Scientists to benefit from multimillion funding boost for biofilms studies

A national research centre involving scientists at the University of Nottingham is set to receive a multimillion pound funding boost to harness the UK's academic and industrial strengths in biofilms.

The National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) will receive £7.5 million of investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK.

NBIC brings together world-class academic expertise and industry partners to deliver scientific breakthroughs and technologies to control and exploit biofilms – slimy layers created by micro-organisms such as bacteria or fungi that can grow on many different surfaces.

Announced during Biofilm Week, the centre has also secured a further £9.5m from its four lead universities - Edinburgh, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton - as well as £6.4m industrial support, taking its latest cash injection to a total of £23.4m.

NBIC University of Nottingham Co-Director, Professor Miguel Cámara said: "The new phase of NBIC will enable us to move one step forward in the commercialisation of some of the technologies we have already developed on the detection and prevention of biofilms, as well as identify novel therapeutics against antimicrobial targets we have recently discovered."

We are also very much looking forward to increasing our industrial engagement and our international collaborations on biofilm research and innovation.

Biofilms are central to our most important global challenges, from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security.

Examples of biofilms that are hazardous to human health are those that form on catheters and prosthetics, causing infection, which can become resistant to treatment with antibiotics. However, some biofilms can be beneficial, for example, the use of bacteria that form a matrix and stick to oil particles to clean up spills that pollute oceans, threatening sea animals and birds, or those that form on roots and work in symbiosis to help keep plants healthy.

Biofilms also provide a significant contribution to both the UK and global economy. In May 2022, a study carried out by NBIC estimated that the value of the markets in which biofilms are involved is worth £45 billion in the UK and $4 trillion globally.

To date, NBIC has collaborated with more than 150 industrial, research and public partners in the UK and overseas to develop joint-industry programmes that are tackling major economic and societal issues affecting the world today.

The University of Nottingham is one of NBIC's four lead research institutions. While activity in Nottingham focuses mainly in the School of Life Sciences, and in particular the laboratories based in the £100m Biodiscovery Institute (BDI), it has a broad base across the university, spanning the Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences, Science and Engineering. BDI provides a vibrant environment for joint multidisciplinary research, training and collaborations with industry in the fields of microbiology, structural and synthetic biology, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, cancer biology and tissue engineering.

Global innovation hub

The latest funding from BBSRC and Innovate UK will support NBIC's vision to deliver a global innovation hub by building on its collective strengths to prevent, detect, manage and engineer biofilms. It will enable NBIC to drive the adoption of innovative solutions across industry sectors to address major global challenges including climate change, water safety and improved healthcare.

It will also drive step-changes in standards and regulation for novel biofilm solutions that support international trade and see NBIC deliver a diverse training programme to equip the biofilm innovation ecosystem with the skills they need both now and, in the future, while also nurturing the talent of tomorrow.

This funding comes at the same time as NBIC announces its new CEO, Professor Jo Slater-Jefferies. Professor Slater-Jefferies joined NBIC in April 2018 and brings a wealth of experience and leadership in knowledge exchange, academic and industry collaboration and strategic research programmes to the role.

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