On the 7th October, the Research Deanery in collaboration with the National Graphene Institute organised a workshop focussing on the potential applications of graphene and 2D materials in the area of biomedicine. The workshop was held at the National Institute Building and principally aimed at informing the clinical and industrial community about the current state of graphene research in terms of production and characterisation and showcasing the different research activities across the university on the use of graphene and 2D materials in healthcare and biomedicine. Additional support from Manchester Science Partnership, Bionow, Trustech and Manchester Integrating Medicine and Innovative Technology (MIMIT) was sought for the event.
Around 50 people attended the workshop with a good proportion from the clinical community (NHS and CMFT) and industry. (See Figure 1)
Figure 1: Number of attendees per category: academics (Cross faculties, University of Manchester), Clinicians (Trustech, NHS, CMFT) and Industry (Pharma, Biotechs and Medtechs)
- The workshop was divided into two distinctive parts: the first part was composed of key note lectures from speakers giving different perspectives from an academic, industrial and clinical point of view, followed by an overview of the various stream of funding available by Matt Chapman from the Knowledge Transfer Network. The second part of the workshop was organised around three round table discussions with different themes such as advanced drug delivery and therapy, biosensors and diagnostics, and regenerative medicine and medical devices.
- Tours of the National Graphene Institute facilities were organised during the lunch break
- Each round table was constituted of participants from the different communities: academic researchers with expertise in a specific area of biomedicine or in graphene research, clinical consultants in different sectors of medicine and representative from Biotechnology and Pharmaceutics companies; this was to maximise the interactions between clinicians, end users and researchers and to enable the identification of unmet clinical needs that could potentially be solved using graphene (Figure 2); in addition, a tentative technology roadmap of graphene based products and technology in healthcare and biomedicine was developed.
- From the round discussions a general consensus was established about the fact that graphene based products would take significant amount of time to be developed and to reach the market and that it would be highly dependent on three crucial barriers to adoption that need to be addressed:
o Lack of standards in graphene production and materials: standards similar to ISO13485 for diagnostics, ISO9001 for production, GMP grades, and quality controls need to be developed in addition to a shelf life time for graphene and related materials
o Environmental, Health and Nanosafety of graphene: there is a lack of information on the nanosafety of graphene such as toxicity following chronic or long term exposure and the environmental fate of graphene
o Cost of production: it is still to date very expensive to produce graphene in a scale that is relevant for industry and commercialisation and the cost of production is highly dependent on the quality of the material produced
Figure 2: Tables of the different applications of graphene in healthcare in Biomedicine; various types of graphene in different formats are available and produced at the university and can be used to develop graphene based products in healthcare such as 3D graphene based scaffold, Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) graphene, graphene platelets and graphene oxide.
- Next steps: The workshop generated significant interest in particular from the clinical community and as a result few follow-up meetings are organised:
o Several clinicians requested meetings with Prof. Kostarelos for scouting different applications of graphene that could be exploited in their field and with the ultimate goal of collaborating on a research project and applying for grants
o Discussions with Astrazeneca led to the application to a joint bid for a EPSRC large programme grant (around £4millions) on graphene applications in Biomedicine
o An away day between academics from FMHS, clinical scientists and translation scientists from Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) is organised in January in order to scout for applications of graphene and other nanomaterials in cancer research
- A post-workshop brochure will be sent to all the attendees of the workshop and to individuals that have expressed interest in being informed about the outcomes of the workshop
- Following this workshop, the cross-cutting nanomedicine network will be launched towards the end of the year and all the attendees have expressed high interest in attending to this event.
- Lessons: This event was in general successful as many potential multi-disciplinary collaborations between clinicians, industry and academics were initiated from it and bid applications are expected to be generated; however for the next workshop, more participants from a broader industrial biotech/medtech community will be targeted and marketing/advertising will be started at an earlier stage; in addition the event will be held in a larger venue.