The UK’s world-class expertise in the research of biofilms has been recognised through the launch of a new National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).
Supported by a commitment of £26 million over the next 5 years, including £12.5M funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, including the Quadram Institute, NBIC will bring the best of UK biofilm research together with UK companies from across the industrial sectors to accelerate the adoption of new technologies into live products and services.
NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre, led by the University of Southampton together with a core partnership of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham. A further 11 universities, three research centres – Diamond Synchrotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute – and three major global academic partners – The Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), the Montana State University (USA) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) comprise the NBIC. NBIC will also collaborate with a network of over 50 companies from different sectors ranging from SMEs to large companies to exploit the UK’s global leadership in biofilms. NBIC’s inclusive model means that other universities and companies conducting biofilm research can participate and benefit from partnership with the NBIC consortium.
“This new National Biofilms Innovation Centre is poised to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms,” said Jeremy Webb, Principal Investigator and Co-Director for NBIC . “The UK is home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities for the exploitation of biofilms so combining our talents gives us the best opportunity to establish a national, and international, agenda to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges and work seamlessly across academic and industry to stimulate growth in this vital area.”
Professor Ian Charles, Director of the Quadram Institute said “Our strategy is to develop world-class expertise in areas related to food and health, and to collaborate with others to maximise the translational benefit of our research. Our role within the new National Biofilms Innovation Centre underlines this approach: our researchers will collaborate with both academic and industry partners to tackle biofilms, and the tremendous economic and social costs they are causing to healthcare and allied industry.”
The Quadram Institute will be contributing its expertise to understand biofilms in a number of environments where they can have impact on health, including within the food chain and in the human gut.
Salmonella in a biofilm, that has been treated with a disinfectant. Red cells are killed, but green cells survived
For example, bacteria in a biofilm may be better able to survive cleaning or disinfectant treatments, which would make them a particular problem for healthcare and in food production. The Quadram Institute will combine microbiology, genomics, bioinformatics and mathematical modelling to understand bacterial behaviour and interactions within these environments, to inform new ways of working to improve our safety.
Quadram Institute researchers will also be studying biofilms in the microbiome, the complex community of microorganisms that we host in our bodies. The aim is to understand what role biofilms may play in the microbiome and how modulating biofilm formation can tip the balance to favour healthy microbiome populations. This relies on strong interdisciplinary research bringing together clinical research with food research and expertise in microbiology, gut biology and the mucosa.
Microbial biofilm research is now a feature of many scientific disciplines including biological sciences, medicine, chemistry, physics, computational modelling, engineering and ocean science. Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry to the environment and exert considerable economic and social impact:
- They are a leading cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), forecast to cost $100T in world GDP and 10M deaths by 2050;
- They are the major cause of chronic infections, costing the NHS £2bn per annum;
- Contamination, energy losses and damage by biofilms impact on the £70B UK foods industry, the $2.8T consumer products sector, and $117B global coatings industry.
- Biofilm management is essential to deliver clean and globally sustainable drinking water and food security.