Foresight Fellowship in Manufacturing: "High-throughput functionalization of biomaterials for personalized healthcare"

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


Both "Advanced and Functional Materials" and "Biotechnology" have been identified as pervasive technologies for future manufacturing activities in the UK. This Fellowship will join these two areas by developing chemical and biological technologies to create advanced functionalized biomaterials, taking advantage of the Fellow's cross-disciplinary expertise at the chemistry/biology interface. Working with manufacturers of biomaterials for healthcare and personal care, hybrid biomaterials will be produced that are able to heal and diagnose.

An aging population needs cheaper biomedical materials with improved performance, but robust chemical and biotechnological processes for biomaterial functionalization are needed to create these materials. High-throughput modular methodologies are proposed for the modification of nanostructured biomaterials that will allow manufacturers to create tailored high-quality products for different markets, methodology that is able to respond quickly to the needs of customers (e.g. patients). These methodologies will draw on the UK's strengths in biotechnology to achieve a step change in cost reduction and an increase in performance; even a small reduction in costs to the NHS would bring significant benefits to the UK.

The Fellowship will address this problem through work in three key theme areas: (1) developing simple, cheap and easy-to-access methodologies for adding reactive nanoparticles to biomaterials; (2) using synthetic biology and biotechnology to functionalise biomaterials; (3) using synthetic chemistry to produce value-added biomaterials. Each theme area has been identified as an exciting and highly interdisciplinary field that is ripe for exploitation, but where poor communication between experts in different fields is hampering progress. For example, there is insufficient involvement of industrial biotechnologists, synthetic chemists and supramolecular chemists in biomaterials manufacture despite clear synergies in expertise and the importance of this area to UK manufacturing.

This Fellowship will build networks between biomaterials academics and biomaterials manufacturers, with partnerships backed up through meetings, researcher exchanges and follow-on funding. The Fellow will stimulate new innovative approaches to collaborative research by interacting with leading international researchers in Europe, the US and Australia/New Zealand who have complementary expertise to that of the applicant. The applicant will engage with leading UK manufacturers and international academic researchers, both through personal meetings and by helping to organise industry-academia meetings and developing new funded collaborations.

At the end of this Fellowship, new easy-to-use chemical and biochemical methodologies will have been developed that will have applicability across academic and non-academic biomaterials research, producing new opportunities for UK manufacturing.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit and how will they benefit:

Academic researchers will benefit as described previously, and this impact will be in the short to medium term as the collaborative research that forms part of this application bears fruit. These impacts will be shared through the usual channels, including presentations and meetings/conferences and [publications in high impact journals.

Manufacturers in the areas of biomaterials, personal care products and biomedical devices will directly benefit from this Fellowship in several different ways. In the short term, the meeting and contacts proposed in the Fellowship will bring manufacturers together with academics, allowing the problems faced by manufacturers to be recognised and then addressed by academics. For example, our ongoing work with ConvaTec has highlighted the need for easy-to-use and high yielding chemistry/biochemistry technology that will add value to healthcare products. Also in the short term the collaborative academic-industrial research described in the proposal may lead to new products but also valuable intellectual property for industrial partners. In the medium to long term this will increase the UK's competitiveness in the manufacture of biomaterials, as methodologies are developed that can be applied across several materials manufacturing industries. These methodologies will add value to low cost precursors and allow products to be produced that are more responsive to the needs of consumers (in this case healthcare professionals and patients). The impacts from the industrial collaborations will be disseminated both by publication, but particularly through patent protection.

The nation's health will benefit in the longer term as cheaper biomedical materials with improved performance become available. Our high-throughput methodologies will draw on the UK's strengths in biotechnology to achieve a reduction in cost and increase in performance, where even a small reduction in treatment costs would bring significant benefits to the NHS, particularly as the population ages. The public will also be engaged in these impacts, through updates in the media and the applicant's webpage as relevant, ensuring the wider community understand the public good that arises through these investments of public funds.

Researchers involved in the project, such as the applicant and his PhD students, will gain new technical and scientific skills in some of the latest and most exciting areas of scientific research, stimulating the formation of new ideas and development of their research careers either inside the UK or internationally.


