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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N021347/1
Title: Establishing a Centre for Plasma Microbiology
Principal Investigator: Walsh, Professor JL
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Jozef Stefan Institute Public Health England
Department: Electrical Engineering and Electronics
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2016 Ends: 31 March 2022 Value (£): 933,470
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip. Plasmas - Technological
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2015 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards Interviews Panel B Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Biofilms are groups of microorganisms that stick to each other on a surface, becoming an organised colony that is surrounded by a slimy substance to form a diverse and well protected community. A common example of a biofilm that everyone can relate to is the formation of plaque on teeth, which left untreated causes tooth decay. While biofilm formation in the mouth is mostly harmless, it has been estimated that up to 80 % of all infections worldwide are biofilm-related. In particular, biofilm colonisation of implanted devices such as Endotracheal tubes presents a particularly resilient reservoir of infection, shielded from systemic antibiotics, that often leads to the emergence of multidrug-resistant colonies. Patients contracting such infections have a particularly bleak outlook, with mortality rates for diseases such as Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP) exceeding 50 % in certain patient groups. Quite simply, establishing a management strategy for these organisms is a global priority.

Cold plasma technology has recently attracted global attention as it provides an effective means to destroy biofilm contamination, including biofilms containing multidrug resistant bacteria. A major barrier to the implementation of this promising technology is a lack of innovation in plasma source development. This award will tackle the challenge by developing novel power sources and systems that produce an output tailored specifically to manage biofilm contamination on implanted devices in situ; these efforts will be driven by a closely interacting team of specialists in microbiology and translational medicine, clinicians and patients. Key to this will be the unique methods and understanding uncovered on my previous EPSRC funded research which addressed the Physical Sciences grand challenge area of Emergence and Physics Far From Equilibrium (EP/J005894/1).

My long term research vision is to establish a multidisciplinary centre of excellence focused on the development of novel plasma based physical interventions as part of my ambition to revolutionise technology driven approaches to global health challenges. The Centre will act as a hub to facilitate new thinking/methodologies/technology in this area driven by novel engineering and physical sciences research and will be a catalyst to explore new scientific horizons. Delivering this vision will demand a transformative approach that pushes the frontiers of plasma science and breaks-down traditional discipline boundaries. Success will require creativity, ambitious plans, high levels of flexibility and the necessary taking of risks balanced against the scope for reward. I will manage these aspects within the framework of a coherent research programme, and activities will be underpinned by a hand-picked team of research leaders. At the heart of my approach is the sustained and active involvement of end-users to inform research design and research goals. My approach will ensure priorities focus on clinical need, an essential factor to drive innovation and ensure successful translation.

The average timeline for translation of new technologies in to the healthcare sector ('bench to bed') is 17 years; given the immediate clinical need for the proposed technology, accelerating the translational process will be a key priority of the Centre. Drawing on the wealth of expertise available in the project team and the unique innovation eco-system in Liverpool, which includes the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (AHSN - www.nwcahsn.nhs.uk), a translational plan has been established to see the introduction of plasma decontamination technology in the healthcare sector within a 10 - 12 year timeframe. The introduction of this technology will have a significant impact in a market sector valued at $14 billion; directly contributing to the UK's strong life sciences industry, which employs an estimated 183,000 and generates a combined estimated turnover of £56bn.

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Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk