Project in development of advanced materials gets £6.5 million boost

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A multi-disciplinary team led by the University of Nottingham is going work on a research project aimed at making a leap from 2D to 3D in the development of advanced materials.

Though the project, researchers intend to realise the true potential of regenerative medicine and medical devices for the future. Part of the funding – £5.4 million – came from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), while the remaining £1.1 million came from The University of Nottingham.

The University’s Morgan Alexander, in the School of Pharmacy, and his multi-disciplinary team of experts across the University will collaborate with leading international groups to realise the vision of materials discovery in 3D, while aiming to keep the UK ahead in the global materials competition.

Professor Alexander explained that advanced biomaterials are essential components in targeting infectious diseases and cancers and without the leap beyond 2D screening methodologies, we will be missing out on new advanced materials because they omit architecture and often poorly represent the in vivo environment.

“We aim to move beyond the existing limited range of generic bio-resorbable polymeric drug and cell delivery agents to bespoke materials identified to function for specific applications”, the professor added.

From their use in targeted delivery of drugs to delivery of cells in regenerative medicine, materials have become an integral part of modern medicine. Over the last decade there have been huge advances with the stage now set for developing the next generation of biomaterials.

Next generation biomaterials discovery

Advances have been made through both hypotheses relating material properties to cell response, and the discovery of new materials made using high throughput screening. Despite these advances, rational design of new biomaterials is hindered by the paucity of information on the physicochemical parameters governing the response of all cell types of interest to a broad range of materials.

Defining chemistry, stiffness, topography and shape can control the response of cells to materials. This programme will focus on producing and testing large libraries of these attributes in the form of patterned surfaces, particles and more complex architectures.

New materials will be identified for application in the areas of targeted drug delivery, regenerative medicine and advanced materials for next generation medical devices. The exploitation of the resulting lead materials will be undertaken with our network of clinical and industrial end users in existing and future projects.

The team will also investigate and develop materials that can work around the abilities of bacteria and microbes to sense and signal to each other. This could have application in the field of antimicrobial resistance.