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Description Key findings

Scientific discoveries:
1. We have found that carboydrate-hydrazide conjugation is a valuable tool in generating large numbers of oligosaccharide decorated nanostructures. Further work is ongoing in the area of oligosaccharide decorated magnetic nanoparticles as MRI contrast agents, and a publication is being drafted in collaboration with Prof. Richard Tilley using results from a student placement at UNSW in Sydney.
2. We have extended our work on the functionalisation of CMC-based dressings (in conjunction with ConvaTec UK), and this has led to further funding that is co-sponsored by ConvaTec. Arising from our sponsorship of the "Manchester Biomaterials Showcase 2017" we have also established links with plastic surgeons in the University of Manchester/University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, and a joint grant application (EoI) in this field has been submitted.
3. We have deepened our understanding of the chemistry of bilayer membranes in nanoscale phospholipid vesicles, and this has led to several publications in high-profile journals, Nature Chemistry and Science, that have received media coverage.

Meetings held as part of the fellowship:
1. Prof. Richard Tilley (UNSW, Australia, formerly Victoria University, New Zealand; 5th July 2016, 6th February 2017 in Sydney; 10th July 2017 in Manchester) to discuss and set up collaborations.
2. Prof. Ewan Blanch (RMIT Australia, Friday 6th July 2016 in Melbourne; 7th-9th June 2017 in Manchester) to discuss collaborations.
3. Prof. Vipul Bansul (RMIT Australia, Future Fellow, 23rd March 2017 in Manchester)
4. Prof. Justin Gooding (Australian Centre for NanoMedicine, UNSW, 6th July 2016) to discuss nanoscience research in Australia.
5. Dr. Dan Furkert and Prof. Margaret Brimble (University of Auckland, New Zealand, July 2016 and 9th February 2017).
6. Prof. Rein Ulijn (CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, New York, USA), 16th - 18th August 2017)
7. Dr Webb also became member of the consulting team for the biomedical materials theme in the new Royce Building ( as well as member of the Manchester Materials network, providing input based upon his fellowship-supported links with the healthcare materials industry in the UK, as well as supporting funding applications through this theme.
8. In addition to these meetings, there were multiple meetings with senior staff at ConvaTec UK (Deeside, UK), examining future funding opportunities. This resulted in a ConvaTec UK supported EPSRC CASE PhD studentship, starting in Oct 2017 as well as BBSRC NIBB (IBCarb) proof of concept funding, £20,000 (start 01/03/18 end 29/05/18).
9. The fellowship also provided the invaluable opportunity to pursue a previous unknown opportunity in conjunction with DataLase Ltd, in the area of materials chemistry. After many meetings with senior staff at DataLase, a collaboration was established that has now produced two funded research programmes (funded through EPSRC IAA Secondment Scheme £61,804 (start 03/01/18 end 02/01/19), as well as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) £156,589 (start 01/10/16 end 30/09/18)).

Invited seminars during the period of the fellowship:
1. Invited seminar at CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (New York, USA), 2017
2. Invited seminar at the Biophysics Group, University of Manchester (UK), 2017.
3. Invited lecture at "ICPOC 23", UNSW (Australia), 2016
4. Invited seminar in the Chemistry Dept, University of Geneva (Switzerland), 2016
5. Invited lecture at "1st International Symposium on Functional nanomaterials in industrial applications: Academic-Industry meet" at University of Central Lancashire (UK), 2016

Conferences attended with support from the fellowship:
1. "The 8th International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology" 12th-16th February 2017 - Queenstown, New Zealand. Dr Webb gave a lecture at this meeting, in a trip that was combined with meetings with collaborators in Sydney. Unfortunately Mr Steven Thompson (Science and Innovation Officer, British High Commission, Wellington, NZ) was not able to make a meeting originally scheduled for this time.
2. "EuroScience Open Forum 2016 (ESOF 2016 Manchester)", 24th-27th July 2017 - Manchester. Although it was not possible to coordinate a theme at this meeting, Dr Webb attended ESOF 2016 Manchester, with a focus on the nanomaterials and medicine sessions.
3. "2016 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit - Materials Research Society", 27th Nov. - 2nd Dec. 2016, Boston, USA. This was attended by PhD student Mr Thomas Fallows in the place of Dr Webb, presenting his work on the biofunctionalisation of magnetic nanoparticles. This resulted in the publication "Magnetophoretic Behavior of 3T3 Cells Incubated with Saccharide-Coated MNPs", Fallows, T.W.; Coxon, T.P.; Gough, J.E.; Webb, S.J., MRS Advances 2017, 2, 1279-1284.

