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Funding boost for biofilms research and innovation


Southampton researchers are set to benefit from further funding for world-class biofilms research and innovation.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK are investing £7.5m to support the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC). Announced during Biofilm Week, the funding boost is for the second phase of a global research programme.


NBIC has also secured a further £9.5m from its four lead universities (Southampton, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham) as well as £6.4m industrial support. This takes its next phase funding to a total of £23.4m.


Southampton hosts the largest group of biofilm academics in the UK. It is unique for its interdisciplinary approach.


The new investment will continue to support biofilms advances being delivered through the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Clinical Research Facility (CRF).


What are biofilms?


Biofilms are all around us in both harmful and helpful ways.


From slime on rocks in streams to dental plaque on our teeth, they are central to important global challenges. These range from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security.

They 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.


Professor Saul Faust, Director of the NIHR Southampton CRF and theme co-lead at the NIHR Southampton BRC, said:


“This major investment will fuel new science and technologies to control the damaging effects of biofilms on health and the problems caused by biofilms in hospitals.


“This is excellent news for our NIHR-funded clinical biofilm research in Microbiology, Immunology and Infection, including innovative approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat anti-microbial resistance.”


The NIHR-funded antimicrobial laboratory at University Hospital Southampton is supported by the CRF and BRC.


‘Urgent global challenges’


The latest funding which comes at the same time as NBIC announces its new CEO, Professor Jo Slater-Jefferies.


Professor Jeremy Webb, NBIC University of Southampton Co-Director and NIHR Southampton BRC researcher, said:


“Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry, energy, and the environment.


“I am delighted that the UK’s world-class expertise in biofilm research and innovation has been recognised through the Phase 2 award. In Phase 1, NBIC became established as a global centre and now connects academic research and business activity across the UK and the world.


“At Southampton we are home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities in this area that bring together and integrate many disciplines across the University. This new award will enable us deliver new breakthrough science and to nucleate new industries and technologies to control and harness biofilms.”


Image credit: SEM image of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm aggregates (green) on ciliated (yellow) and differentiated human primary epithelial cells (blue) grown at an air liquid interface in vitro’. By Bhavik Barochia, University of Southampton.

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