Sandvig has been studying endocytosis and intracellular transport of protein toxins from bacteria and plants. These toxins include the bacterial toxins Shiga toxin and diphtheria toxin, as well as plant toxins such as ricin. The interactions of the toxins with cells are studied to learn more about endocytic mechanisms and intracellular transport in general, to investigate protein translocation across membranes, and to study toxins in particular with respect to their use in diagnosis and therapy of cancer. Increased knowledge about toxins and their interactions with cells is also of interest in connection with infectious diseases, and of interest to learn more about cell signaling and apoptosis. More recently also uptake and transport of nanoparticles are investigated.
In addition to the basic research performed on endocytosis and intracellular transport, the Sandvig group also has subgroups investigating release and characterization of exosomes and studies of nanoparticles. Sandvig headed during 2014-2019 a project to build national competence in the field of biodegradable nanoparticles for cancer diagnosis and therapy (grant of 30.4 million NOK from The Research Council of Norway). The project involved 10 national and several international groups from basic research, university hospitals, research institutes and pharmaceutical industry, and formed the basis for further studies of nanoparticles. Sandvig is currently a member of the management committee of the COST Action CA1740 Nano2Clinic: Cancer nanomedicine – from the bench to the bedside.