NBIC 1st PoC Call Awarded Projects

NBIC proud to announce funding of 26 new projects tackling biofilms

First cohort of projects launched in the UK between universities and industry partners with a primary focus on controlling and exploiting biofilms

October 31st 2018

The NBIC are delighted to share that 26 projects have been awarded funding from the first Proof of Concept (POC) call earlier this year. The projects are wide-ranging in the challenges they aim to tackle and engage a large and diverse group of partners across various sectors, including health, food hygiene, industrial processing, marine and water. The collaboration between NBIC 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.

The NBIC launched its first POC call in June 2018 and received a total of 50 applications, worth approx. £4M, over half of which was requested from the NBIC. Proposals required a joint collaboration between at least one industry partner (micro, SME or large) and at least one UK University part of the NBIC consortium (31 universities), with a focus on preventing, detecting, managing or engineering biofilms, and with an expectation to build upon existing research and towards practical exploitation. All projects were sent to a pool of 50 assessors from Academia (27) and Industry (23), and each project was assigned one academic and one industry assessor. Projects were assessed rigorously, across a number of key criteria, including: the quality of the collaboration; the quality of the science; the level of innovation; the potential for future application and the next steps if successful; the credibility of the project plan and the work needed to be done; the demonstrated extent of engagement with industry or external stakeholders and their level of commitment (e.g. financial or in-kind); and the alignment of project goals with the NBIC strategy.

The review panel consisted of 5 academics and 5 industrialists, all with biofilms and project management experience.

Panel Chair, Dr Gareth Lloyd-Jones, Board Chairman at Medilink North of England, commented:

“The NBIC was set up in January 2018 and in the ensuing 8 months, with a small executive team, it is evident that a huge amount of skilful, constructive work has gone into engaging both industry and academic partners from across the UK. Engagement with such large and diverse group of partners will underpin the national aim of the initiative. This is reflected in the collaborative PoC applications received (50) for review from this call. […] It was encouraging to find that half the proposals achieved a score greater than 70% of the maximum attainable, reflecting the excellent quality of the applications received. […] I would like to thank the panellists for agreeing to give their time and expertise that proved crucial in helping NBIC ensure that public funds are assigned appropriately.”

The 26 projects awarded all range from 3 to 12 months in duration, lasting on average 6 months. The NBIC’s contribution is on average between £25-50k in total for each project. In total NBIC is investing approximately £1.1m 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. 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.

Mark Richardson, CEO of the NBIC, commented:

“Delivering translational research is at the heart of our mission to harness the UK’s Academic and Industrial strengths in Biofilm related Science and Technology. We were delighted with the breadth and quality of the project proposals received in the call and are pleased to have been able to support over 50% of those received. I am personally grateful to the UK Academic and Industrial Community, not only for participating in the call, but also engaging in the review process and demonstrating what a supportive network the UK Biofilm Community truly are.”

Research and Innovation are central to the UK government’s long-term Industrial Strategy to raise productivity and earning power, and Innovation Knowledge Centres (IKC) are a key vehicle in achieving this. NBIC is an IKC funded by the BBSRC, Innovate UK and Hartree Centre, specifically focusing on the unique challenges and opportunities biofilms present and finding innovative solutions to overcome or utilise them by joining world-class researchers and industry together.





