Dr Helena Azevedo
MEng, PhD

 
 
 

Research Funding

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Current Funded Research Projects

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

Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-11-2019  /  End: 31-10-2021
Amount: £179947

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.

Previous Funded Research Projects

Supramolecular peptide nanotechnology for antimicrobial therapies

Funding source: Wellcome Trust
Start: 01-05-2019  /  End: 30-04-2020

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.

Fabrication of aligned nanofibrous gels through a vitrification process

Funding source: Royal Society
Start: 31-03-2018  /  End: 30-03-2019

This project will apply simple methods, self-assembly and vitrification, to fabricate nanofibrous hydrogels with controlled nanofibre alignment able to recreate the corneal stroma nano/microarchitectural organization.

Molecularly engineered biomaterials for the treatment of diabetic wounds

Funding source: Royal Academy of Engineering
Start: 10-04-2018  /  End: 20-04-2018

This project aims to establish a new collaboration between the Department of Polymer Engineering at Yalova University and the Institute of Bioengineering (IoB) at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in order to initiate innovative research on biomaterials engineering for diabetic wound healing using self-assembling approaches. The project will enable lectures and discussions around self-assembly, a very timely and engaging research topic in biomaterials.

World Class Universities Initiative

Funding source: British Council
Start: 01-03-2017  /  End: 28-02-2018

The project aimed to initiate research collaborations and postgraduate transnational education programmes with universities in the Guangdong province in the area of healthcare.

SuprHApolymers - Engineering macromolecular self-assembly of hyaluronan (HA)-based glycopolymers with peptides

Funding source: Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (FP7)/European Union
Start: 01-03-2014  /  End: 28-02-2018

“SuprHApolymers” project aims to design and synthesize glycopolymers mimicking the composition and structure of hyaluronan (HA), a linear polysaccharide composed of repeating disaccharide units of N-acetyl-glucosamine and glucuronic acid but with many important biological functions. These HA synthetic analogues will be explored for applications in synthetic biology and biomedicine.

MHAtriCell - Hyaluronan-rich matrices crosslinked with collagen-like peptides for the 3D culture of ovarian cancer cells

Funding source: Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, HORIZON 2020, European Union
Start: 15-06-2015  /  End: 14-06-2017

In this project, we will design and fabricate novel hydrogel matrices comprising of hyaluronan crosslinked with collagen-like triple helical peptide amphiphiles (PAs). The novel HA-PA matrix will contain built-in cell adhesion sequence, HA-binding motif and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) cleavable sequences.

CancerHydrogelPatch - Hydrogel-nanoparticle patches as prophylactic scaffold agents for in vivo local gene/drug delivery in colorectal cancer tumours

Funding source: Marie Curie Actions (FP7)/European Union
Start: 01-05-2014  /  End: 30-04-2017

The ultimate goal of the project is to create a sort of patch made of the bioresorbable biomaterial, like hydrogels, impregnated with drug-siRNA conjugates for locally release in colorectal tumoral cells. The hydrogel-nanoparticles will be also functionalized with adhesive ligands to enhance the attachment, proliferation, and phenotypic maintenance of intestinal endothelial and stem cells.

ISSF Small Grant: Biocomplex matrices for studying wound healing in vitro and developing customized regenerative therapies for chronic wounds

Funding source: Wellcome Trust
Start: 01-01-2016  /  End: 31-07-2016

The main objective of this pilot project is to gain new insights regarding how dermal fibroblasts are regulated by biophysical properties of the extracellular niche.

Novel Bioactive Self-Assembling Peptide Systems

Funding source: Oral and Dental Research Trust
Start: 01-11-2015  /  End: 30-04-2016

FunctionHeAling - Hyaluronan-based multifunctional hydrogels for wound healing

Funding source: WHRI ACADEMY Marie Curie cofund/ European Union
Start: 01-10-2014  /  End: 30-09-2015

The focus of this project is to develop hyaluronan-based multifunctional hydrogels capable of rapidly gelling in situ under physiological conditions. We aim to use an enzyme-triggered crosslinking mechanism to cross-link in situ the developed hydrogel by using the transglutaminase factor XIIIa.

Other Research Projects

Peptide Self-assembly

Having the flexibility of using 20 chemically different amino acids, peptides are versatile assembly components due to the intrinsic functional diversity of amino acids. In addition, a number of very important physiological and biochemical functions of life are influenced by peptides. For example, peptides are involved in...

Macromolecular Self-assembly

Macromolecules are compounds with high molecular mass which structure comprise the multiple repetition of units derived from molecules of low relative molecular mass. Examples of macromolecules are biopolymers (nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates) and synthetic polymers. The chemical and structural diversity of macromolecules...

Directed Self-assembly

Directed self-assembly (DSA) is a strategy to control order in materials across scales by tuning the directionally of self-assembly interactions at the nanoscale. In DSA the positions of self-assembling building blocks are guided by an external input to lead to specific orientation or alignment, introducing hierarchical organization. Examples of external ...

Directed Molecular Self-Assembly into Dynamic Hierarchical Biomaterials

This project aims at designing and utilizing peptide self-assembly to guide the hierarchical assembly of proteins and biopolymers at the molecular, nano, micro, and macroscale into functional materials and devices. Our objective is to use this hybrid strategy to enable materials that exhibit dynamic behaviour, improved mechanical properties, self-healing properties, ...

Bioactive and Biomimetic Membranes for Tissue Engineering

The project aims to develop structural and functional building blocks to create robust membranes that are tuneable and can orchestrate signalling of biological processes for a variety of tissue engineering applications such as bone, cardiac tissue, or abdominal wall. The development of the membranes takes advantage of the combination of ...