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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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Current research funding in the Division of Bioengineering

Division of Bioengineering

Research Projects

The following are current externally funded research projects taking place within the Division of Bioengineering at Queen Mary University of London. (The funding values represents the QMUL portion in multi centre grants)

Diagram showing omental metastasis in high grade serous ovarian cancerTargeting the innate immune system in high grade serous ovarian cancer

Principal Investigator: Fran Balkwill
Co-investigator(s): Olive Pearce, Daniellea Loessner, Michel Lockley, R Manchanda, Quezada S and Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: CRUK
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 01-10-2023
Amount: £2,028,756

This 5-year CRUK Programme Grant is led by Prof Fran Balkwill from Barts Cancer Institute with a multidisciplinary team of co-investigators including Prof Martin Knight representing cancer bioengineering and mechanobiology.

A Biophysical Model of Gum Reintegration on enamel

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: GSK GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
Start: 01-10-2019  /  End: 30-09-2023
Amount: £32,000

Organ-on-a-chip Centre of Excellence

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Hazel SCREEN
Funding source: Emulate Inc.
Start: 20-08-2019  /  End: 19-09-2023
Amount: £525,375

Bottom up structuring of liquids without external fields or molds.
Manufacturing of anisotropic nano and micro- particles.Molecular Manufacturing of Macroscopic Objects - fellowship Stoyan Smoukov

Principal Investigator: Stoyan SMOUKOV
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2023
Amount: £1,180,624

This interdisciplinary proposal proposes a molecular basis for Manufacturing for the Future,[a1] to grow many types of particles in a nature-inspired way. It offers scalability, near-full utilization of the material, and the ability to carry out transformations at near ambient conditions. Manufacturing in nature spans the scales from intricate ...

Cells growing at the surface of oil dropletsEngineered Protein Nanosheets at Liquid-Liquid Interfaces for Stem Cell Expansion, Sorting and Tissue Engineering

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2023
Amount: £2,011,161

ProLiCell will design the biochemical and mechanical properties of extracellular matrix (ECM) protein nanosheets that can sustain the formation of adhesion protein complexes and support cell proliferation and culture on materials with very weak bulk mechanical properties (liquids).

UKRMP2 Acellular / Smart Materials

Principal Investigator: Alvaro MATA
Funding source: MRC Medical Research Council
Start: 06-04-2018  /  End: 15-04-2023
Amount: £40,983

Light4Sight - Light-activated carriers for the controlled delivery of therapeutic peptides in posterior segment eye diseases

Principal Investigator: Helena AZEVEDO
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-11-2019  /  End: 31-10-2021
Amount: £179,947

The growth of the ophthalmic drug market is primarily driven by an increasing aged population suffering from age- and lifestyle-related diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, among others. These diseases cause moderate or complete vision loss, resulting in significant reduction in quality of life. Consequently, innovative approaches for the effective delivery of biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of chronic intraocular diseases are required. Currently, intravitreal injection of drugs is the most acceptable and effective method to treat vitreoretinal diseases. By placing the drug in the posterior eye, it evades the ocular barriers common in topical and systemic delivery, allowing higher drug doses to reach the target site. However, treatments require frequent injections to maintain adequate intraocular concentration, which are invasive, increase the risk of adverse effects and pose significant treatment burden on patients and healthcare providers. Thus, alternative ways to deliver these drugs that require less frequent administration need to be developed. Light4Sight aims to develop a novel delivery platform consisting of self-assembling nanocarriers incorporating therapeutic peptides and suspended within a light-sensitive supramolecular hydrogel. The hydrogel can be injected in the vitreous and release of nanocarriers be activated through the irradiation of visible light. This approach provides several benefits: 1) minimizes the use of repeated injections reducing treatment burden; 2) reduces burst release of the nanocarriers avoiding potential dose related toxicity; 3) on-demand release to match patient needs; 4) allows high drug loading for longterm therapy; 5) protects peptide drugs from rapid clearance in the vitreous increasing their half-life.

Modulating tendon micromechanics for injury prevention or management

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Funding source: EPSRC & TRB Chemedica
Start: 02-10-2017  /  End: 01-10-2021
Amount: £140,000

We are working with TRB Chemedica to understand how bio-lubricants may modulate local tendon mechanics and help manage or prevent tendon injury

Multiscale nuclear mechanobiology within the skin: from biophysical cues to epigenetic effects

Principal Investigator: Núria GAVARA
Co-investigator(s): John Connelly
Funding source: BBSRC
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 30-09-2021
Amount: £469,683

The overall objective of the proposed project is to understand how forces are transmitted from the external environment to the nucleus and to determine the subsequent effects on nuclear structure, gene expression, and cell function within the epidermis of the skin. We will use advanced biophysical and imaging techniques to apply forces to single cells, and systems biology methodologies to analyse the changes in DNA structure and gene expression. In addition, we will test the role of internal cellular structures, such as the cytoskeleton, to gain mechanistic insight into these processes. Finally, we will investigate the influence of nuclear mechano-sensing in more complex 3D models of human skin. This is a collaboration with Dr John Connelly (PI)

Cardiomyocyte on PDMS nanopillarInvestigating the cardiomyocyte rigidity sensing mechanism with micro patterned surfaces and nanopil

Principal Investigator: Thomas ISKRATSCH
Funding source: BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2021
Amount: £490,545

The composition and the stiffness of the cardiac extracellular matrix change during development or in heart disease. Cardiomyocytes and their progenitors sense these changes, which decides over Cardiomyocyte fate. Our preliminary data suggested a cardiomyocyte specific rigidity sensing mechanism which we will investigate here in detail.

Organ-on-a-Chip Technologies

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: MRC Medical Research Council
Start: 01-08-2018  /  End: 31-07-2021
Amount: £479,339

We are excited to host the UKRI Technology Touching Life funded Organ-on-a-Chip Network out of QMUL. The network aims to bring together the vibrant, multidisciplinary UK research community interested in developing and using organ-on-a-chip models and support the on going exciting research activity in this field.

Translating Vasculature-on-a-Chips with a Nephrotoxicity Model

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: NC3Rs National Center for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research
Start: 01-07-2019  /  End: 30-06-2021
Amount: £49,665

The instrument will combine two electrochemical imaging techniques which measure cell responses apically and basally.Combined LAPS and SICM for multimodal live cell imaging

Principal Investigator: Steffi KRAUSE
Co-investigator(s): Wen WANG
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-06-2018  /  End: 31-05-2021
Amount: £571,839

A novel instrument will be developed that will revolutionise the ability to monitor cellular processes and cell communication in polarised cells by simultaneously imaging cells apically and basally. This will provide information about apical cell morphology and basal ion concentrations and electrical signals such as cell surface charge and impedance.

Inorganic nitrate treatment reduces inflammation in humans: assessment of mechanisms

Principal Investigator: Rob KRAMS
Funding source: BHF British Heart Foundation
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £206,297

Development of mechanically enhanced osteoinductive synthetic bone graft substitutes

Principal Investigator: Karin HING
Funding source: Apatech Ltd
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £87,500

The aim of this project is to develop and test a series of bone graft substitutes with novel pore structures using a perfusion based bioreactor system with flow to waste and closed loop capabilities, that is also able to subject real bone graft substitute granules to direct mechanical perturbation. This system has been validated using human mesenchymal stem cells seeded on BGS with varied strut porosity and will be further optimised to enable screening of new structures.

Identifying the causes of age-related tendon injury

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Funding source: DMT Dunhill Medical Trust, The
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £190,374

The primary goal of this project is to establish how and where in tendon tendinopathy originates, and to define how the age-related changes in tendon accelerate progression to tendinopathy. Our goal is to identify the specific IFM changes that drive increased injury risk with ageing. This is exciting as we can then continue, in future studies, to develop treatments specifically aimed at preventing, reversing, or mitigating the effects of these changes.

Cells proliferating on nanosheets self-assembled at liquid-liquid interfaces2D composites with controlled nano-mechanisms

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: Leverhulme Trust
Start: 01-03-2018  /  End: 28-02-2021
Amount: £231,825

A long standing dogma in cell-based technologies is that bulk mechanical properties of solid substrates are essential to enable cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. However, the use of solid materials for cell culture constitutes an important hurdle for the scale up and automation of processes. We recently discovered that protein assembly at liquid-liquid interfaces results in mechanically strong protein layers sustaining cell spreading and directing fate decision. For long term culture, such interfaces lacked toughness and ruptured. This project will develop tough 2D nanocomposites assembled at oil-water interfaces and sustaining long term stem cell culture for applications in regenerative medicine.

