Swansea University leads £1.5m initiatives to develop expertise in nanomedicine

28 May 2012

Swansea University is leading two international initiatives to create expertise and new technology in nanomedicine.

Celtic Alliance for NanoHealth

The University is the lead partner in the £1 million Celtic Alliance for NanoHealth (CAN), announced in March this year, which will help companies in Wales and Ireland stay at the forefront of innovation and growth in this fast developing healthcare sector.

The Alliance is backed by £765,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Ireland Wales Cross Border (INTERREG 4A) programme.

Based at the University’s Centre for NanoHealth — also backed with EU funding — the partnership will pool resources with three Dublin-based institutions:

  • University College Dublin’s Centre for BioNano Interactions;
  • Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Molecular Medicines and Centre for Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN); and
  • Dublin City University’s Biomedical Diagnostics Institute and Nanobiophotonics and Imaging Centre – each boasting specific areas of expertise in nanohealth.

Deputy Minister for European Programmes, Alun Davies, said: “Nanohealth has the potential to deliver major advances in healthcare, and in doing so drive innovation and deliver sustainable economic and social development. I welcome this EU-funded initiative which will help forge a strong alliance between academia, healthcare providers and business to deliver healthcare solutions.”

The alliance will enable small to medium sized companies interested in developing nanohealth technology to access world leading resources as well as the opportunity to link-up with potential investors.

This includes two showcase business events planned in September 2012 and 2013 in Swansea and Dublin, in collaboration with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University in Houston, Texas, aimed at providing opportunities for companies to link up with investors tailored to the nanohealth sector.

The alliance is also in discussions with the US government, exploring opportunities for Welsh companies in America.

Through CAN it is expected that new and faster ways of screening for diseases using nanotechnologies will be developed. These will provide advances in patient care and safety and enhance the speed at which novel developments can be translated for patient benefit.

For example, Nano-devices and Nano-biosensors allow the detection and measurement of biomarkers in fluid or tissue samples at a level of sensitivity far beyond current methods, aiding the early detection and treatment of a wide range of diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Dr Steve Conlan, Director of the Centre for NanoHealth at Swansea University said: “Establishing a coordinated cross-border cluster will create a world-class alliance of key opinion leaders, internationally distinguished researchers and state-of-the-art infrastructure. This alliance will have the scope, capacity, and flexibility to lead nanohealth internationally from scientific, technological, and economic innovation perspectives.

“NanoHealth is an emergent business area that will undergo rapid growth to deliver future healthcare, and CAN will directly impact on economic prosperity through the transfer of innovations from the partner higher education institutions to industry, in particular SMEs. The alliance will realise cross-border innovation in research and development, training and commercialisation programmes through this unique partnership.

“NanoHealth is an emergent business area that will undergo rapid growth to deliver future healthcare CAN will work closely with Welsh and Irish businesses to explore and exploit opportunities presented by the effective development and management of the nanohealth platform, and will work to disseminate these advances to the European academic and industry base.”

As well as providing scientific expertise, the alliance plans to help companies gain financial backing for their developments.

Global hub for nanomedicine

Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) and Human Computer Interactions research group has been awarded a £5000,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create the ‘Global Hub in Medical Technologies and NanoHealth at Swansea University’.

The Hub will facilitate a series of staff exchanges over a 12-month period to build on current and new research initiatives with Swansea’s international research partners.

Professor Steve Wilks, Head of the College of Science at Swansea University said: “Much international collaboration has been forged through CNH’s activity, particularly with leading international institutions in Medical Technologies and NanoHealth. For example, Swansea has a long standing relationship with institutions in the United States including Texas A&M University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University and The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston.

“Developments have included point-of-care technologies in the detection and analysis of abnormal blood clotting; toxicological impact of natural and engineered nanoparticles; and smart systems to deliver drugs.”

The EPSRC grant, awarded specifically to internationally mobilise staff expertise, means that factors which often stifle and frustrate academic activity and advances will be eliminated. Through the Hub, Swansea researchers will have the freedom to take their knowledge and creative solutions about vital health issues to countries including China, France and the US.

The Global Hub will rapidly internationalise areas of strength in Swansea University’s existing EPSRC-funded portfolio of activities in four key areas: technology development, safety assessment, therapeutics, and human factors engineering.

“This opportunity will enable our researchers to improve an individual’s quality of life through targeted drug delivery, make possible the ability for patients to manage their own drug delivery within the comfort of their own homes and reduce human error through improved user interfaces with devices that deliver drugs,” said Professor Wilks.

“The new Global Hub is vital in enhancing our existing collaborations and developing new joint ventures through the mobilisation of staff to those countries where we have key partners in nanohealth.

“The award will add value through working across disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences. This broad approach will deliver further potential for the social and cultural aspects to influence and shape nanohealth developments.

