Drug delivery system
Biocompatibles International plc is a leading medical technology company, now specialising in the field of drug-device combination products.
The company’s collaboration with the University of Brighton began in 1992 when the eye-care division was specifically looking for academic support in developing its technology for use in ocular applications such as intraocular lenses and contact lenses. Professor Andrew Lloyd, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and colleagues in the School of Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences initially developed the partnership through a major DTI LINK Programme to develop novel materials for the fabrication of intraocular lenses for the treatment of cataract. This subsequently led to a series of collaborative research projects including the development of a Glaucoma Filtration Implant and the evaluation of various contact lens materials.
Andrew Lewis, Director of Research and Technology, Biocompatibles International
As part of the Teaching Company Scheme (now called a Knowledge Transfer Partnership), the University of Brighton recruited a graduate to work within the company for two years. Her task was to develop novel assays (unique tests), which looked at the biological performance of polymer coatings - specifically how cells do or do not attach to various different surfaces. This technology was transferred from the university to the client company’s laboratories in 1999 - 2000, and the project provided further validated scientific data which led to a number of peer-reviewed publications. The graduate was subsequently supported by the company to complete a PhD and undertake postdoctoral research at the university on the company’s technology.
The company subsequently re-structured, selling both its eye care and cardiovascular divisions for a total of over £235m. The remaining research group focused their attention on the use of biomedical polymer systems for drug-device combination product development.
More recently, Biocompatibles commercial and research interests have moved towards the development of polymer-based drug delivery systems for the treatment of both benign and malignant tumours. The company has sponsored a number of successfully completed projects, and ongoing PhD students working on embolic devices for drug delivery applications, particularly liver cancer. In a number of these studentships they have reversed the standard model with the students being based in the company’s own well equipped laboratories while having the opportunity to access specialist equipment and expert knowledge and supervision from university staff. The industrial and academic team holds monthly reviews offering the students an opportunity to present their research findings and leave the meetings with clear written objectives and actions.
“The students are organised in a business-like way, but they are not restricted – they follow their own research interests. This approach simply means that their objectives stay aligned with what the company wants to achieve” said Andrew Lewis, director of research and technology.
“The students benefit from being based in-company because they have to work within our quality system. Students get all of our in-house company training, as well as knowledge from the university. This makes them highly marketable, as prospective employers know they will be up to speed quickly in the workplace.
“Overall it comes down to good working relationships. Andrew Lloyd has worked hard to remove a lot of the bureaucracy from the system, and we try to look for the synergies and opportunities for both parties”.
From 2002 to 2007 the university continued to support the company through BBSRC Project Grants, BBSRC/EPSRC CASE Studentships and Collaborative Contract Research Projects. This extends to funding university staff time and membership of the company’s scientific advisory board.
All these contributions offer the potential to improve product performance and to improve the clinical outcomes of medical use.
“The students are organised in a business-like way, but they are not restricted – they follow their own research interests. This approach simply means that their objectives stay aligned with what the company wants to achieve.”
Andrew Lewis, Director of Biocompatibles.
Biocompatibles International: www.biocompatibles.com