Porphyrins and phthalocyanines feature strong light absorption, capacity for metal chelation, and a track record of use in human therapeutic applications. Various conjugates and formulations of these macrocycles have shown potential to forge new applications in the biomedical sciences. Our lab has explored several such approaches including porphyrin polymer hydrogels, porphyrin-lipid nanovesicles, and surfactant-stripped micelles. These all feature in common a high density of tetrapyrroles, as well as unique functional properties. Porphyrin polymer hydrogels with high porphyrin density and bright fluorescence emission were demonstrated for use as a new class of implantable biosensors. Porphyrin-lipid nanovesicles hold potential for phototherapy, imaging, and also drug and vaccine delivery. Surfactant-stripped micelles have been developed for high-contrast photoacoustic imaging. In this ICPP Young Investigator Award brief perspective, we discuss our own efforts on these fronts. Taken together, the results show that tetrapyrroles enable new approaches for tackling biomedical problems and also confirm what was already well-known to members of the Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines: that these molecules are remarkably versatile and enable research to flow in unexpected directions.

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