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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Ioanna Mela

Dr Ioanna Mela, a Postdoctoral Research Associate working in the Laser Analytics Group with Prof Clemens Kaminski, has been awarded funding from the National Biofilm Innovation Centre, 3rd Proof of Concept Call, to investigate the potential of DNA nanostructures against oral biofilms.

NBIC are delighted to share that a further 14 projects have been awarded funding from the third Proof of Concept call launched earlier this year, with a primary focus on controlling and exploiting biofilms. 45 applications were received from 24 different research institutions, involving 46 companies.

The aim of Dr Mela’s project is to explore the potential of DNA nanostructures as drug delivery vehicles that can penetrate and disrupt biofilms. In this eight-month long project, the focus will be on P.gingivalis, a bacterium that exists in highly complex dental plaque biofilms, and is responsible for gum disease. If successful, the project can potentially lead to the commercialisation a new therapeutic.

“I am grateful for the funding and very excited to explore the potential of DNA nanostructures against biofilms”, said Dr Mela. “It is a question I was keen to answer since I started working with DNA nanostructures that target bacteria and this short project will let me take the first steps towards this goal”.

This third group of projects continues to address a wide range of sectors and challenges across health, hygiene, industrial processing, food, water, oral care, personal care, anaerobic digestion, waste and wastewater and biotechnology. NBIC reserved 30% of funding for projects with an engineering theme to build on their Biofilm Engineering workshop which took place in Edinburgh in April 2019. Dr Mark Richardson, NBIC CEO said, “We are delighted that over 40% of funding was awarded to projects with a clear engineering theme. This demonstrates the impact our networking and workshops had on stimulating these applications”.

NBIC was involved with the formation of several partnerships via their targeted matching of need and solution leading to proof of concept applications. The collaboration between NBIC affiliated research institutions and industry is key to understanding biofilms and producing innovative solutions to the societal challenges they present, currently impacting ~$5 trillion dollars in global economic activity (approx. double the UK GDP). All projects work across the major strategic NBIC themes: Prevent, Detect, Manage and Engineer biofilms, and are a step forward in capitalising on the world-class research based in the UK to tackle the sectoral challenges identified with industry partners.

NBIC’s contribution is between £25-50k for each project. In total NBIC is investing approximately £0.81m in these projects. Projects were also encouraged to propose additional sources of funding and in-kind support (in order to enhance the quality of the bid and the outcomes anticipated), bringing the total value to £1.3m. As part of this programme NBIC has also awarded funding to 7 SMEs involved in projects totalling £117k. NBIC will help to support and facilitate the relationship between research institutions and industry partners, and project leads are expected to report to NBIC on a regular basis regarding project progress. 

“This third set of awarded projects brings our total portfolio of funded projects to 65 across diverse companies, sectors and research institutions," said Dr Richardson. "As the first of our portfolio of projects come to completion and mature, we are now looking to see their further progress, and look at how NBIC can help. In the current Covid-19 affected science landscape we are working with holders of active projects to understand how NBIC can be flexible and help them ensure their projects successfully complete.”

If you’re an academic in a research institution or a commercial organisation looking to work with NBIC to achieve breakthroughs in biofilm innovation, please email nbic@biofilms.ac.uk.

Find out more about Dr Mela's research on our Laser Analytics Group website.

About the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC)

The National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) is an Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) funded by the BBSRC, Innovate UK and the Hartree Centre and is led by four Universities (Edinburgh, Liverpool, Southampton and Nottingham), with a consortium of 52 academic partner institutions across the UK. It is the central hub where academia, industry, government, and public policy come together to tackle the grand challenges biofilms present, impacting ~$5 trillion in global economic activity, from food and health to ships, clean water and energy. NBIC’s mission is to establish a network of research and innovation capacity to catalyse partnerships with industry to achieve breakthrough innovations and impact.

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