Anti-Biofilm Materials Using Multifunctional MOFs

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Chemistry


Biofilm infections are a major source of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections, accounting for ~65% of all those treated in the Western world (according to an estimate in 1999 ). Almost a defining feature of biofilms is their increased resistance to both antimicrobial drugs and to the host animal's own defences. This makes them particularly difficult targets, and even strains of microbe that are effectively treated when in their non-biofilm (planktonic) form are often untreatable when formed in biofilms. There is therefore a great incentive to develop new methods of combating such infections. In this project we will look to develop the commercial and technical aspects of a technology that we originally developed during an EPSRC-funded research projects (GR/T09705/01 Designing Porous Metal-Organic Frameworks to Store and Deliver Large Amounts of Nitric Oxide). We have proven that nitric oxide delivered from metal organic frameworks, a type of highly porous inorganic organic hybrid material, is extremely potent at killing bacteria, even when the bacteria have formed biofilm communities. We have also shown that, because of the very highly porous nature of the metal organic frameworks, we can load drugs or other small molecules simultaneously with the NO. In this project we aim to develop the commercial potential of these materials with a goal of developing a product for the anti-biofilm market. In particular our previous results have shown that we can formulate these materials into polymers suitable for coating medical devices. Over the course of this project we will coat commercial devices with MOF-containing polymers and prove their anti-biofilm activity under industry standard conditions. We will also develop a commercialisation for this technology in the anti-biofilm area as well as improving the strength of our intellectual property and identifying important potential commercial partners.

Planned Impact

Economic Impact. The overriding goal of this proposal is to develop the commercial potential of MOFs as anti-biofilm materials. We have a specific goal of developing a commercialisation plan for our MOF technologies with the overall aim of exploiting our intellectual property to its fullest extent. At the present time our exploitation plan centres around the formation of a spin-out company during 2012. Prior to this, through the auspices of this follow-on-fund proposal, we are looking to enhance the prospects of success by engaging strongly with commercialisation professionals (e.g. QED Biosciences and Scottish Enterprise) to develop the technology and commercial plan to a level where we can go to investors with a comprehensive business case and a strong background of technical results obtained under standard industry practice conditions. The technical and business aspects outlined in this proposal are specifically aimed at reaching a point where further commercialisation is realistic. Societal Impact. In a project aimed at developing a technology to combat such an important issue as biofilm infection there are obvious societal impacts. The key to maximising these will be the development of products that end up being used by medical practitioners, and so the impact here is closely linked to the economic impact discussed above. Such impact will be felt by the patients themselves, who will inevitably see improved health and well-being, but given the successful attainment of the economic targets listed above there will also be strong impact on national healthcare providers and funders. Scientific and Knowledge Impact The development of multifunctional MOFs is high quality science in itself, and there could be many follow on impacts in the academic world based on the advances we have described in this proposal. Combination therapy (the use of more than one therapy simultaneously) is growing ever more important in medical practice and the very high porosity of MOFs has great advantages when looking to utilise more than one active ingredient at the same time. However, to date MOFs have only been used to deliver one agent. The developments we have shown here open a new avenue of research which we hope will be taken up others to develop their own combination type applications of MOFs. People Impact Developing the skills of the personnel involved in the project is an important impact and one that is taken very seriously at St Andrews. The PDRA that will be employed on this project is likely to have excellent technical skills but may not have much experience in approaches to commercialisation of research. In this way it is likely that they will be exposed to a new audience for their scientific work, and as well as being technically well trained they will also need to develop an understanding of the commercial processess that will stand them in good stead for their future careers in either academic or industrial scientific research and development.


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Miller SR (2013) A rare example of a porous Ca-MOF for the controlled release of biologically active NO. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

Description The key finding in this was that NO delivered from MOFs show excellent activity against biofilms. This is extremely important in fighting infection.
Exploitation Route Some of the general results are being exploited by MOFgen Ltd - a University spinout.
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare

Description A University spinout company, MOFgen Ltd, has been externally funded (VC) and is developing some of the technology developed during this award
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Chemicals,Healthcare
Impact Types Economic

Company Name MOFgen Ltd 
Description A company formed to develop antibacterial MOF technology developed in St Andrews 
Year Established 2016 
Impact Awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry for Emerging technologies in 2016