Managing Aquatic Biofilms via Surface Manipulation Biofilms within distribution pipes present a major risk to drinking water safety. In marine environments, coatings have successfully altered surfaces to mitigate biofilm risks. This project explores the novel application of marine-coatings to drinking water pipes to prevent/limit and manage biofilms by comparing biofilm behaviour using innovative analytical techniques. The University of Sheffield International Paint Ltd (AkzoNobel) and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW)
Accelerating Antisense PMOs to the Clinic We plan to hijack a mechanism used by bacterial pathogens to uptake essential nutrients, to deliver synthetic RNA fragments which can switch off the expression of specific genes required for survival and kill these pathogens in a biofilm. This innovative technology could potentially have a strong impact in combating AMR. University of Nottingham Belfry Therapeutics
A model oral system for oral healthcare risk assessment Hundreds of microorganisms live in the mouth, many are harmless while others cause caries and gum disease. This project will utilise an in vitro model system to investigate how oral hygiene products may affect this complex oral microbiome to better predict product efficacy. University of Southampton Unilever Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC)
PlasmaHeal: cold plasma to control biofilms in wound dressings and at the wound/dressing interface. Biofilms are a major problem in non-healing and infected chronic wounds due to their recalcitrance to immune clearance and antimicrobial agents. Cold plasma technology is highly effective against biofilm contamination. This project will bring together expertise in biofilms, wound care and plasma to develop a novel ‘plasma activated wound dressing’. University of Liverpool 5D Health Protection Group Ltd
BIOFILMer: a super-resolution platform for the analysis of crystalline biofilms in urological devices. Urological devices are widely used in the clinic to treat kidney stones, tumours, and incontinence. They however suffer from biofilm formation, causing severe side effects. In this project, we will establish the first platform for super-resolution analysis of biofilms in urological devices, enabling development of safer and biofilm-resistant treatments. University of Southampton Oxford Nanoimaging Ltd (ONI) and Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana
Development of a Moving Membrane Bioreactor (MMBR) for the automated cultivation and harvest of algae grown as a biofilm. Many microalgal species are grown commercially to produce a range of sustainable bioproducts, with further product diversification hindered by high production costs. This consortia has developed a membrane based technology to cultivate algae as a biofilm; reducing production costs and opening the possibility to cultivate novel high value strains. Plymouth Marine Laboratory Varicon Aqua
Development and evaluation of a dual function dressing to combat biofilm infection and exudatein chronic wounds. Dressings have been designed to separately address problems associated with chronic wounds including exudate (wound fluid) and biofilms (microorganisms growing on surfaces that are highly tolerant to antimicrobials). This project will assess the anti-biofilm efficacy of a newly developed wound dressing capable of absorbing high levels of exudate. University of Manchester Crawford Healthcare
The effect of low frequency ultrasound on urinary catheter biofilms: a crossover study. Finding ways to reduce infections caused by catheters (tubes) in the bladder is a top priority in the NHS. We have evidence that an ultrasound device (Uroshield) that clips onto catheters could prevent infections. In this study we will use proven methods to find out if it really works. University of Southampton Nanovibronix Inc (Ideal Medical Solutions UK)
New generation colour-encoded coatings for surgical tools with intrinsic antimicrobial action. This project optimises technology to produce intrinsically antimicrobial coatings for surgical tools. This addresses an important NHS-identified need for self-cleaning surfaces, combined with distinct colour and lustre required for end-user compliance within surgical theatres. Detailed surface chemistry and biological testing will accelerate commercialisation of existing IP. University of Liverpool Gencoa Ltd
Measuring biofilm formation in venous catheters. The placement of catheters into a patient’s veins is widespread in hospitals, but poses a serious infection risk due to biofilm formation. We will measure biofilm formation on a range of catheters provided by Kimal, to determine how catheter design can be improved to reduce the risk of biofilm formation. University of Edinburgh Kimal Plc
Corneal biofilm models and anti-biofilm nanoparticles. Bacterial and fungal keratitis is a major problem in many low/middle-income countries (LMIC). There is a need for stable and affordable treatments that can control diverse eye infections. Antimicrobial nanoparticle formulations can provide the antimicrobial and physical properties needed to destroy biofilm structures without damage to sensitive eye tissue. Sheffield University Tecrea Ltd and Blueberry Therapeutics
Low dose nitric oxide for the effective treatment of chronic wounds. Wounds that don’t heal are associated with bacteria in communities known as biofilms which are resistant to antibiotics. We have shown that low dose nitric oxide can help disperse lung biofilms win patients with cystic fibrosis. This project will test whether nitric oxide can also disperse biofilms from infected wounds. University of Southampton T.J. Smith and Nephew Ltd
Blue light treatment of listeria under environmental conditions. Listeria monocytogenes is an important foodborne pathogen, causing recent fatal outbreaks across Europe and South Africa. Listeria can persist in food factories in biofilms despite sanitising procedures. Blue light (~405 nm) could be an additional operator-safe disinfection measure, however its impact against Listeria in factory conditions is unknown. Quadram Institute Chilled Food Association
Evaluating an innovative plasma (fourth state of matter) technology for prevention and management of biofilms in the food industry. In the food industry, increased resistance of biofilm-forming bacteria such as listeria has led to a need for new approaches for decontamination of food and food processing surfaces. This project will evaluate an innovative plasma (fourth state of matter) technology for biofilm prevention and management on food and hard surfaces. University of Surrey Fourth State Medicine Ltd (Fourth State, FS)
A novel laboratory biofilm model to accelerate the commercialisation of anti-biofilm products for the benefit of patients with chronic wounds. Organisation of bacteria as communities called biofilms in wounds delays healing. In the UK, currently one million patients live with the physical and emotional discomfort caused by non-healing wounds. This project will help bring to the clinic a unique, revolutionary cure that will accelerate wound healing by removing biofilms. University of Sheffield Neem Biotech and Welsh Wound Innovation Centre
Facile fabrication of a disruptive titanium technology using a polydopamine capturing platform. Titanium dental implants to replace damaged or missing teeth can sometimes get infected. We have taken inspiration from how edible mussels attach to rocks, jetties etc. by applying a thin film of the adhesive used by mussels on titanium. The film in turn can “hook” suitable agents to minimise infection. University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol OsteoCare
Biofilm Fluorescent Antibiotics AssaY



