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Dr Elaine Ferguson MRPharmS, PhD, SFHEA

Dr Elaine Ferguson

MRPharmS, PhD, SFHEA

Reader in Polymer Therapeutics’

School of Dentistry

Email
fergusonel@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)2922 510663
Campuses
Room 5F.08, University Dental Hospital, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XY
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

I am a leading researcher in the use of polysaccharides as bioresponsive carriers for protein and peptide drugs and have a proven track record of excellence in characterising and optimising drug release by enzyme degradation for a range of novel targets and new clinical applications. Notably, dextrin-epidermal growth factor conjugates developed with Prof David Thomas were the first polymer therapeutics for tissue repair and the first paper from this work was featured as the cover story of the Journal of Controlled Release. My work has made a distinctive contribution to the field in moving beyond PEGylation by demonstrating the benefits of using biodegradable polysaccharide carriers, including dextrin, hyaluronic acid and alginate, leading to the first bi- functional polymer therapeutics that can significantly enhance the efficacy of antibiotics.

Biography

I graduated from the University of Manchester with a First class Master of Pharmacy degree, having gained a broad knowledge of the principles and techniques of pharmaceutical sciences. This led me to work within the pharmaceutical industry sector  (AstraZeneca) where I acquired practical experience of these skills. After qualification as a registered pharmacist I decided to pursue my growing interest in developing novel drug delivery systems since my clinical pharmacy experiences had highlighted the clinical need for new treatments. I completed a PhD with Professor Ruth Duncan at Cardiff University in 2008, in which I developed a bioresponsive polymer-phospholipase conjugate for the treatment of breast cancer. This research 'cemented' my long-standing interest in using natural biodegradable polymers as novel carriers for bioactive agents.

Having demonstrated the feasibility of bioresponsive polymer therapeutics in cancer, my interests focused on exploring new clinical applications. Having identified regenerative medicine as a field in which bioresponsive polymer conjugates could have great potential, I joined an interdisciplinary EPSRC Nanomedicine Platform-led consortium. Employing highly sophisticated analytical techniques to develop and test dextrin-growth factor conjugates, we developed the first polymer therapeutics for tissue repair.

More recently, my funding from MRC and Wellcome Trust enabled my group to design and deliver the first bioresponsive 'nanoantibiotic' based on dextrin-colistin conjugates, which show improved drug stability, pharmacokinetics and retention of antimicrobial activity. This funding has supported the development of a small consortium, led by myself, of clinicians, postgraduates and a research assistant, and attracted further funding, including an MRC New Investigator Research Grant and from the Wellcome Trust to explore simultaneous targeting of cancer and bacterial infections with our nanoantibiotic. My current research is developing polysaccharide-based polymer therapeutics for a range of novel targets and new clinical applications. 

I was appointed as Lecturer of Polymer Therapeutics in January 2013, and promoted to Senior Lecturer in August 2017. I successfully applied for promotion to Reader in August 2020.

Honours and awards

  • Jul 2018: Poster prize. Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale UHB Research and Development Conference. Cardiff, UK (2nd prize awarded).
  • Jun 2016: Poster prize. Cardiff and Vale UHB International Clinical Trials Conference. Cardiff, UK (3rd prize awarded).
  • Jun 2015: Poster prize. Cardiff and Vale UHB Research and Development Conference. Cardiff, UK (3rd prize awarded).
  • May 2014: Oral presentation. 10th International Symposium on Polymer Therapeutics: From Laboratory to Clinical Practice. Valencia, Spain (2nd prize awarded).
  • 2013: The Jackson Prize for the best short paper presented at the Burns and Plastic Surgery Section, Society of Academic Research Surgery Annual Meeting. London, UK.
  • Dec 2012: Competitive travel grant. Microbiology and Infection Translational Research Group (MITReG) (£400).
  • May 2011: Science team award for ‘Best Interdisciplinary Dynamics’, SARTRE Science Showcase. Newport, UK.
  • Nov 2010: Oral presentation. Association of British Academic Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Annual Meeting. Cardiff, UK (1st prize awarded).
  • 2007: Competitive travel grants. Merck Sharp & Dohme (£500), Controlled Release Society ($125).
  • Jun 2006: Oral presentation. Highlights of student posters, 33rd Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Controlled Release Society. Vienna, Austria (1st prize awarded).
  • 2006: Competitive travel grants. Graduate School of Biomedical and Life Sciences travel grant (£300), Thomas Morgan travel grant (£200).
  • Apr 2004: Poster prize. Postgraduate research day, Welsh School of Pharmacy. Cardiff, UK (1st prize awarded).
  • 9 prizes awarded to PhD students under my supervision.