Hole found in the fetal membranes ten weeks after fetoscopic intervention. The surgeon created a hole through the fetal membranes to fix the problem with the baby's placenta. However, the hole never healed leading to premature rupture of the fetal membranHealing the fetal membranes after iatrogenic PPROM

Principal Investigator: Tina CHOWDHURY
Co-investigator(s): Anna David, Alvaro MATA, Dan BADER, David Becker and Jan Deprest
Funding source: Sparks charity
Start: 01-02-2018  /  End: 31-01-2021
Amount: £148,863

The integrity of the fetal membranes that surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy are vital for normal development. Once the fetal membranes have ruptured or are damaged, they fail to heal leaving a defect until the end of pregnancy. Bacteria may subsequently ascend from the vagina into the womb, causing infection both to the fetus and mother. This condition is called pre-term premature rupture of the foetal membrane (PPROM), and is a common cause of preterm birth. PPROM also complicates 30% of fetal surgeries that are increasingly being used to treat abnormalities in the unborn baby such as spine, diaphragmatic and placental defects. However, PPROM and subsequent preterm birth compromises the outcome of treated babies, reducing the clinical effectiveness of foetal surgery. There are no clinical solutions to improve healing of the foetal membrane after it ruptures.

3D Printed Osteogenic & Hierarchal Bio Mineralizing Scaffold

Principal Investigator: Alvaro MATA
Funding source: AO Foundation
Start: 01-06-2017  /  End: 30-11-2020
Amount: £114,082

The project will look to develop 3D printed polymeric scaffolds capable of acellular mineralization for enhancing integration of implants in maxillofacial applications.

Biomineralizing coatings for maxillofacial implants

Principal Investigator: Alvaro MATA
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-05-2019  /  End: 31-10-2020
Amount: £112,347

The project aims to translate a mineralising coating that can be grown on 3D printed implants for bone augmentation of the mandibular area.

Fibrillar level mechanisms underlying transient change in pre-strain in cartilage: Under loading, loss of water molecules and structural collapse in the proteoglycan network lead a transient reduction of pre-strain (reduction in D-period) in the collagenThe mechanics of the collagen fibrillar network in ageing cartilage

Principal Investigator: Himadri GUPTA
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: B.B.S.R.C.
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 30-09-2020
Amount: £369,875

We seek to understand how age-related changes in articular cartilage link to alterations in its nanoscale mechanics – and eventually to joint breakdown. We use high-brilliance synchrotron X-ray scattering to track fibrillar deformation dynamics in the matrix (hydrated proteoglycans restrained by collagen fibrils), combined with proteomics to assess compositional changes.

Raster scanning the focusing at the tip of an imaging optical fibreTHESIS

Principal Investigator: Lei SU
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT and Luming ZHAO
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 30-09-2020
Amount: £156,364

In this project, the Marie Curie Fellow will develop an optical fibre based image-guided surgery system based on the state-of-the-art optical-fibre laser technologies.

Micropatterned siliconesNovel Cross-linking Strategy

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: FormFormForm Ltd
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 30-09-2020
Amount: £105,971

This project focuses on the design of novel crosslinking strategies for silicone materials. These will enable the design of a new generation of silicone based composites with controlle mechanical properties and displaying conductive behaviour. The project will explore the use of these materials for 3D printing.

Biomechanical determinants of advanced coronary atherosclerotic plaque formation in transgenic hyperlipidaemic minipigs

Principal Investigator: Rob KRAMS
Funding source: BHF British Heart Foundation
Start: 01-11-2018  /  End: 03-09-2020
Amount: £167,563

Sensory and Supporting Cells in the Organ of Corti

Principal Investigator: Nuria GAVARA
Funding source: M.R.C.
Start: 01-09-2015  /  End: 31-08-2020
Amount: £44,946

The aim of this project is to study force transmisison within the cochlea as it is mechanically stimulated by sound. This programme grant is lead by Brighton U. and features a combination of experimental approaches and novel modelling analysis. Our lab uses AFM to mechanically characterize speciallized cells in the cochlea, so that mechanical parameters can be fed into new models.

THaCH - The effects of hypercholesterolemia on tendon health

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Co-investigator(s): Charlotte Waugh and Alex Scott
Funding source: Commission of the European Community / Commission of the European Community
Start: 31-08-2016  /  End: 21-08-2020
Amount: £64,209

Musculoskeletal diseases cause pain and suffering to millions of people worldwide. This proposal aims to significantly enhance our understanding of hypercholesterolemia on aspects of tendon health, a highly under-researched area and one of significant clinical importance. The findings from the proposed research are likely to have major implications for orthopedic sciences and preventative medicine as well as rehabilitation services, strategies and technology. Such knowledge has the potential to improve quality of life and reduce socio-economic costs associated with the disability resulting from orthopedic and musculoskeletal diseases.


Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Stefaan VERBRUGGEN
Funding source: Commission of the European Community
Start: 01-01-2018  /  End: 31-07-2020
Amount: £137,844

This study seeks to explore the interactions between bone cells, cancer cells and their physical environment and the role of primary cilia, aiming to expand our knowledge of how cancer spreads to bone from other organs.

Supramolecular peptide nanotechnology for antimicrobial therapies

Principal Investigator: Helena AZEVEDO
Funding source: Wellcome Trust
Start: 01-05-2019  /  End: 30-04-2020
Amount: £99,986

Antimicrobials remain the main means to treat and control bacterial infections. Their efficacy is now compromised due to overuse in humans, animals, agriculture, with bacteria developing resistance that renders certain antibiotics ineffective. Infections due multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria have emerged as one of the most significant global threats to human and animal health in the 21st century. Thus, the development of new antibiotics, or better ways to deliver conventional antibiotics more effectively, is an urgent priority. This project is focused on the formulation and assessment of novel self-assembled peptide nanocarriers, able to restore and/or enhance the activity of known antibiotics against MDR bacteria.

Does the biological clock within cartilage align to diurnal patterns in activity?

Principal Investigator: David LEE
Co-investigator(s): Hannah HEYWOOD and Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-10-2019  /  End: 31-03-2020
Amount: £9,954

Investigation of chemotaxis in modulating smart behaviour in synthetic bone graft substitutes

Principal Investigator: Karin HING
Co-investigator(s): Simon Rawlinson
Funding source: Baxter Healthcare Corporation
Start: 01-01-2015  /  End: 31-03-2020
Amount: £66,099

Silicate substituted apatite bone grafts have an enhanced capacity to stimulate bone regeneration. Moreover, altering the level of strut porosity has the capacity to confer osteoinductive behaviour to these graft materials. The aim of this project is to investigate whether these phenomena are related to more efficient cell recruitment and tasking, through (i) exchange of Ca, PO4 and SiO4 ions, and/or (ii) optimal sequestering and enrichment of native signalling molecules.

Osteoarthritis may be treated as an environmental ciliopathy

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Paul Chapple, Phil Beales, Hannah Mitchinson, and Clare THOMPSON
Funding source: MRC
Start: 01-09-2014  /  End: 30-03-2020
Amount: £365,598

This study tests the hypothesis that pathological alterations in the cartilage microenvironment regulate chondrocyte primary cilia structure leading to changes in cilia signalling which drive cartilage degradation.    Increasing evidence suggests that primary cilia and the associated signalling pathways are critical for the health of articular cartilage ...

Thin polymer films and surface functionalisation chemistry.

Principal Investigator: Pankaj VADGAMA
Funding source: Camstech Ltd, Campus Technology Hub,
Start: 15-10-2018  /  End: 31-12-2019
Amount: £3,109

Polymer thin films are being coated on optically active silver and gold nanoparticles for hand held biosensing.

Mechno-regulation of genome function to direct stem cell rate

Principal Investigator: David LEE
Co-investigator(s): Nuria GAVARA
Funding source: B.B.S.R.C.
Start: 01-01-2017  /  End: 31-12-2019
Amount: £436,194

Mechno-regulation of genome function to direct stem cell rate

Development of a synovium-chondrocyte organ-on-a-chip model with integrated biomechanical stimulation

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Co-investigator(s): Clare THOMPSON and Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: EPSRC OA Tech Network plus Pump-Priming Project Grant
Start: 01-07-2019  /  End: 31-12-2019
Amount: £9,068

We plan to develop an organ-on-a chip microfluidic model to investigate the effects of mechanical stimulation on the interaction between musculoskeletal cells within the joint. This chip will incorporate the multiple cell types seen in cartilage and the surrounding synovial environment to mimic human tissue architecture, cellular microenvironment and signalling.

Impact of Physiogel on tribological properties and structural integrity of the skin

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: GSK GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 30-11-2019
Amount: £144,385

Parmaceutical modulation of cilia expression-Miss Jeha Kwon

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: Royal College of Surgeons
Start: 07-05-2019  /  End: 07-11-2019
Amount: £3,000

Super resolution image of a primary ciliumInnovation Fund: High-throughput Library Screen

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Clare THOMPSON and Chleo Bishop
Funding source: B.B.S.R.C.
Start: 01-09-2016  /  End: 31-10-2019
Amount: £9,960

A high throughput screen of 1721 FDA approved small molecules will be conducted to identify compounds that regulate cilia expression in primary bovine chondrocytes.