Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Kent
Unit of AssessmentChemistry
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry, Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Engineering: Materials Engineering
Summary of the impact
The nanobiotechnology research group at the University of Kent (Bruce et
al.) has pioneered the ability to control, manipulate and
commercially process magnetite nanoparticles. Two spinout companies,
EryDel and Dietheva have been formed, with a €6 million venture capital
grant, as a direct result of the Kent-led research. EryDel (in
collaboration with Philips Healthcare) are exploiting the materials
worldwide for drug delivery (Erydex), with US and European approval for
Orphan drug designation given in 2013 for genetic diseases, and Diatheva
are marketing the technology for forensic diagnostic kits. The predicted
five-year revenue is €35 million with a potential market of €17 billion.
The underpinning research originated from an €11.5 million European
Commission funded FP6 project called "NACBO" - Novel and Improved
Nanomaterials, Chemistries and Apparatus for Nano-Biotechnology,
which ran from 2004-2009. The integrated research project, part of the NMP
(nanotechnology) thematic priority, was led by Prof Ian Bruce at the
University of Kent and brought together six universities (Shanghai,
Moscow, Urbino, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Kent), three Government agencies
(Central Public Health Laboratory in the UK and Criminalpol and Istituto
Zooprofilattico in Italy) and three companies (Phillips, Proligo and
Savyon). The project designed, synthesized and characterized a broad range
of biological and non-biological nanocomposite silica, magnetite and
carbon materials and their hybrids. Robust scale-up methodologies were
developed leading to commercially viable applications in drug delivery,
molecular diagnostics and forensics.
Kent Research Focus
- Understanding and controlling the variables involved in producing
defined geometry, composite, silica-iron oxide (magnetite) nanoparticles
of sizes between 10 to 100nm diameters (2, 4).
- Understanding and controlling the variables involved in the surface
modification of such materials with organosilanes and ligands that would
render them useful and stable in biological and biomedical applications
(1, 3, 5, 6).
- Scale-up production of the resultant materials (once best variants had
been selected and evaluated in desired applications) to a level and cost
that would render them commercially viable.
Underpinning Research Outcomes
- A library of composite silica-magnetite particles were successfully
synthesized and produced on large scale.
- Detailed understanding of their compositions and surface geometries
and chemistries was obtained and how they could be chemically activated
to amino-functionality in a controlled and measurable manner by
treatment with aminosilanes.
- Detailed knowledge of and ability to modify the particles surfaces
with bioligands in a controlled fashion was obtained.
All basic and applied research was conducted between 2004 and 2011 at
Kent, by the following key researchers (dates refer to period of
employment at Kent):
Ian Bruce, 2004-2011, Head of Nanobiotechnology Group, University
of Kent. Currently Emeritus Professor of Nanobiotechnology.
- Dr Tapas Sen, 2003-2008, Postdoctoral Research Assistant,
- Dr Stephen Bagshaw, 2005-2006, Postdoctoral Research Assistant,
Stefano Biagini, 1999 - present, Senior Lecturer in Organic
Chemistry, Functional Materials Group.
- Dr Marion Van De Waterbeem, 2005-2009, , PhD student, Functional
Materials Group and Nanobiotechnology Group, co-supervised by Prof Ian
Bruce and Dr Stefano Biagini.
- Dr Antonio Sebastianelli, PhD student, Nanobiotechnology Group,
supervised by Prof Ian Bruce.
The project has been used as an exemplar of European excellence in
science meetings across the World by the European Commission. The project
was recently nominated a success story for Europe (page 44):
The 2011 report stated that "NACBO was a highly successful project that
reached or exceeded all of its objectives... NACBO hit on a key that
seemed to unlock a treasure box, namely that certain well- made and
characterized materials, their surfaces and architectures possess the
ability to be used almost universally in a very wide range of
Subsequent fundamental research has been funded by two further European
Commission nanotechnology grants, detailed in section 3.
References to the research
References ,  and  best indicate the quality of the underpinning
1. Bruce IJ, Sen T "Surface modification of magnetic
nanoparticles with alkoxysilanes and their application in magnetic
bioseparations", Langmuir, 2005, 21(15), 7029-7035, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/la050553t
2. Sen T, Sebastianelli A, Bruce IJ "Mesoporous silica-magnetite
nanocomposite: Fabrication and applications in magnetic bioseparations", Journal
of the American Chemical Society, 2006, 128(22), 7130-7131 DOI:
3. Amagliani G, Omiccioli E, Del Campo A, Bruce IJ, Brandi G,
Magnani M, "Development of a magnetic capture hybridization-PCR assay for
Listeria monocytogenes direct detection in milk samples", Journal of
Applied Microbiology, 2006, 100(2), 375-383. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02761.x
4. Sen T, Bruce IJ, "Mesoporous silica-magnetite nanocomposities:
Fabrication, characterization and applications in biosciences", Microporous
and Mesoporous Materials, 2009, 120(3), 246-251, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.micromeso.2008.11.012
5. Van De Waterbeemd M, Sen T, Biagini S, Bruce IJ, "Surface
functionalisation of magnetic nanoparticles: Quantification of surface to
bulk amine density", Micro and Nano Letters, 2010, 5(5), 282-285.