Training and Skills Development with assistance from the fellowship
1. Ms Faye Craven received training in the overexpression of glycosyltransferases in bacterial hosts, training that was received in the laboratories of Prof. Sabine Flitsch (Manchester). This contributed to the publication "'One-pot' sequential enzymatic modification of synthetic glycolipids in vesicle membranes." Craven, F. L.; Silva, J.; Segarra-Maset, M. D.; Huang, K.; Both, P.; Gough, J. E.; Flitsch, S. L.; Webb, S. J. Chem. Comm. 2018, 54, 1347-1350. Unfortunately due to maternity leave it was not possible to allow Ms Craven to undertake a placement in the laboratories of Prof. Stephane Vincent in Namur, Belgium.
2. Ms Wen Li received training in the exfoliation and imaging of graphene flakes, working with Prof. Cinzia Casiraghi and Mr Darryl McManus in the School of Chemistry. This contributed to the publication "Aqueous dispersions of nanostructures formed through the self-assembly of iminolipids with exchangeable hydrophobic termini.", Li, W.; McManus, D.; Liu, H.; Casiraghi C.; Webb, S.J. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2017, 19, 17036-17043, which was selected as a "2017 PCCP HOT Article".

Conferences organised, attended and funded by the fellowship:
1. As described in the proposal, two conferences were organised and supported (in part) by funds from the fellowship. These were:
2. "Scientific and Technological Challenges in Defining a New Paradigm for Sustainable Biomaterials" 16th May 2017 - MIB lecture theatre, Manchester
3. "Manchester Biomaterials Showcase 2017", 3rd July 2017 - BioHub at Alderley Park, Cheshire.
Exploitation Route The chemistry that we will publish is designed to be applied by non-specialists from outside the field.
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description My expertise in the area of high-through production of materials has been of use to a NW England company, DataLase plc, and this has now resulted in two industry-academia collaborative awards to explore these ideas further. The Fellowship award provided the time to facilitate the meetings that led to this partnership. Similarly, findings from the ideas outlines in the original fellowship proposal have led to two industry-academia collaborative awards with ConvaTec UK. More recently (2020), the expertise and links generated by this award lead to a new KTP Award, in conjunction with Vivimed Europe Ltd.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Chemicals,Healthcare
Impact Types Economic

Description BBSRC DTP (University of Manchester)
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2020
Description BBSRC NIBB (IBCarb) proof-of-concept funding
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Funding ID IBCarb-PoC-0617-056 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2018
Description Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) Secondment Scheme [by application to University of Manchester]
Amount £61,804 (GBP)
Funding ID IAA 213 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2019
Description KTP with DataLase plc
Amount £156,589 (GBP)
Funding ID 509925 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 10/2019
Description Manchester Enterprise Centre and UMIP - Innovation Optimiser Project Award Fund grant
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Funding ID TheraMag 
Organisation University of Manchester 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 07/2016
Description School PhD studentship
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Manchester 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
Description Collaboration with Prof. Richard Tilley (UNSW, Sydney, Australia) 
Organisation University of New South Wales
Department School of Chemistry
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Placement of doctoral student Mr Thomas Fallows at UNSW (2 Feb 2017 - 30 March 2017)
Collaborator Contribution Access to TEM equipment, NMR T2 measurements and preliminary MRI data
Impact Manuscript under preparation
Start Year 2017
Description MRI and TEM measurements with Prof. Richard Tilley 
Organisation University of New South Wales
Department School of Chemistry
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PhD student (Thomas Fallows) spending 2 months at UNSW carrying out MRI and TEM measurements
Collaborator Contribution Advice and use of equipment
Impact Manuscript in preparation
Start Year 2017
Description Neutron Reflectometry at ISIS 
Organisation ISIS Neutron Source Facility
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution MG Lizio spent several weeks at ISIS in Harwell making measurements
Collaborator Contribution Dr Mario Campana at ISIS helped with measurements. Time on the instrument was supported by a grant from STFC through ISIS (Reference Number: 1600026)
Impact Funding obtained from ISIS to carry out neutron reflectometry experiments (STFC through ISIS, Reference Number: 1600026)
Start Year 2015
Description School Visit (Manchester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Discussed the role of scientist as a job, and demonstrated the effect of different household products on pH indicator solution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018