NBIC proud to announce funding of a further 26 projects tackling and exploiting biofilms

A second portfolio of projects launched in the UK between universities and industry partners with a primary focus on controlling and exploiting biofilms

NBIC are delighted to share that a further 26 projects have been awarded funding from the second Proof of Concept (POC) call launched earlier this year. We received 49 applications from 29 different Research Institutions involving 31 companies. This second group of projects address a wider range of sectors and challenges than our first POC call (read more). We reserved 30% of funding for projects with an Engineering theme to build on our workshop in Edinburgh in April 2019. 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.

All project applications were sent to a pool of 50 assessors from academia and industry, 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 biofilm research or industry experience in R&D.

The NBIC’s contribution is between £25-50k for each project. In total NBIC is investing approximately £1.4m 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 £2m. 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 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 once again delighted with the breadth and quality of the 49 project proposals received in the call and are pleased to have been able to support over half of those received. We are grateful to the UK academic and industrial community, for not only participating in the call, but also engaging in the review process and demonstrating what a supportive network the UK Biofilm Community truly are. With their help we now have 51 exciting biofilm projects across the UK.”

Research and Innovation are central to the UK government’s long-term Industrial Strategy to raise productivity and earning power, and Innovation Knowledge Centres (IKCs) are a key vehicle in achieving this. NBIC is an IKC funded by the BBSRC, Innovate UK and the 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.