“Our current EPSRC-funded Bridging the Gaps portfolio has funded more than 50 interdisciplinary, innovative research projects such as novel applications to address blood clotting, redesigning conventional computer systems to support healthcare and public engagement of science.

“In particular the funding will give staff at an early stage in their research careers the opportunity to become international career researchers and enable established researchers to flourish in their international commitments; in short the project aims to ensure Swansea University’s European Centre for Nanohealth is, and is seen to be, the Global Hub in Medical Technologies and Nanohealth.”

Further information

Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) is a unique interdisciplinary research centre based on the application of Nanotechnology and leading innovations in Healthcare.

This joint initiative between the University’s Institute of Life Science in the College of Medicine, the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre in the College of Engineering, and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust, offers exciting opportunities to work at the interface between Engineering Biomedical Science and clinical delivery.

The CNH is located within a Clinical and Biomedical research environment on Swansea’s Singleton hospital site, giving access to patients and creating a pioneering, integrated facility in which novel devices and sensors can be designed, manufactured, functionalised, tested and evaluated.

Website: www.swan.ac.uk/engineering/nanohealth/

The Celtic Alliance for NanoHealth (CAN) has its own website at: www.celticnano.eu 

Forfás' Report

The Irish government's Forfás' Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, published on 01 March 2012, identified medical devices, diagnostics and therapeutics as three of its fourteen priority research and investment areas. The Forfás report identified opportunities for commercialisation in emerging growth areas such as personalised medicine/companion diagnostics, nutrition related diagnostics, veterinary diagnostics and point-of-care devices.

The report is availale at: www.forfas.ie/publication/search.jsp

University College Dublin’s Centre for BioNano Interactions (CBNI) is part of the UCD Centre for NanoMedicine, and is a multi-disciplinary platform for NanoSafety and NanoMedicine, focussing on in-depth mechanistic understanding of how nanomaterials interact with living systems and the role of the bio-nano interface in this. CBNI is located in a purpose-build state-of-the-art facility funded via the Programme for Research at Third Level Institutes cycle 4, and in the UCD Conway Institute. CBNI coordinates the EU FP7 research infrastructure for nanosafety assessment, as well as multiple other European and international projects on topics of nanomedicine and nanoregulation, an area that is gaining increasing importance at present since regulations around nano for consumer products and medicines are currently being formulated.

For more information visit: www.ucd.ie/cbni/

Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM) is the leading research institute in Ireland in the areas of Inflammation, Cancer, Infectious diseases and Nanomedicine strategically positioned on the grounds of the teaching University Hospital, ensuring an efficient translation of research output into academic and clinical practice.

IMM coordinates several large scale EU FP7 research projects focused on Clinical disease, Nanomedicine, Nanodiagnostic and Pharmaceutical research. IMM is one of the partners of the Molecular Medicine Ireland initiative focused on Translational research into biomedical sciences, a partner of the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine.

For more information see: www.tcd.ie/IMM 

The Centre for Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) is the national centre of excellence for nanoscience established in 2003 by a joint partnership between two universities (Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork). CRANN main research areas are focused on Advanced materials, Spin electronics and sensors, Integrated nanoscale devices, BioNanoAssay & Nanomedicine.

CRANN has into an internationally competitive research institute with 18 PIs, 20 Investigators, 150 researchers and technical staff based across multiple disciplines including Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Engineering and Pharmacology. CRANN has established collaborative relationship with more the 70 industrial partners, and has an established network of >100 European universities.

In partnership with these universities and industrial partners, CRANN is to harness the cross disciplinary nanoscience research of individual PIs and staff to deliver world leading research outputs and to enable CRANN researchers to address key industry challenges.

For more information see: www.crann.tcd.ie

Dublin City University’s Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI) is a Science Foundation Ireland CSET (Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology). Established in October 2005, the BDI is an Academic-Industrial-Clinical partnership that carries out cutting-edge research programmes focussed on the development of next-generation biomedical diagnostic devices. The BDI vision is to transform healthcare by pioneering advances in the science and technology of diagnostics and by translating these advances into clinical use.

For more information see: www.bdi.ie

The National Biophotonics and Imaging Platform Ireland (NBIP) was established in 2007 under HEA PRTLI Cycle 4. The platform consists of a consortium of imaging and biophotonics laboratories from across the Universities and Institutes of Technology in Ireland. NBIPI provides an integrated national access and training infrastructure in research, education, technology development and industry collaboration for the State’s investment in Biophotonics and Imaging. The DCU element of the NBIP is made of three key clusters: Nanobiophotonics, Nanotechnology and Molecular Spectroscopy, as well as Image Processing & Analysis: Computer Vision.

For more information see: www.nbip.dcu.ie



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