Professional memberships

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Cardiff Institute for Tissue Engineering & Repair (CITER)
  • Member of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
  • Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)

Academic positions

  • Jan 2012 - Jul 2017: Lecturer in Polymer Therapeutics, School of Dentistry, Cardiff, UK.
  • Nov 2008 - Dec 2012: Research Associate in Polymer Therapeutics, School of Dentistry, Cardiff, UK.
  • May 2008 - Oct 2008: Postdoctoral Research Scientist (Nanomedicines EPSRC Platform Grant), Schools of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Cardiff, UK.

Speaking engagements

Since 2008, I have given over 50 talks at conferences and workshops; this includes 10 invited talks to various UK and International research groups, workshops and conferences. An illustrative selection of invited lectures and working visits are detailed below:

  • 2018, November 14: invited lecture, 'Natural Compound Research for Tissue Repair and Regeneration in Wales’ workshop, Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair, Cardiff, UK
  • 2016, May 23-25: chair of session on Antiviral and antibiotic therapeutics session, ‘11th International Symposium on Polymer Therapeutics from Laboratory to Clinical Practice’, Valencia, ES.
  • 2014, December 15-19: invited working visit to Prof Gudmund Skjåk-Bræk’s laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), NO, and Havard Sletta’s group at SINTEF, NO, to discuss work in progress and future collaborations.
  • 2013, January 28-30: invited lecture and working visit to Prof Peter Griffiths’ laboratory at the University of Greenwich, UK, to discuss ongoing work.
  • 2012, September 9-12: invited lecture, ‘52nd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy’, San Francisco, USA.

Committees and reviewing

INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

  • 2018 - present: Impact Lead (UoA3), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2018 - present: Senior Management Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2016 - present: Wellcome Trust ISSF3 grant panel member, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2016 - present: Research Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2015 - 2016: Enterprise, Engagement and Impact Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2014 - present: Postgraduate Research Admissions and Monitoring Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2014 - present: Impact and Innovation Committee (College of Biological and Life Sciences), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2014 -present: Impact Lead (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2013 - 2017: Research Ethics Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2012 - 2018: People, Equality and Diversity Committee (Dentistry), Cardiff University, UK

COMMISSIONS OF TRUST

  • 2019 - present: Associate Editor, Nano-Based Drug Delivery - Frontiers in Medical Technology
  • 2019 - present: Editorial board member, Scientific Reports
  • 2019: External examiner, Monash University
  • 2018: External examiner, University of Strathclyde
  • 2016 - present: Chair of PhD examination panel (x2), Cardiff University, UK
  • 2011 - present: Grant reviewing: BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, UKRI, Wellcome Trust and British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
  • 2010 - present: Reviewer for over 20 journals, e.g.: Nature, Biomacromolecules, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, PLoS ONE, International Journal of Nanomedicine, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Macromolecular Bioscience

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2011

2010

2009

2008

Teaching

  • 2018: Deputy Programme Director - MSc in Tissue Engineering & Repair - Cardiff University, UK
  • 2017: Undergraduate interprofessional education coordinator - Batchelor of Dental Surgery, Masters of Pharmacy - Cardiff University, UK
  • 2013: Undergraduate teaching, assessment and project supervision - Batchelor of Dental Surgery - Cardiff University, UK
  • 2011: Module leader - MSc in Tissue Engineering & Repair - Cardiff University, UK
  • 2009: Postgraduate teaching, assessment and research supervision - MSc in Tissue Engineering & Repair, MSc in Implantology, MSc in Oral Biology and MSc in Clinical Dentistry - Cardiff University, UK

Qualifications

  • 2019: Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • 2014: Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Current Projects

Novel polysaccharide-based drug delivery carriers for polymer therapeutics
Aim: To explore the potential of alternative sources and structures of biologically active polysaccharides as novel carriers for protein and peptide drugs.

Design and assembly of tailored oligosaccharides as polymer therapeutics for improved treatment of chronic respiratory infections
Aim: To generate and characterise an alginate oligosaccharide ("OligoG")-polymyxin conjugate library to optimise the antimicrobial functions of these last resort drugs.

Dextrin-colistin conjugates as a model bioresponsive treatment for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections
Aim: To develop a novel nanomedicine-based delivery system to target the delivery of colistin to sites of inflammation; increasing bioactivity/ bioavailability, decreasing systemic toxicity and improving clinical effectiveness.