6. Antonelli A, Sfara C, Manuali E, Bruce IJ, Magnani M
"Encapsulation of superparamagnetic nanoparticles into red blood cells as
new carriers of MRI contrast agents", Nanomedicine, 2011, 6(2),
211-223. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/NNM.10.163
Key competitive research grants
• EU FP6 Integrated Project "NACBO: Novel and improved
nanomaterials, chemistries and apparatus for nanobiotechnology". €11.5
million, 13 partner 6 country consortium 2004- 2009. NMP4-CT-2004-500804 Led
by Prof Bruce, University of Kent
• European Union FP6 Network "SELECTNANO: Development of
multifunctional nanometallic particles using a new process -
sonoelectrochemistry" 2005-2009 €3.3 million, 13 partner, 7 country
consortium. Project Partner, (2nd) Prof
Bruce, University of Kent, €270K
• European Union FP6 Integrated Project "CHILL ON" 2006 - 2011
€15Million, 32 partner, 12 country consortium. Project partner (7th),
Prof Bruce, University of Kent, €807K
Details of the impact
Exploiting nanomaterials for drug delivery
The Kent research into nanoparticulate magnetite (described in section 2)
laid the foundation for EryDel's (http://www.erydel.com/)
preliminary studies into stability, functionality and delivery of iron
base contrast agents using Erythrocyte ghosts.
EryDel is an SME, founded in 2007 by the University of Urbino, Italy as a
direct result of the Kent- led European Commission NACBO project. The Kent
research was conducted in close collaboration with the Healthcare Division
of Royal Philips Electronics at Hamburg, Germany using their experimental
medical imaging platforms for small mammals. It led to the signature of a
joint accord between Phillips and EryDel relating to the development and
exploitation of the processes and materials involved. These processes and
materials are unique, covered by international patents, and possess the
potential to significantly impact a global market estimated to be worth in
excess of €11 billion by 2015. Together, Royal Philips Electronics and
EryDel are actively pursuing the commercial development and exploitation
of the materials and processes involved. As a consequence of this work and
optimisation of the erythroctye encapsulation process, the company has
developed the erythrocyte ghost system into a platform for drug delivery.
It has successfully concluded the Phase II Proof of Concept Study "Evaluation
of Effects of Intra-Erythrocyte Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate (EryDex)
on Neurological Symptoms in Ataxia- Teleangectasia (A-T) Patients",
EudraCT Number 2010-022315-19 and has just announced (June 2013) that the
European Medicinal Agency has approved
Orphan Drug Designation for EryDex for the treatment of Ataxia
Telangiectasia. A-T is a rare, neurodegenerative, inherited disease
causing severe disability. Orphan Drug status allows the company 10 years
of marketing exclusivity from the time of approval.
EryDex also has the potential for use in the treatment for a variety of
other conditions and clinical pilot studies have already been conducted in
Europe in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic
fibrosis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
The Kent research team and EryDel's founders (Prof Magnami) were
co-collaborators on three European Commission nanotechnology grants
(section 3), have published a number of joint publications since 2004
(including the key reference 6, section 3) and have jointly presented at
Molecular diagnostics and forensics
The nanomaterials produced at Kent as part of the NACBO project have
underwritten the development of, and have been incorporated into, a number
of molecular diagnostic kits for the extraction of nucleic acids, e.g.
Bacterial DNA isolation (MBK0005),
Listeria monocytogenes DNA (MBK0002),
and the detection of microorganisms e.g. Legionella (MBK0051) and
The diagnostic kits are marketed worldwide by Diatheva (www.diatheva.com),
an SME founded in 2002, for research and therapeutic applications in the
field of cancer, microbial infection and pharmacogenics. Reference 3,
section 3 is the key joint publication between Kent and Diatheva's
founders, outlining the joint research and potential impact. In 2012 a 51%
share of Diatheva was acquired
by the SOL Group. The SOL
Group is an Italian based multinational group present in 20 European
countries and India, employing over 2,350 people and has an annual revenue
of €555 million.
In 2011, the European Commission summed up the impact from the Kent-led
NACBO project as follows: "Materials and processes generated by the
[NACBO] consortium, particularly surface activation strategies, materials
for use as contrast agents and/or in drug delivery and diagnostic kits,
are already being commercially exploited by partners or in later stages of
clinical evaluation. Future revenues over the next 5 years are estimated
at least around € 35 million and projected additional future revenue based
on market penetration by project outputs could be in the region of between
€100 million to €500 million over the next 5 to 10 years."
"Outputs from the project are already positively contributing to the
improvement of diagnostics (health and forensics), not only within the
European Union but also worldwide. In the context of forensics, improved
detection limit sensitivities and better robustness in genetic profiling
using materials and procedures developed in the project are already
helping to solve criminal cases and increase individuals' security and
protection from crime. Finally, the surface activation approaches
developed in the project are already making fine chemical manufacturing
processes (involved in the production of ultra-high quality pharmaceutical
grade materials) more robust and reproducible reducing associated cost,
time and undesirable environmental consequences."
Sources to corroborate the impact
Despite assurances of REF confidentially the company was only willing to
offer statements already in the public domain.
- "Successful European nanotechnology research: Outstanding science and
technology to match the needs of a future society", Directorate-General
for Research and Innovation, 2011, ISBN 978-92-79-15623-6:
EU document highlighting successful EU projects in nanotechnology, the
NACBO project and its impact are highlighted on pages 44-46, Spotlight on
- NACBO Final Activity Report, 2010:
The final report summarising all final outcomes and outputs of the NACBO
project. The spin-out company EryDel is highlighted on pages 5, 10, 16, 28
- EryDel's press releases for Orphan Drug approval in Europe and the US,
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Orphan Drug List:
EryDel product listed on page 24.
- European Commission list of official designated Orphan Drugs:
EU designation EU/3/13/1158.
- SOL Group acquires majority of Diatheva as further step in the biotech
- Novel and Improved Nanomaterials, Chemistries and apparatus for
Nanobiotechnology: the NACBO project - Special Report, Nanomedicine,
2011, 6(2), 187-193, ISSN 1743-5889