Intellectual Property

Light-triggered drug delivery biomaterial

Light-triggered drug delivery biomaterial

Researchers at QUB have developed a innovative technology which allows drugs to be released on-demand using light, for a range of applications from infection-resistant medical devices to tailored drug dosing devices.



Principal benefits of the technology is that the drug delivery profile can be tailed exactly to what is required clinically by controlling the application of light Methods developed  to embed the technology in several classes of polymer, including hydrogels, and PVC Novel methods of controlled drug delivery can save significant costs and improve patient outcomes, which rapidly drives market penetration 



The prevention and control of medical device-associated infection is a priority, not only for the UK but for governments worldwide. Although government investment has resulted in significant declines in recorded cases of MRSA and C. diff., a major source of infection is not hospital hygiene, but infection of the medical devices hosted by the patient by bacteria present on the patient’s skin, mucosal membranes or in the mouth or trachea. For example, endotracheal tubes used in intensive care patients for airway management cause pneumonia in up to 67% of patients - 24-71% of whom will die – through bacterial growth on the medical device from bacteria present in gastric secretions.



Researchers at QUB have invented a unique technology that uses light-sensitive “protecting groups”, which can be chemically coupled to drugs of several classes. The protecting groups themselves can be permanently attached to the surface, or within the matrix, of a suitable polymeric support. The polymeric support can comprise a medical device, a coating for that device, or a stand-alone drug delivery composition.  When light of

a suitable wavelength is applied, the drug is liberated from the protecting group and can then exert its therapeutic effect. As light can be controlled very precisely, the dose of drug delivered can be controlled, potentially at the level of the single molecule.

The technology can be used, for example, in delivery of antibiotics from a medical device which is prone to infection, or to deliver anti-inflammatories. Ocular, respiratory and urinary devices, together with cutaneous/subcutaneous delivery products can all benefit from this technology.

Market Opportunity

Device-related infection is estimated to cost the NHS in excess of £1 billion per annum, with associated mortality and morbidity issues, and is the most challenging current problem for manufacturers. The US market for medical devices is in excess of $150 billion per annum, and the most common reason for device removal is infection.  The key market opportunities are in US, Europe, Canada, Japan and Australasia.


Sean Gorman, David Jones, Colin McCoy

Patent Status

This technology is the subject of an international patent application with International Publication Number  WO/2009/147372


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