Gavin Andrews has a diverse scientific background. He graduated from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen's, then took a masters in polymer engineering and later a PhD at the School of Pharmacy. He's now a Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics.
Along with colleagues David Jones and Sean Gorman, he has invented a new multi-layer biomaterial that provides a controlled release of drug and possesses self-cleansing properties.
It was while carrying out research at the College of Pharmacy, University of Texas, that Gavin first considered whether polymers that are commonly used to coat tablets and protect patients from the harsh environment of the stomach could be translated for use with in-dwelling medical devices.
"My idea was to engineer new materials that would significantly improve the performance of urinary catheters and reduce the complications often associated with their use."
That idea led to a major Queen's research project, assisted by EPSRC funding, which could have a lasting impact on health care.
Gavin explains, "The use of implanted medical devices is routine within hospitals and nursing homes. Although there are substantial benefits associated with their use, there is, very worryingly, a number of potentially dangerous complications that may lead to an increase in the time a patient may remain in hospital and, more importantly, to an increase in the number of patient deaths.
"These complications arise principally because of the way a patient's body reacts to insertion of a medical device and what it perceives to be a foreign object. Patients are often plagued by infection and this is seen to be one of the most critical disadvantages of an otherwise highly effective and beneficial medical treatment. There is an urgent need to improve what we call device-related infection through theThe support we're getting shows there's a true belief in what we've been able to do through this EPSRC programme. It's absolutely fantastic for the University. development of innovative medical materials.
"The EPSRC grant was to address that issue. We wanted a material that would deliver drugs in a controlled way and additionally cleanse itself if required."
With the support of EPSRC, he and his colleagues David Jones and Sean Gorman developed multi-layer systems that functioned in this way. The technology has been patented and the University is in negotiation with an industrial partner with the aim of bringing this technology to the market.
As Gavin says, "According to recent market research, the medical device industry is valued at over $300bn. So you can see why there's huge commercial interest. It would be wonderful if this were to progress to a marketed product. Not only would we be improving patients' lives, but we would also be providing a wonderful example of how investment in scientific endeavour is an essential strategy to ensure our future economic prosperity."
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