Skip to content

Advanced Therapies Group

The Advanced Therapies Group, within the School of Dentistry, is involved in using our knowledge of the molecular and cellular control of human disease processes to inform the design, development and testing of novel polymer therapeutics in the prevention and treatment of difficult to treat, often life-threatening infections. The work of the group is focused on polymer therapies derived from nature in applied research, and their use in a range of applications in the prevention and treatment of human disease.

A significant area of our research is employed in investigating a low molecular weight alginate (OligoG CF-5/20), which has been shown to enhance the activity of conventional antibiotics against multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria and biofilms, for example, Pseudomonas and Burkholderia spp. which complicate the treatment of cystic fibrosis. This work is now being broadened to tailor the alginate to its maximum potential therapeutic effect. The group is also characterising microbial growth on novel nanocellulose wound dressing materials for chronic wound applications.

Key achievements have been in developing new strategies to specifically target otherwise undeliverable proteins, peptides and drugs to sites of disease by the chemical bonding of safe, water-soluble natural polymers extracted from plants and animals. These so-called "nanomedicines" are capable of reducing the side effects of conventional drugs by 'enveloping' them in a polymer 'coat', so that once they reach the site of disease, they can be triggered to release the drug by the body's own proteins. Thus, patients require lower doses and less frequent dosing.


Alginate Nanomedicines

Research here, as part of a multi-national collaboration with AlgiPharma AS, has involved development of polymer therapies based on the biopolymer alginate, derived from seaweed. The first product, currently in Phase IIb clinical trials is OligoG, a low molecular weight alginate oligosaccharide. We first demonstrated in 2010 how these oligomeric structures were able to potentiate antibiotics (by up to 500-fold) against a range of multi-drug resistant (MDR) human pathogens and inhibit biofilm formation. Subsequent research sponsored by the EU, US Department of Defence, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the EU Eurostars Programme has led to the optimisation of the delivery of OligoG as an inhalation therapy for cystic fibrosis and in the treatment of patients with life-threatening infections of MDR bacteria, where work is ongoing in the group.

Tailored OligoG

The Advanced Therapies Group are a key part of a four year £5.4 million research grant from the Norwegian Research Council in collaboration with AlgiPharma AS, SINTEF and NTNU, Norway looking into the development of novel alginate oligomers for clinical use. This exciting programme is a vital component of an International consortium to investigate microbial sources of raw material for the formulation of new prevention strategies and treatments for persistent, difficult to treat infections for AlgiPharma's alginate technology programme.


This project is involved in the development of bio-compatible cellulose nanomaterials (derived from tree pulp) with innovative, functional properties for advanced wound healing applications in conjunction with the Paper Research Institute (PFI), Trondheim. The ability of these nanofibres (from renewable sources) to interact with complementary polymers and form novel material structures for use in applications as diverse as wound dressings, graft scaffolds for tissue engineering and bio-sensing in a range of human diseases forms the basis of our ongoing research.

See images: figure 1

Polymer Conjugates

Our ongoing research is investigating novel combinations of polymers and peptides for the treatment of chronic inflammation and infection, and novel polymer-growth factor conjugates as adjunctives to stem cell therapy. Successful translation of this research has wide applications, not only in dentistry (e.g. maxillofacial trauma, periodontitis), but shows potential for use in an extensive range of diseases (e.g. diabetic foot ulcers, cystic fibrosis, spinal cord injury).

See images: figure 2

Selected publications

Current grants

Developing agents from rainforest plants (and their synthetic analogues) as novel nanomedicines to overcome biofilm infections in chronic wounds

Current grantsFunding
Research Council of Norway (2015-2019)BIA Programme: developing the “second generation” of our polymer therapeutics, for wound healing and device coatings£3.17 M
Research Council of Norway (2013-2017)Tailored OligoG Programme: characterising structure/activity relationships of oligosaccharide nanomedicines£3.99 M
Research Council of Norway (2012-2016)Nanoheal Programme to design, synthesise and test novel nanomaterials based on nanocellulose as novel dressing materials£1.02 M
AlgiPharma AS (2012-2016)Industrial research collaboration to develop the alginate oligosaccharide technologies which has led to the discovery of novel antibiofilm/antibacterial applications£672,000
QBiotics Ltd (2013-2018) £118,000
MRC New Investigator Research Grant (2016-2019)Accumulation and nephrotoxicity of dextrin-colistin conjugates£399,982

Clinical trials

Lead researcher

David Thomas

Professor Dave W Thomas

Professor/Hon Consultant in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Programme Director Implant Dentistry, Director Wales Integrated Academic Training programme in Dentistry, School of Dentistry, URI Innovation Lead

+44 (0)29 207 44873

Academic staff

Elaine Ferguson

Dr Elaine Ferguson

Senior Lecturer in Polymer Therapeutics

+44 (0)2922 510663
Katja Hill

Dr Katja Hill

Lecturer in Oral Microbiology

+44 (0)29 2074 4252
Pritchard, Manon

Dr Manon Pritchard

Research Associate

No profile image

Dr Lydia Powell

Research Associate


Dr Mathieu Varache

Research Associate


Postgraduate students