Engineering Precision Medicine for the 21st Century

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


The UK is facing a care crisis due to its aging population and the concomitant increase in diseases such as cancer, stroke and Alzheimer's. We urgently need better therapeutic solutions to manage these conditions, prevent premature deaths, enable patients to continue living independently and ease the burden on care providers. Our aim in the proposed research is to bring together scientists from the disparate fields of quantum physics and pharmaceutical chemistry, with biomedical engineers and clinicians in order to provide those solutions. Our approach is based upon the exciting new finding that microbubbles, currently used as imaging contrast agents can be stimulated with low intensity ultrasound to produce light, offering a unique method for delivery targeted therapy. Whilst photoactivated therapies have been the subject of both pre-clinical and clinical research for decades, their usefulness has been drastically hindered by the poor penetration of light through tissue. In our approach this barrier is eliminated. Since ultrasound can be precisely focused almost anywhere in the body from an external probe, light generation can be triggered remotely and non-invasively to deliver highly localised treatment with minimal off-target toxicity. This has the potential to transform the delivery of cancer chemotherapy, stroke treatment, antimicrobials and also newer treatments such as immunostimulatory and optogenetic therapies. The initial proof of concept phase will focus on quantification of the light emissions from microbubbles, the efficiency of drug activation and optimisation of the ultrasound exposure conditions. Our overall goal is to develop a complete treatment system, consisting of new therapeutic agents together with systems for treatment delivery and monitoring, ready for clinical development. This will provide the foundations for a pipeline of new treatments to transform therapeutic delivery by 2050.


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