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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J007846/1
Title: Biocompatible Polymer Colloids for Bionanotechnology Applications
Principal Investigator: Armes, Professor SP
Other Investigators:
Ryan, Professor AJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Platform Grants
Starts: 01 November 2011 Ends: 31 October 2016 Value (£): 1,030,420
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Chemicals
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Sep 2011 Platform Grants Full Proposals 12 Sept 2011 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The three principal scientists in this research programme have highly complementary expertise. Prof. Armes is a synthetic polymer chemist, which means that he designs and makes long-chain molecules. Prof. Ryan is a polymeric materials scientist; his interests lie in the structure and properties of polymers, particularly on the nanometre length scale. Prof. Battaglia is a bio-engineer, who uses his quantitative background to bring academic rigour to the biological sciences. In the last few years, we have worked together (often as pairs, sometimes as a group of three) to conduct numerous inter-disciplinary scientific studies at Sheffield University. This collaborative approach allows us to tackle important scientific problems and questions that we could not contemplate addressing as individual investigators. This Platform Grant will provide us with the opportunity to formalise this ethos and to build a world-class close-knit team over the medium term. Our vision is to conduct transformative research in the area of polymer-based bionanotechnology, which we define as the application of synthetic polymers (man-made long-chain molecules) to solve important biological problems.

This proposal is underpinned by an important breakthrough in the design of bespoke organic nanoparticles recently made by Prof. Armes. His team has developed a robust, patented formulation that enables the efficient synthesis of biocompatible nanoparticles possessing spherical, worm-like or vesicular (i.e. hollow particles) morphologies directly in water using readily available starting materials. We are currently learning the design rules to reliably predict the final particle morphology, which is transforming our understanding compared to the previous ad hoc syntheses described in the literature. This new insight will provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to explore various biomedical applications, including enhanced live cell imaging, thermo-responsive gels for cell culture studies and the efficient delivery of antibodies into cells. Our work will involve the integration of innovative polymer chemistry, state-of-the-art characterisation techniques and world-class bio-engineering to produce a paradigm shift in the fast-moving inter-disciplinary field of bionanotechnology.

We intend to interact fruitfully with an informal network of six named internationally-renowned scientists to access their expertise and instrumentation and hence extract maximum scientific value from this Platform grant. Our post-doctoral scientists will be offered the opportunity to spend up to three months on secondment with our collaborators learning new techniques, experiencing other scientific cultures and enhancing their skill sets. Finally, in addition to our ambitious scientific programme, we intend to provide inspirational leadership and active mentoring for our excellent post-doctoral scientists to enable them to attain their long-term career goals.

All three principal scientists have worked extensively with industrial companies, ranging from the world's largest chemical company (BASF) to a single employee SME. Current sponsors include: P & G, Cytec, Biocompatibles, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, AkzoNobel, Croda, Scott Bader, SSL and Vivacta. Thus each Investigator is 'outward-facing' regarding the potential commercial impact of our work and is well aware of the value of IP protection (all are named inventors on multiple patent applications). Thus our team is both well-placed and has the appropriate contacts with various named companies (see case for support) to ensure that any new intellectual property resulting from this project will be fully exploited. Moreover, we have also been active in various outreach activities to communicate our findings to the general public. This is essential to assure the UK tax-payer of the importance of maintaining a long-term strategic investment in scientific research conducted in UK Universities.
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk