 – 2007   Postdoctoral Researcher, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (Prof. G. van Koten)


2005   PhD, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Strasbourg, France, 27 September 2005
Thesis title: “Ru(terpy)(phen)(L)2+ complexes as a new tool towards light-controlled molecular machines”
Advisor: Prof. Dr. J.-P. Sauvage
2002   MSc in Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Strasbourg, France
1999  Aggregation de sciences physiques, option chemistry

Grants, awards, recognitions

2023    EIC Transition (k€ 2,500)
2019   NWO-CW Vidi Grant (k€ 1,500)
2015   Member of the Young Academy of Europe (board member since 2017)
2013   ERC Starting Grant (k€ 1,418)
2012   NWO-CW Vidi Grant (k€ 800)

Contribution to teaching and supervision

  • Teacher for two courses of the MSc Chemistry and Life Science and Technology programs at Leiden University: “Photochemistry” and “Metals and Life”.
  • Co-teacher of the BSc Life Science and Technology program at Leiden University: “Photon power”

Currently supervises 9 PhD students and 3 postdoctoral fellows; supervised the research of 11 postdocs, 27 PhD students, 96 MSc students and 52 BSc students since 2009.

Conference organisation

2026    Co-chair of the EuroBIC18 conference in Groningen
2024    Chair of the 4th FUSION frontiers in photochemistry conference, Lisbon, Portugal
2022    Member of the organizing committee of the Advanced Metal-Organic Chemistry and Catalysis 2022 Autumn School from HRSMC and NIOK in Noordwijk, The Netherlands
2022    Chair of the 6th HRSMC/EPA Advanced Photochemistry Summer School in Noordwijk, The Netherlands
2022    Member of the local organizing committee of the 28th IUPAC Symposium on Photochemistry, Amsterdam
2022    Co-chair of the 3rd FUSION frontiers in photochemistry conference in Cancun, Mexico
2018    Member of the organizing committee of the Advanced Metal-Organic Chemistry and Catalysis 2018 Autumn School from HRSMC and NIOK in Doorn, The Netherlands

Other current responsibilities

2022 - 2023    member of the core group “strategisch plan” of the Faculty of Science of Leiden University
2021 - now    member of the exam committee of the BSc LST at Leiden University
2021 - now    member of the Advisory Board of the Leiden Institute of Physics
2016 - 2021    Chairman of the programme committee of the Chemistry MSc programme at Leiden University (member of the committee since 2013)
2015 - 2023    Elected member of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Science of Leiden University; vice-chair in 2020-2022
2015 - now    Teaching Director of the HRSMC Excellence Master's programme “Sustainability: the molecular approach”
2019 - now    Lorentz Center Chemistry board member
2019 - now    Member of the NWO working group committee “Chemical conversion” 

Publication record including five recent representative publications

As per 2023, over 150 papers, including 5 book chapters, 5 patents; about 4500 citations.

Google Scholar profile: https://scholar.google.nl/citations?user=KsMjKMQAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao
ORCID: 0000-0002-5810-3657
ResearcherID: C-9944-2010
Website: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/staffmembers/sylvestre-bonnet

Representative papers

  • “Perspectives on ruthenium-based photoactivated chemotherapy” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2023, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c01135, invited (accepted/in press)
  • “In vivo metallophilic self-assembly of a light-activated anticancer drug” X.-Q. Zhou, P. Wang, V. Ramu, L. Zhang, S. Jiang, X. Li, S. Abyar, P. Papadopoulou, Y. Shao, L. Bretin, M. A Siegler, F. Buda, A. Kros, J. Fan, X. Peng, W. Sun, S. Bonnet, Nat. Chem. 2023, 15, 980–987. DOI: 10.1038/s41557-023-01199-w
  • “Photosubstitution in a trisheteroleptic ruthenium complex inhibits conjunctival melanoma growth in a zebrafish orthotopic xenograft model” Q. Chen, J.-A. Cuello-Garibo, L. Bretin, L. Zhang, V. Ramu, Y. Aydar, Y. Batsuin, S. Bronkhorst, Y. Husiev, N. Beztsinna,  L. Chen, X.-Q. Zhou, C. Schmidt, I. Ott, M. J. Jager,  A. M. Brouwer, B. E. Snaar-Jagalska, S. Bonnet, Chem. Sci. 2022, 13, 6899–6919. DOI: 10.1039/D2SC01646J
  • “Photo-uncaging of a microtubule-targeted rigidin analogue in hypoxic cancer cells and in a xenograft mouse model” V. H. S. van Rixel, V. Ramu, A. B. Auyeung, N. Beztsinna, D. Y. Leger, S. T. Hilt, S. E. Le Dévédec, T. Yildiz, T. Betancourt, M. B. Gildner, T. W. Hudnall, V. Sol, B. Liagre, A. Kornienko, S. Bonnet, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 18444-18454. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b07225
  • “A Red-Light-Activated Ruthenium-Caged NAMPT Inhibitor Remains Phototoxic in Hypoxic Cancer Cells” L. N. Lameijer, D. Ernst, S. L. Hopkins, M. S. Meijer, S. H. C. Askes, S. E. Le Dévédec, S. Bonnet, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56,11549–11553. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201703890

Selected oral presentations at international conferences

  • Keynote, 25th Conference on Organometallic Chemistry, Alcalá de Henares, Spain (September 2023)
  • Invited “Ru-based photoactivated chemotherapy for eye cancer treatment” 16th International Symposium on Applied Bioinorganic Chemistry (16-ISABC), Ioannina, Greece (June 2023)
  • Keynote, “Transmembrane photoelectron transfer: surprises for artificial photosynthesis”, CHAINS, Veldhoven, The Netherlands, September 2022
  • Plenary, 15th European Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry (EuroBIC15), Haskolabio at Hagatorg in Reykjavik, Iceland, August 2020, online. 
  • Keynote, “Cyclometallated anticancer compounds in phototherapy: different colors, different isomers”, 19th International Conference on Bioinorganic Chemistry (ICBIC19), Zurich, Switzerland, August 2019
  • Session chair “Photoactivated chemotherapy in hypoxic cancer cells”, Session title “Photoactivated Chemotherapy: an Oxygen- Independent Form of Anticancer Phototherapy”, 17th International Photodynamic Association World Congress, Boston, USA, July 2019

Professor Chemistry

  • Science
  • Leiden Institute of Chemistry
  • LIC/Energy & Sustainability
  • LIC/ES/Metal in Cat. Biom. & Inorg. Mat.

Work address

Gorlaeus Building
Einsteinweg 55
2333 CC Leiden
Room number EE3.19



  • No relevant ancillary activities
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