1Algae-powered MicroProcessors We have shown that algal biofilms can generate small amounts of electrical power, which can be used to run small electronic devices. We aim to prove the concept that we can use a conveniently sized algal biofilm to power a microprocessor – a computer powered by algae. University of CambridgeArm Ltd
2Development of the first ESPRIT-
AM antimicrobial self-sealing vascular access graft
Implanted medical devices improve quality of life for millions of people. However, a major complication of these devices is biofilm infection. Current implantable devices offer little resistance to biofilm formation. This project will develop novel anti-biofilm medical device coatings to reduce the incidence and severity of biofilm infection. Nottingham Trent University ESP Technology Ltd and Harman Technology Ltd
3Enhanced biofilm detection methods and the use of UVC light in their remediation and control on historic buildings and artefacts Biofilms growing on historic buildings and artefacts can cause serious damage, with critical implications for their conservation. This collaboration with Historic England will investigate novel on-site biofilm detection methods and the use of UV-C as a cost-effective, reliable and non-destructive remediation tool for many endangered historic buildings. University of Portsmouth Historic England and Isle of Wight Heritage Service, Isle of Wight Council
4e-Biofuels from CO2 conversion using Microbial electrosynthesis e-biosynthetic fuels from alternative resources rather than petrochemicals are essential to transition to a low carbon future with reduced green gas emission to tackle climate change, whilst meeting energy security. Microbial electrosynthesis is a promising way using microorganisms and renewable energy to convert CO2 to fuels and chemicals. Newcastle University Shell Research Ltd
5Electrical Sensors for Environmental & Civil Engineers: In-situ online biofilm characterisation Quantifying biofilms in drinking water pipe networks currently relies on removal of samples for laboratory analysis, which suffers from limits- of-detection, and is intrusive, costly and time- consuming. We propose a new electrical sensor to detect and quantify biofilms in-situ and in real- time, validating against current state-of-the-art laboratory measurements. University of Sheffield Environmental Monitoring Solutions Ltd, Water Industry Process and Automation & Control
6Gas Plasma for the Prevention and Management of Osteomyelitis Biofilms Osteomyelitis is a biofilm infection of bone which is difficult to treat. This project will develop a novel laboratory testing model to evaluate and optimise a plasma treatment for osteomyelitis biofilm infections. University of Hull Adtec
7Examining the potential of pharmaceutical agents (XF-drugs) to prevent and proactively manage bacterial and fungal infections in a dynamic ex-vivo ocular model system Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi pose a significant threat in ophthalmic e.g. microbial keratitis, resulting in vision impairment and blindness particularly in lower- to middle-income (LMIC) countries. The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of novel antimicrobial- drugs, against clinically relevant bacterial and fungal species in a model system. University of Sheffield Destiny Pharma Plc
8In-situ Underwater Optical Sensors There is a growing market in the Marine and Freshwater sector for in-situ sensors to monitor water environments. A significant bottleneck is rapid instrument failure due to biofouling of sensor windows. This project will: (i) create smart antibiofouling windows and (ii) modify and upgrade current sensors for underwater biofilms identification. University of LiverpoolChelsea Technologies Group Ltd
9Branched functional polymers for disrupting bacterial biofilms Biofilms in wounds and on medical devices are a major problem that prevent the treatment of infection. They are produced by infecting organisms and protect it from treatment with antimicrobials and antibiotics. In this project we are using nanotechnology to disrupt these films to expose the organisms to treatment. University of Bradford 5D Health Protection Group Ltd
10The effect of electrospun nanofibre diameter and conditioning film on controlling active biofilm formation in wound dressings Biofilm formation leads to significant failure of wound dressings, due to poor nanofiber design. This prolongs healing and increases the risks of invasive disease. In collaboration with Hybrisan, we will fabricate nanofibers of different diameters changing their morphology (size/shape) improving antimicrobial properties and colonisation resistance of wound dressings. Swansea University Hybrisan
11HullSense We will design, build and test a working prototype biofilm sensor that will sense microfouling, in real-time on ship’s hulls. This direct measurement of biofilm will allow in water hull cleaning to be correctly scheduled to: extend longevity of coatings, reduce fuel consumption and reduce green-house gas emissions. Plymouth Marine Laboratory Valeport Ltd
12Development of new antibiofilm agents through repurposing of existing licensed drugs We have recently demonstrated the potential to repurpose existing drugs already used in human medicine as antibiofilm agents. This project will provide a comprehensive screen of available drugs to identify the best candidates for repurposing as antibiofilm agents, with an initial focus on catheter associated urinary tract infection. University of BathPublic Health England and King’s College London
13Detection of biofilms that give rise to wound infection; development of a prototype point-of-care device based on rapid detection and analysis of microbial volatiles Wound infection results in poorer outcomes for patients and higher costs for the NHS. We aim to detect the gases produced by microorganisms that cause wound infection using nanomaterial- based sensors. This proof of concept device could potentially lead to future production of a novel point-of-care diagnostic tool. Universityof the West of England (UWE), Bristol University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
14Impact of ozone application on Listeria monocytogenes biofilms on drain covers under food processing- relevant conditions Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne bacterium that can cause serious and sometimes fatal disease in humans. Food factory drains can harbour listeria biofilms, hence the need for thorough cleaning techniques. This project will test the extent of reduction of listeria by Anacail’s high-dose ozone in factory-relevant conditions on drain covers. James Hutton Institute Anacail Ltd
15Bacterial networking; why it’s not always beneficial to build bridges and make connections Bacteria in wastewater treatment works can form complex network-like structures that can be detrimental to the treatment process. In this proof of concept project, we will perform experiments and computer simulations to understand the mechanisms by which these structures form. The insight gained will help us inhibit their occurrence. University of Edinburgh Veolia UK
16Developing passive RFID technology to monitor Candida albicans biofilm growth on medical devices Pathogenic yeasts can grow as biofilms on materials used to make medical implants, this represents a significant infection risk to vulnerable patients. We will develop methods to detect biofilm growth on medical devices within patients and in real-time using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, which will improve diagnosis and treatment. University of Kent Smiths Medical International Ltd
17Label-free Multimodal Imaging Platform for Detection of Biofilms Biofilms are groups of bacteria that are very difficult to detect. We’re combining powerful chemical and molecular technologies in a volumetric imaging platform to analyse biofilms quickly through their unique characteristics. This will help in diagnosis, treatment avoiding anti-microbial resistance and remove or promote biofilms in health and industrial applications. University of Southampton M Squared Life Ltd and University Hospital Southampton
18Rapid Screening Platform for Shortlisting Coatings Against Infection Urological devices are widely used to treat kidney stones, tumours, and incontinence. However, they significantly suffer from biofilm formation, causing severe side effects. Here, we will develop the first microfluidic platform for rapid screening of coatings that prevents/addresses biofilms, enabling development of safer urological devices and with wider potential applications. University of Southampton Public Health England and Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), Montana State University
19Advanced Biofilm Removal mediated by Targeted Microbubbles Generated by Fluidic Oscillation In this proposal we will develop an innovative multidisciplinary approach to identify key components of bacterial physicochemical characteristics of both static and dynamic biofilms, which will provide a biomarker for biofilm stability and a target for biofilm removal using our patented novel technology of microbubbles generated by fluidic oscillation. University of Sheffield Perlemax Ltd
20Automated in-situ detection and monitoring of marine biofilm erosion and mechanical properties via custom Optical Coherence Tomography This project aims to adopt a uniquely designed automated in-situ testing rig to detect and monitor marine biofilm erosion and study their mechanical properties. This would address the influence of biofilms on the drag on marine vessels with the aim of improving development of anti-fouling coatings to reduce fuel costs. Newcastle University International Paint Ltd (AkzoNobel) and University of Southampton
21Validation of the Oxi- Cell Ozone System for the Elimination of Biofilms Oxi-Tech have developed the ozone producing technology Oxi-Cell to combat bacterial biofilms. Oxi-Cell is fitted in-line to water systems to inhibit microbial growth. To validate this technology
and facilitate the commercial uptake of Oxi-Cell, we will quantify the antimicrobial effects of this system on planktonic and biofilm populations.
University of Southampton Oxi-Tech Solutions
22Plasma for the prevention and management of chronic wound biofilms Chronic wounds are costly to treat and significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. Bacterial biofilms (specific bacterial structures) play an important role in chronic wounds, and are responsible for many antibiotic treatment failures. This project will test an exciting new technology to remove wound biofilms and promote healing. University of Hull Fourth State Medicine
23Development of a non-thermal plasma applicator for the decontamination of medical endoscopes This project will develop a novel non-thermal plasma applicator system for the decontamination of medical endoscopes during re-processing within hospital facilities. This addresses the current clinical and economic need to ensure that endoscope devices are free from the risk of cross contamination and potential infection for patients. University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol Creo Medical Ltd and Pentax Medical
24Standardised complex wound biofilm models – a robust antimicrobial screening tool Biofilms are rarely found comprised of one single type of microorganism, yet the development of new antimicrobials tends to focus on testing one bacteria. This project aims to develop methods and testing platforms that will allow industry partners to develop effective anti-biofilm compounds using a platform representative of wounds. University of Glasgow BluTest Laboratories
25Rapid Early and Accurate Diagnosis of Wounds To feasibility test an optical-fluorescence-based detection technique that seeks to quantitatively detect bacterial biofilms in infected wounds against a complex background of normal flora, and determine antibiotic susceptibility. The rapid single-step test, implementable at the bedside, can potentially transform wound care through improved clinical outcome and reduced costs. Loughborough University Smith & Nephew Ltd
26Commercialisation of a burn wound biofilm model to provide a new service for pre-clinical research and testing in academia and industry Biofilm formation in burn wounds is associated with treatment failure, poor clinical outcomes, and development of chronic non-healing wounds. This project will develop a UKAS-accredited pre-clinical model of burn wound infection, that can support both early-stage and commercial development of new products to control biofilm formation in wounds. University of Bath Perfectus Biomed Ltd