The ability of antibiotics to penetrate the biofilm matrix is key to their clinical success, but hard to measure.   We will assess a novel method to detect how well antibiotics penetrate biofilms in chronic lung infections. We will use fluorescently-tagged antibiotics within clinically relevant and UKAS accredited biofilm methods. University of Warwick Perfectus Biomed Ltd
Development of synthetic biofilm for calibrating the effect of coatings on reducing marine viscoelastic drag. Marine fouling biofilm contributes to thousands of tonnes excess fuel usage in the shipping industry. We will develop a test system that can more accurately predict how a coating may reduce biofilm viscoelastic drag to aid in the design and application of better, environmentally friendly coatings for marine vessels. University of Southampton International Paint Ltd (AkzoNobel)
QuorumClean This project aims to develop a novel marine antifouling technology that outperforms conventional approaches, but with a reduced environmental impact. The approach works by disrupting cell-to-cell communication between marine microbes. Potential applications of the technology are diverse and include protection of ship hulls, marine sensors, desalination membranes and aquaculture infrastructure. Plymouth Marine Laboratory Unilever R&D Port Sunlight
Optimization of antibiotic calcium sulphate beads to combat periprosthetic biofilm infections. Bacterial biofilm infections are a major complication of orthopaedic surgeries. Together Biocomposites and the University of Southampton have developed methods to assess how bacterial biofilms are killed by antibiotic loaded absorbable beads placed in the infected site. This project will guide design and applications to prevent and treat joint infections. University of Southampton Biocomposites Ltd
Advanced testing platforms to address key performance variables for antimicrobial products on domestic surfaces. Unravelling the effects of soiling events and surface chemistry on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation over domestic surfaces under realistic environmental conditions. Moving away from model surfaces to add hierarchical levels of complexity: surface materials (hard surfaces initially); and biological inputs (single bacteria to multi-species colonies and associated soils). University of Liverpool Unilever R&D -Homecare Division
Treatment of zinc-contaminated slurry in steel production by BioElectrochemical Systems. In Steel industry, Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) generates significant amount of dust with high Fe contents. The presence of zinc limits Fe recovery as it would cause operational issues, leading to large amounts of dust being stockpiled. We propose a novel and sustainable BioElectrochemical System (BES) to tackle this challenge. University of Newcastle Tata Steel Europe
Novel pharmaceutical agents (XF-drugs) to prevent and proactively manage bacterial biofilm and fungal infections in dynamic model systems. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, particularly within biofilms and fungi pose a significant healthcare threat including respiratory conditions (e.g. Cystic Fibrosis) and chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers (DFU). The purpose of this NBIC study is to examine the effectiveness of a novel antimicrobial-drug series in two mechanistically-distinct and clinically relevant model systems. University of Southampton Destiny Pharma Plc
Development of Next Generation synergistic antibiofilm treatments for wounds. Over 50% of chronic wounds develop localised infection due to biofilms, impeding wound healing. Current antimicrobials in wound care have limited effectiveness against biofilms. The aim is to determine the feasibility of combining new synergistic antimicrobial and antibiofilm agents into one formulation for incorporation into a hydrogel-based low adherent fibrous wound dressing. University of Leeds T-EDTA Ltd, Medipure Ltd and 5D Health Protection Group Ltd
Influence of phosphate dosing to prevent plumbosolvency on biofilm formation in drinking water distribution systems. Phosphate is added to drinking water to minimise lead dissolution from household pipes. However, phosphate, can favour microbial biofilm formation in drinking water systems. To optimise the way this chemical is used by water utilities we need to understand its impact on biofilm formation and on water quality and safety. University of Sheffield Welsh Water
Biofilm evolution in microbial fuel cells fed Yeo Valley wastewater. Yoghurt production generates wastewater that requires considerable energy to clean. This project will look at cleaning dairy waste using bacteria that release electricity as a by-product. We will examine which groups of bacteria (biofilms) are best at producing power and where to find them in Yeo Valley’s wastewater treatment plant. University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol Bio Loop