David Jones can give you a startling view of the future. "The Royal Academy of Engineering has stated that at some stage everybody will have a medical device of some kind, be it something as simple as a contact lens at one level to a dialysis catheter for someone whose kidneys have failed."
Such a vision is of enormous professional relevance to him. "My interest is primarily in the design of medical devices that are resistant to microbial infection. This is the big problem in all medical devices. No matter where you put it or what it is, there is that possibility."
David is Professor of Biomaterial Science and Director of Education at the School of Pharmacy. He graduated from Queen's in 1985 with a degree in Pharmacy, then took a PhD, part of the theme of which was looking at how to prevent bacteria sticking to surfaces. After three years as a lecturer at a university in New Zealand, he came back to Northern Ireland accepting a job at Norbrook, the veterinary pharmaceuticals company, in Newry. Then he joined Queen's as a lecturer. "The first thing I realised was that there was a very different level of collaboration here, compared to New Zealand. There is great collegiality among the academic staff at Queen's. By working in collaboration with other staff members you gain an insight into how problems may be solved, thereby resulting in a better end product."
David's research focuses on the design of advanced medical devices and implantable drug delivery systems. The work has benefited from EPSRC funding.
"With the problems of infection, the cost to the NHS is immense. The actual materials themselves aren't expensive. A urinary catheter doesn't cost very much, but to have it changed requires a hospital procedure and people generally recognise the need to have it changed only when they've got an infection."
A recent project funded by EPSRC looked at surface gels as next generation chemical sensors. "This was an excellent collaboration with the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. We worked previously on particular materials, then we discovered that those materials can be used as sensors. By chemical modification and reformulation of the materials it was discovered that these could be engineered to give a better analytical response when you want it."
The research takes a long time, so does he ever get impatient? "When I was in industry, my job was to formulate new products. The lag time was generally about two years. It still gives me a thrill to see one of my products for sale somewhere and to think that I developed it.
"I have learned that very different timelines are needed with this work. There is no other way. Having said that, when a device of ours that has been developed at Queen's in conjunction with a company hits the market, I'll be a very proud person."
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