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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M002209/1
Title: Engineering Fellowships for Growth: Building advanced materials to treat vision loss
Principal Investigator: Williams, Professor R
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 August 2014 Ends: 31 July 2020 Value (£): 1,232,981
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Mar 2014 Engineering Fellowships for Growth - Advanced Materials Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Innovations in biomaterials science and engineering have the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of treatments for ophthalmic diseases and thus to reduce the burden of vision loss on the global community. Underpinning these developments is the design and production of advanced materials with key features that drive the biological response required to overcome the destructive nature of the disease. To achieve these outcomes there is an urgent need for engineers, scientists and clinicians to combine their knowledge and expertise to address the eye healthcare problems of the 21st century especially with an ageing population. Four key areas will be developed within this Fellowship:

1) The design and development of novel materials for contact lenses using environmentally friendly manufacturing processes; overcoming problems associated with silicone-based hydrogels and permitting modification to incorporate bioactive molecules for wound healing and antimicrobial agent delivery combating corneal infection,

2) The design of advanced gels to replace damaged corneas; overcoming current problems associated with biological materials such as collagen or amniotic membrane with the potential for greater control, reduced immunogenicity and thus more rapid product translation to the clinic,

3) The development of functionalised surfaces for conjunctival cell transplantation using novel atmospheric pin plasmas for spatially resolved surface modification without requiring high vacuum manufacturing,

4) The development of controlled substrates for cell expansion using surfaces designed to model the extracellular environment promoting expansion under well-defined GMP conditions to allow a more rapid translation of these cells in therapeutic applications.

This fellowship will allow me to use my expertise to develop advanced materials for ophthalmic applications and to co-ordinate the efforts of a number of academics into a major hub of activity and allow me to provide the expertise in the design of novel substrates to take forward advanced cell therapies for eye disease being developed by several groups both within the UK and internationally. Bringing together expertise in advanced materials with these groups will produce world leading research output with the potential for industrial exploitation and clinical translation capable of making a substantial impact on the UK economy and healthcare. This fellowship will allow me to exploit my leadership role within the University to build on the existing cross-faculty collaborations already established and through my mentoring roles to develop the next generation of academics to fulfil future leadership positions and ensure continuation of the strength of ophthalmic bioengineering at the University. It fits with the University's strategic priorities, and will enhance 'Materials for the Future' which is one of our 7 Institutional research themes. My existing collaborations with industry will provide a basis for further exploitation of new technologies into the commercial sector and my strong collaboration with clinicians at St Paul's Eye Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, will allow me to reach out to the clinical ophthalmic community. I will exploit my existing international reputation to strengthen the position of Liverpool and the UK as a focus for leading world class research with impact in ophthalmic biomaterials and engineering.

For an individual the loss of sight is estimated to have a financial impact of £20k pa. For the UK economy the annual cost is around £6.5 billion in terms of direct healthcare costs and indirect costs such as unpaid carers and loss of employment. Emotionally the loss of vision can be devastating to the individual. This established career fellowship will provide the platform from which to build a centre of excellence in ophthalmic bioengineering with the capability to make a substantial contribution to addressing these problems.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk