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A University of Liverpool research project, which has the potential to bring relief to the estimated 3.5 million UK sufferers of oral thrush, has won the £25,000 Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize. This will allow the project to proceed to clinical evaluation.
According to the most recent adult dental survey, 28 percent of the UK population wears dentures and a quarter of these are likely to develop denture stomatitis or fungal induced stomatitis (mainly Candida albicans), commonly known as oral thrush. This is a significant problem for denture wearers and is seemingly on the increase.
The Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize, which is awarded in the form of an investment, enables the winner to engage in the early commercialisation of promising research and has been won by a team of scientists from the University of Liverpool. This team is led by senior lecturer and material scientist, Dr Rachel Williams, and senior lecturer in oral surgery, Dr Luke Dawson.
The project’s idea is based on a cost effective nanoparticle silica coating which inhibits the adhesion and proliferation of cells and micro-organisms. Laboratory tests show that the nanoparticulate silica coating can inhibit the build up of virulent oral thrush (Candida albicans). Using Proof of Concept (POC) funds awarded by the University technology transfer company, Ulive, the team has developed a transparent solution containing the nanoparticles with adhesive patches on each particle which promote attachment to the denture. This solution can be used by denture wearers as part of their normal cleaning procedure and provides a renewable, tasteless nanoparticulate coating on the dentures which will prevent oral thrush infections.
“Our approach will reduce the need for sufferers of oral thrush to be treated by drug therapy. This is important as these drugs cannot be used in all patients”, said Dr Williams. “Our product aims to prevent the occurrence of oral thrush and maintain a healthy mouth via continual renewal of the nanoparticle coating.”
“Having proved the principle in the laboratory using the Ulive POC funding we now need to assess this product in a clinical setting,” continued Dr Williams. “The prize win will go towards carrying out clinical trials and evaluation in key patient groups.”
“This product is a very worthy winner,” explained Professor Bill Bonfield chairman of the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel. “Our aim is to stimulate and encourage materials science development and Dr Williams and her team is, by exploiting materials technology that inhibits cell-surface interactions, using a science that will have a highly significant bearing on the development of materials and surfaces in healthcare.”
Alongside Professor Bonfield on the judging panel were Cambridge based material scientist Professor Colin Humphreys, representatives from First Ventures which invests and advises high potential technology companies and representatives from the Armourers and Brasiers Company.
“We see significant potential for this product as a regular denture cleaning product,” said Dr Williams. “Worldwide market opportunities are significant especially in the developed world due to an aging population leading to an increasing number of denture wearers.”
The Liverpool University team comprises Dr Rachel Williams (lead; School of Clinical Sciences), Dr Luke Dawson (School of Dental Sciences), colloid scientist Dr. Mike Garvey (Department of Physics), microbiologist Dr. Heather Allison (School of Biological Sciences) and business manager Dr. Gillian Murray (Ulive Enterprises)
University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organizations valued at more than £93million annually.
Ulive Enterprises Ltd. is a subsidiary company of the University of Liverpool and was formed to commercialise technology and intellectual property originating at the University. Ulive Enterprises manages a Proof-of-Concept (POC) fund that supports the early stage development of intellectual property.
The Armourers and Braisiers Company is a leading supporter of material science education and research in the UK. Its Venture Prize is aimed at helping scientists commercialise the early stage research and the exploitation of new and exciting ideas. The Company also seeks to encourage education in science from primary to postdoctoral levels and has close connections with schools and colleges throughout the UK.
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