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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R036748/1
Title: When the drugs don't work... Manufacturing our pathogen defenses
Principal Investigator: Majewski, Dr CE
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 08 January 2018 Ends: 07 January 2019 Value (£): 149,031
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufact. Enterprise Ops& Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Healthcare
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The average person comes into contact with millions of bacteria every day, especially in areas with a high throughput of people. In the majority of cases we are peacefully oblivious, with this having little tangible effect on our lives. However, where a person has a lower immune system than normal these bacteria can become deadly. With an increase in drug-resistant strains of bacteria, preventing them from settling or spreading therefore become a critical challenge, particularly in hospital wards and care homes housing the most vulnerable members of our population. 'Normal' products and surfaces all become potential breeding grounds for bacteria, and therefore potential routes to infection. Addressing this issue is the main focus of this work.

The overall vision for this research is the production of medical and consumer products and devices with inherent anti-bacterial properties. For the majority of products for which this is important, standard techniques include rigorous (and often complex) cleaning or sterilisation procedures, or coating the product with an anti-bacterial compound. Whilst these provide a level of protection, each has limitations; for example cleaning and sterilisation procedures can be subject to human error and coatings may become scratched or damaged, leaving some areas unprotected. Products with complex geometries (including those incorporating some degree of personalisation), are of great interest in the healthcare sector but also present the greatest challenge in ensuring consistency of anti-bacterial protection.

By introducing anti-bacterial behaviour into a product directly, many of these issues could be reduced or eliminated. This project will provide crucial early-stage investigations into the possibility of combining cutting-edge Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) techniques with a silver-based anti-bacterial compound in order to produce highly complex products incorporating anti-bacterial properties. Additive Manufacturing techniques are well-recognised for their ability to produce complicated geometries with little of no cost penalty, and the anti-bacterial properties of silver have been known for millennia. Bringing the two together presents a real opportunity to provide a significant impact on our ability to guard against infection.

This project will investigate the potential of this technique for applications in a wide range of areas including medical devices (e.g. endoscopes or other intrusive devices used for multiple patients), general hospital products subjected to high levels of human contact (e.g. door handles or taps), oral health products (e.g. dentures) and consumer products (e.g. mobile phone cases or personalised shoe insoles). Further projects are planned in each of these areas, following successful proof of concept here.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk