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A research project undertaken at Liverpool University, which has the potential to bring relief to the estimated 3.5 million UK sufferers of oral thrush, has won the £25,000 Armourers & 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 & Brasiers Venture Prize, which is awarded annually 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 materials 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 & Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel. "Our aim is to stimulate and encourage British based 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 materials scientist Professor Colin Humphreys, representatives from First Ventures which invests and advises high potential technology companies and Members of the Armourers & 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)
About Liverpool University
The University of Liverpool is a world leading research university. Its history dates back to 1881 and the establishment of University College Liverpool.
The Victoria Building
Liverpool is the original redbrick university. The term 'redbrick' was inspired from the iconic Victoria Building, completed in 1892.
Today, the University continues to expand its teaching and research with centres of excellence in areas such as medicine, engineering and veterinary science. It is a member of the Russell Group, the association of the UK's top 20 research-led universities.
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