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Biofilms ICURe Sprint

Project summaries

Six exciting and commercially-promising research projects were selected to participate in the Biofilms ICURe Sprint cohort, delivered by SETsquared and funded by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre.


Early Careers Researcher: Anish Parmar, University of Liverpool

BioPepTex has discovered and developed a novel antibiotic, to tackle multidrug resistant (MDR) Gram positive bacterial biofilm infections. Bacterial biofilms account for 80% of chronic and recurrent microbial infections in humans. Biofilm infections are associated with medical devices such as heart valves, catheters, joint prostheses. These devices are used in medical therapy as one of most significant advances in modern medicine. However, the treatment of bacterial biofilm infections is extremely challenging and has a high recurrent rate. Long term antibiotic treatment is necessary to manage biofilm infections and revision surgery is often required to replace the failing implants. These steps increase the bacterial resistance and impose a significant financial burden on healthcare and patients.


Early Careers Researcher: Pavlina Theodosiou, Newcastle University

The sewerage industry is characterised by its risk-averse nature reflected from its unchanged practices for over 100 years. However, as the Head of Wastewater Innovation at Thames Water identified, “we live in a very different world, that requires innovative solutions that solve the industry’s problems”. Our vision is to develop disruptive technologies that can alleviate environmental problems, transfer these to industry, spread them widely and maximise their impact. As a team we have over 12 years experience of working with innovative and sustainable technologies, called Microbial Electrochemical Technologies (METs) that can recover energy and resources from wastewater including electricity, hydrogen and ammonia. METs can shift wastewater treatment to a Net Zero and we are ready now to pilot test them widely. We have developed and manufactured the biggest pilot scale MET in the UK which can treat 3 cubic metres of wastewater recovering hydrogen and ammonia.

Wipe Warriors

Early Careers Researcher: Michael Pascoe, Cardiff University

Disinfectant wipes consist of a non-woven textile impregnated with antimicrobials. There is a limited selection of materials suitable for use in wipe products. Since wipes are single-use, various forms of ‘regenerated cellulose’ are popular, as they may be sustainably sourced and are biodegradable. However, many general-use biocides stick to cellulose, preventing deposition onto surfaces and reducing biofilm eradication performance; multiple market-leading wipes perform no better than water for eliminating biofilms. Whilst plastic-based wipes don’t suffer from these drawbacks, the materials are non-biodegradable and pose problems for sustainable waste management. To address this challenge, we have developed plastic-free materials with enhanced biocide compatibility, boosting wipe product performance without compromising on environmental standards.


Early Careers Researcher: Shaun Robertson, University of Nottingham

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P.a.) forms biofilms resilient to treatment resulting in chronic infections. P.a. is a leading cause of exacerbations and irreversible lung damage in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and non-CF bronchiectasis (nCF-B). P.a is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in CF patients. If not detected and eradicated early, it develops chronic biofilm-mediated infections harder to treat. There is a real clinical need for a simple, sensitive and specific non-invasive point-of-care (POC) diagnostic method to detect P.a. in early pulmonary infections to enable prompt treatment. We have identified P.a. biomarker specific chemical entities for early detection of this pathogen in CF also suitable to measure the effectiveness of treatment. This approach is suitable for the development of a simple, specific low cost POC diagnostic test for early detection of P.a. in CF and nCF-B patients with potential to be used in other infections caused by this pathogen.

BioTryp Therapeutics

Early Careers Researcher: Ashraf Zarkan, University of Cambridge

Antibiotic resistance is an unprecedented worldwide threat. An often underestimated aspect of the problem is the ability of bacteria to form biofilms, which protect from both antibiotics and the host immune system. UTIs are among the most frequent bacterial infections, affecting 150 million people per year worldwide and 75% of infections are due to uropathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli). There is an urgent need for innovative treatments to combat bacterial biofilms in UTIs and recent work in our laboratory and elsewhere has demonstrated a key role for the enzyme tryptophanase in the formation of E. coli biofilms. Using cutting edge in silico screens combined with cellular and biochemical assays, we have identified novel tryptophanase inhibitors and confirmed their ability to inhibit biofilms in clinical strains of E. coli. We aim to develop these compounds as antibiofilms that can be used in combination with standard antibiotics (or prophylactically) to treat (and/or prevent) UTIs.


Early Careers Researcher: Niall Hanrahan, University of Southampton

A new technological innovation of a methodology which uses Multi-laser Excited Raman Spectroscopy (MERS) for rapid and accurate identification of bacterial species and strains, and prediction of their antibiotic sensitivity from a target sample with minimal sample preparation. We aim to create a combined hardware and software system that can use our newly invented MERS method in primary and secondary healthcare settings, providing rapid bacterial identification in a clinical setting. Through this, we aim to revolutionise rapid and evidence-based disease diagnosis and provide an effective commercial solution to combat the ongoing global emergence of anti-microbial resistance.


If you are interested in any of the projects above, please contact [email protected] or reach out to the Early Careers Researcher directly.

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