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Drug-Free Antibacterial Hybrid Biopolymers for Medical Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HyMedPoly (Drug-Free Antibacterial Hybrid Biopolymers for Medical Applications)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

Infection has become one of the toughest problems in the medical world as bacteria become more resistant to drugs there are fewer effective antibiotics to fight against pathogens. The Marie Skłodowska Curie Innovative Training Network “Drug-Free Antibacterial Hybrid Biopolymers for Medical Applications”, HyMedPoly, focused on the production of drug-free antibacterial hybrid biopolymers as therapeutic materials to prevent, control and remove such occurrences.

A cohort of fifteen Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) recruited specifically for the HyMedPoly programme has addressed new strategies to develop and establish new therapies based on intrinsically antibacterial polymers, polymers with antibacterial additives and polymer composites incorporating antibacterial glasses and ceramics.

The HyMedPoly team of four universities, four companies, one clinic and one research organisation collaborated for four years to:
- Validate the new materials concepts and determine key design parameters that will guide the development of families of novel therapeutic hybrid polymers to combat bacteria-related infection.
- Evaluate industrial processing techniques to fabricate the medical materials and product demonstrators.
- Provide a comprehensive and innovative training programme to meet industrial demands for fully rounded professional researchers.

Our ultimate goal was to develop a new generation of professionals to play a pivotal role in pushing forward this challenging and knowledge-intensive field for the coming decades to benefit the European economy and who will be able to bring state-of-the-art technology to industry, advance products for hospitals and personal healthcare, and develop new and improved therapeutic strategies.

At HyMedPoly’s conclusion in December 2018, novel biomaterials with improved antibacterial efficacy and novel processes had been developed and used to make prototype medical product demonstrators.

Furthermore all researchers were on track to complete their PhDs with the first researcher awarded her degree.
Early activity set the foundations for the project. A proactive dissemination programme was started at an early stage, with the website reporting on network activities and achievements.

A standard recruitment approach was followed by the project partners for both advertising and interviewing of candidates and all fifteen ESR positions were filled.

The ESRs made excellent progress in their chosen topics with active communication between the host universities and the industrial/clinical partners. Eleven researchers developed new polymers, ceramics and bioactive glasses that showed the ability to act as active agents to prevent or eradicate bacterial infections. Two investigated in-vitro bio-evaluation of antimicrobial materials with a focus on wound dressings, whilst a further two used computer-modelling and digital manufacturing to create structures and surfaces to maximise the antimicrobial effectiveness of the novel materials and products developed.

At the end of this project, HyMedPoly has developed novel solutions that will help to place the EU as a world leader in therapeutic hybrid biomaterials for antibacterial applications:
- Three different novel biomaterials with improved antibacterial efficacy.
o Multiblock polyurethanes (TPU’s) containing antibacterial moieties.
o Biodegradable and bioresorbable polyesters (BBPE) and composites that create local environments to prevent bacterial growth.
o Natural polymers (Polyhydroxyalkanoates) to inhibit bacterial growth in the local environment as they degrade or are modified to incorporate Antimicrobial peptides
(AMP’s) and/or enzymes to inhibit bacterial growth and disrupt biofilms.
- Novel bioceramics based on modified hydroxyapatites and bioactive glasses made from silicates and phosphates which work by releasing charged ions to enhance the antibacterial effectiveness.
- 3D printing approaches using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) techniques to construct functionally graded scaffolds and novel structures with potential to enhance biological response.
- 13 Innovative medical product demonstrators which use the polymers and inorganic materials developed for wound dressing, sutures and orthopaedic devices.

At project conclusion the beneficiaries are keen to exploit the results obtained in HyMedPoly. All are looking to build future joint research collaborations and continue with product development and are talking with potential new partners from both the biomedical sector and wider industry where antibacterial materials would bring benefit. There are also plans to employ some of the researchers to assist with these initiatives and benefit from their experience of working on HyMedPoly.

As the project progressed HyMedPoly increasingly raised public and industry awareness of the benefits from using antibacterial biomaterials through presentations, posters and publications with six papers published in refereed scientific journals with many further being written at the project conclusion.

In parallel with research projects, HyMedPoly organised a series of six workshops and summer schools, a special session at a leading European conference, The European Society of Biomaterials 2018, and an international conference organised by HyMedPoly. The events introduced the scientific, clinical and regulatory themes around antibacterial materials and medical devices to the ESRs and a wider audience. Run at the partners’ sites throughout Europe, the meetings attracted over 380 delegates.

A programme of four industry training sessions targeted at the ESRs’ developed soft skills such as approaches to effectively managing research and development projects, technology exploitation and effective public communication of scientific concepts.
HyMedPoly’s focused research programme has established a cohort of experienced young researchers and resulted in new technology with potential to create a series of new products incorporating novel polymeric, bioceramic and bioactive glass formulations. This initiative has strengthens the ability to impact the war on bacteria and associated infections, help stretched healthcare systems and, perhaps more importantly, patients to a successful recovery and has contributed to building a world leading reputation for the EU in addressing a vitally important challenge.
The HyMedPoly Group
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