The University of Manchester has been awarded more than £5m for research into using nanomaterials including graphene in the human body.
The £5.2m grant was provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the project titled: ‘2D Materials for Next Generation Healthcare Technologies’ (2D-Health) that aims to further explore how two-dimensional materials can improve major health challenges, such as cancer, diabetes and dementia.
The announcement was made today by Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, as part of £17.7m for new healthcare technologies research to address the health issues of an aging UK population.
The University of Manchester is home to the Nanomedicine Lab, which brings together bioengineering, pharmacology and nanotechnology and their translation to advanced, clinically-relevant therapeutics and diagnostics.
Potential areas of benefit using graphene and other 2D materials could include targeted drug delivery systems to attack cancer cells while leaving other cells unharmed, remote electrical stimulation of nerves affected by neurodegenerative and other diseases, such as diabetes or smart dressings for burns and wounds to allow faster healing and minimise damage to tissue.
Key to taking fundamental research forward to benefit patients is industrial engagement and four major healthcare partners are also part of the project. Two specialist SME graphene companies, Versarien and Graphenea, will also collaborate with materials and industrial upscale expertise.
We are all looking forward to developing a thorough and systematic understanding of the true capabilities graphene and 2D materials offer in solving current clinical challenges
Graphene, the world’s first two-dimensional material, was first isolated in 2004 at The University of Manchester, and has the potential to revolutionise a large number of applications, including those in medicine – from providing clean drinking water for third-world communities to anti-cancer treatments, from the aircraft of the future to flexible, bendable mobile phones and tablets.
The Nanomedicine Lab at The University of Manchester is led by Professor Kostas Kostarelos, a world-leading researcher in using nanomaterials for biomedical applications.
The 2D-Health project involves various laboratories from across The University of Manchester, spanning physics, chemistry, pharmacy and medicine, in a truly cross-cutting faculty effort.
It aims to extend the use of 2D materials such as graphene in developing therapies and technologies for wound care and management (relevant to diabetes); neural rehabilitation by electrical stimulation (relevant to dementia); cell therapeutics (relevant to ophthalmological and cardiovascular disease); and immunotherapeutics (relevant to cancer).
Professor Kostarelos said: “We are delighted both with the decision by the EPSRC to fund our ambitious research programme and the pharmaceutical industry support that has enthusiastically embraced 2D material technologies as particularly promising.
“We are all looking forward to developing a thorough and systematic understanding of the true capabilities graphene and 2D materials offer in solving current clinical challenges, and maintain Manchester and the UK at the forefront of this dynamic and highly competitive field.’’
Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson said: “The UK is a world leader in medical breakthroughs and home to innovative healthcare companies that know how to turn our expertise into good business. This investment will help diagnose cardiovascular diseases, treat debilitating illnesses, and ultimately improve the lives of millions of patients and their families.”
Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: “More of us are living longer than before. It is vital for us to continue to invest in science and engineering research so we can ensure we have active, healthy and high quality later years.
“The EPSRC is striving to make the UK a healthy nation and one where research, discovery and innovation flourishes. These programmes will help deliver both of these objectives.”
The other research programmes will be led by Imperial College London, the University of Leeds, and University of Glasgow.