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Bioactive Biomaterials and Infection Control

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Main activities

The Bioactive Biomaterials and Infection Control theme is concerned with the design, characterisation  (physicochemical and biological) and engineering of bioactive biomaterials designed for medical device applications, as follows:

Photoactive biomaterials for the prevention of medical device related infection (McCoy, Jones, Gorman).  This concerns the design of biomaterials with surface-localised photosensitisers. Following irradiation these materials produce singlet oxygen which, being highly cytotoxic, ensures surface disinfection.   This patented strategy, which has received funding from EPSRC, Government and Industrial sources, has been successfully applied to both ophthalmic and urological medical devices.  In a related application, photoresponsive polymers have been developed whereby a bioactive agent is released following irradiation of the biomaterial with a defined wavelength of radiation.  This technology has been successfully applied to ocular biomaterials and respiratory biomaterials (endotracheal tubes) for the light activated delivery of a wide range of therapeutic agents.  Funding for this patented technology has been received from EPSRC Industrial sources.

Engineered (multi-layered) catheters (Jones, Andrews, Gorman) involves the engineering of multilayer catheter systems to provide controlled degradation and/or drug release to prevent urinary encrustation and infection.  Using multilayer extrusion technologies catheter strategies have been developed that degrade in response to the presence of medical device related infection or produce engineered drug release profiles to ensure successful eradication of infection/encrustation. Funding for this patented technology has been received from the EPSRC, Government and Industrial sources.  One aspect of the technology has been licensed to a European pharmaceutical company.

Sensor Development (McCoy, Donnelly, Jones) involves the design of materials that can report with high sensitivity and selectivity on various important species. The materials include biomaterials for interference-free reporting of free calcium on bone surface for early detection of osteoporosis, in situ monitoring of serum drug concentration and pH and anion sensors.  Funding for this research has been received from EPSRC.

Biofilm Control (Gilmore, Gorman) focuses on the physical and molecular control of microbial biofilms at biomaterial surfaces, based on fundamental mechanistic understanding of the processes governing adherence, microcolony formation and biofilm maturation.  Research activities in this area include the isolation and identification of novel quorum sensing inhibitors from marine microorganisms, utilisation of bacterial proteinases as both targets for specific inhibition during synthesis of biofilm matrix components (LasB/alginate) and as specific effectors of antimicrobial release from biomaterial surface conjugated proteinase-sensitive ligands. Physical approaches to the control of biofilms include the development of novel biocides (ionic liquids, natural products) and biofilm sterilization techniques employing cold, atmospheric plasmas in the emerging field of plasma medicine. 


Research highlights

The research performed within this research theme is novel, timely and has received substantial funding from key funding groups including the Research Councils (EPSRC/BBSRC, continuous from 1999 to 2011), Government sources, European framework programmes (Beaufort Marine Biodiscovery) and the medical device industries (CIBA Vision, Blue Highway, Teleflex, Rovi).  Various aspects of the research have been successfully patented (photosensitizer containing biomaterials, light activated bioactive biomaterials, multilayered biodegradable extruded devices, antimicrobial ionic liquids).  Successful licensing of the technology has been performed for urinary devices and antimicrobial ionic liquids (Givaudan) and discussions are ongoing regarding the licensing of technology related to ocular biomaterials.  Publication of the research has been performed in high impact journals including Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy, Biomaterials, Biomacromolecules, Journal of American Chemical Society, Journal of Immunology, Bioconjugate Chemistry, Green Chemistry.







Areas of expertise

  • Polymer synthesis including drug-polymer conjugates
  • Biomaterial physicochemical characterisation (thermal, mechanical, surface, rheological)
  • Drug diffusion from biomaterials (including modelling)
  • Extrusion of medical devices (including multi-layered systems)
  • Microbial biofilm models
  • Quorum sensing inhibition
  • Pharmaceutical microbiology
  • Plasma medicine
  • Sensor design
  • Urinary encrustation models
  • Respiratory medical devices
  • Ocular medical devices
  • Urinary medical devices
  • Orthopaedic medical devices