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Antibiofilm wound dressings to treat diabetic foot ulcers

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R D'Sa
    Dr J Fothergill
    Dr J Hanson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted

Project Description

Applications will close as soon as a suitable candidate has been found.

This project is supported by the Doctoral Training Centre in Biofilms Innovation, Technology and Engineering (BITE) which will train PhD researchers at the interface of Physical and Life Sciences to understand the behaviour of biofilms, which are central to the global challenges of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Health, Food Security, Clean Water and Energy. BITE is a world class interdisciplinary partnership between Universities of Liverpool, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Southampton, all core founding partners of the £26.5M National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).
Biofilms are communities of micro-organisms that stick to each other within a matrix or at a surface and represent the dominant mode of life for bacteria on earth. Biofilms impact on a ~$5 trillion global economic activity, approximately twice the UK’s GDP, and influence major UK industrial sectors.

BITE DTC provides a unique training experience to the next generation of research leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs so that they can deliver breakthrough science and technologies in the cross-disciplinary field of biofilms. The four partner universities, alongside international institutes, major national facilities and a large industrial consortium have come together to deliver the UK’s first graduate training centre that will address the skills and knowledge gap in the biofilms field. Our research will span the fields of physical, mathematical, engineering, life and clinical sciences.

BITE PhD projects will:
(i) Drive international research challenges by working with leading groups in the partner universities and by encompassing exceptional interdisciplinarity to revolutionise training in the biofilms field;
(ii) Involve cohort training with students across the four institutions creating a highly-networked DTC community whose access to a world-leading infrastructure and knowledge-base will enable it to compete with the international best;
(iii) Embed innovation and entrepreneurship to catalyse high impact translation of ideas into technology and enhance the business and career prospects of its students;
(iv) Involve participation of stakeholders, including industry, government departments and laboratories, charities, NHS, external and internal research institutes for example, through NBIC collaborations;
(v) Instill skills of effective leadership, clear communication and problem solving.

All research projects fit within the following BITE Research Themes:
1. Biofilm Prevention - Design of surfaces, interfaces and materials to prevent biofilms.
2. Biofilm Detection - Innovative sensing, tracking and diagnostic technologies to detect biofilms.
3. Biofilm Management - Kill, remove or control established biofilms from exploiting their life cycle dynamics.
4. Biofilm Engineering - Control and direct complex microbial communities in process applications.

PhD Project summary: The challenging treatment of infected wounds and the global epidemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) identify an unmet clinical need for the development of advanced future therapies that do not rely on traditional antibiotics. In this “post-antibiotic era”, antimicrobial platforms offer many distinctive advantages in reducing acute toxicity, overcoming AMR and lowering cost, when compared to conventional treatments.

The worldwide rise in diabetes is an increasing public health concern with approximately 12-25% of patients developing a diabetic foot ulcer (DFU). The treatment of DFUs requires an optimal wound dressing that provides a moist wound environment, prevent infections, remove wound exudates and allows for active tissue regeneration. Conventional wound dressings cannot provide an appropriate environment for tissue repair and can easily adhere to the wound, damaging new epithelial tissues. Therefore, wound dressings with dual antimicrobial and antifouling properties are urgently needed.

The overall aim of the studentship is to rationally design and develop optimal materials for dressings which will prevent infection and biofouling while allowing for active skin tissue regeneration.
This project will have a significant material science/chemistry component.

1. Fabrication of electrospun hydrogel bandages that will be robust enough to be easily handled without breaking, as well as flexible enough to adapt to skin wounds
2. Covalent conjugation of antimicrobial and antifouling molecules onto the hydrogel bandages
3. Determination of antimicrobial/antifouling efficacy of the electrospun hydrogel bandages
4. Mechanical testing of antimicrobial hydrogel bandages
5. Characterisation of the materials’ in vitro cytotoxicity

Eligibility: UK/EU students with the equivalent of at least a 2.1 Honours degree in Chemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering or Microbiology.

All interested applicants should apply for a PhD in Chemistry via the on-line application link: Please indicate the project name of the BITE studentship and if you wish to apply for more than one project within the BITE Doctoral Training Centre, please note this in the application. Please be aware, students will receive a degree from the primary supervisor’s host School.

All enquiries should be directed to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NBIC University of Liverpool Doctoral Training Centre in Biofilms Innovation, Technology & Engineering. The award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 3.5 years. The maintenance grant will be £15,007 pa for 2019-20. Students will be expected to contribute to teaching within their primary supervisor’s host department with hours dependent on the details of the source of the studentship funding.


Stakeholder partners:
Dr Keli Kolegraff, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Professor Michael Thompson, University of Toronto
nanoComposix, Inc.
British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

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