Physicochemical analysis of the solution behaviour of 'nanoantibiotic' polymer conjugates and their interaction with biological structures
Aim: To predict the three-dimensional arrangements of the polymer chains and their conjugates (their conformation) and how quickly they diffuse in biological tissues.

Polymer therapeutics to modify cellular responses in impaired human wound healing
Aim: To develop a bioresponsive polymer-drug conjugate designed specifically to promote tissue repair by controllable liberation of growth factors.

Bioresponsive polymer conjugates for stem cell expansion and transplantation
Aim: To combine the potential of polymer therapeutics and stem cell therapy, to support the expansion of stem cells in vitro and explore the feasibility of enhancing stem cell transplantation efficiency using bioresponsive polymer conjugates.

Funding

  • 2020-2021: Medical Research Council (Confidence in Concept): ‘Potential of lactobacillus spp.-derived polysaccharides as novel bi-functional carriers in polymer conjugates’ (£53,468, principal investigator). 
  • 2020-2021: Wellcome Trust (Institutional Strategic Support Fund Reconnect with Science): ‘Development of bio-triggered nanoparticle-antibiotic conjugates to target cancer: impact of modification on cytotoxicity and epigenetic related pathways’ (£76,855, research sponsor).
  • 2019: EPSRC ECR Institutional Equipment: 'Contact angle goniometer and quartz crystal microbalance' (£48,000, co-investigator).
  • 2018-2022: Norwegian Research Council (281920): 'Novel alginate oligomer products for enhanced pharmaceutical delivery across mucosal barrier (Mucos-ALG)' (£297,397, co-investigator).
  • 2018-2019: Royal Society Research grant (RG\R2\180069): 'Development of a method for physicochemical analysis of saccharides from ploysaccharide-peptide conjugates' (£17,986.80, principal investigator).
  • 2018-2019: Wellcome Trust ISSF3 Translational Kickstart award: Development of a nanomedicine approach for simultaneous targeting of cancer and bacterial infections' (£49,645, principal investigator).
  • 2016-2021: MRC New Investigator Research grant (MR/N023633/1): ‘Accumulation and nephrotoxicity of dextrin-colistin conjugates’ (£406,496, principal investigator).
  • 2013-2013: Microbiology and Infection Translational Research Group (MITReG) Research Development Group grant: "Nanoantibiotic approaches to antibiotic delivery' (£4,000, principal investigator).
  • 2012: EPSRC grant (EP/K031635/1): 'Small items of research equipment at Cardiff University' (£498,293, co-investigator).
  • 2012: SANS study at ILL facility: 'Investigating the solution conformation and mechanism of action of antimicrobial alginate oligosaccharides (OligoG)' (£19,699, principal investigator).
  • 2011: SANS study at ILL facility: 'Novel polymer-antimicrobial conjugates; their solution conformation, self-association behavior and interaction with lipopolysaccharides' (£19,172, co-investigator).
  • 2010-2011: Wellcome Trust Value in People Award (£41,000 awarded, principal investigator).
  • 2009-2010: MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme: 'Bioresponsive polymer-peptide conjugates as novel antibacterial agents' (£27,000 awarded, principal investigator).
  • 2008: SANS study at ISIS facility: 'Investigating a Dextrin-Phospholipase A2 Conjugate as a Trigger for Polymer Enzyme Liposome Therapy (PELT)' (£22,120 awarded, principal investigator).
  • 2008: SANS study at ISIS facility: 'Structural Characterisation of a Series of Polymer-Protein Conjugates for Chronic Wound Treatments' (£10,870, co-investigator).

Book Chapter

  • Ferguson EL, Varache M, Stokniene J, Thomas DW (2019) Polysaccharides for protein and peptide conjugation in Pasut G, Zaplinsky S (eds.) Polymer-Protein Conjugates: From PEGylation and Beyond. Elsevier.

Patents

  • Ferguson E, Thomas DW, Dessen A, Rye P (2016) Bacitracin-alginate oligomer conjugates. GB201617862.D0.
  • Ferguson E, Thomas DW, Dessen A, Rye P (2017) Polymyxin-alginate oligomer conjugates. GB201617860D0, GB201714710D0.
  • Ferguson EL, Thomas DW, Walsh T (2012) Therapeutic conjugates. GB201010500D0, EP2585114B1, ES2523507T3, US8835380B2.

ORCID ID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0125-0234

Supervision

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • Polymer therapeutics
  • Drug delivery
  • Nanomedicine
  • Antimicrobial resistance

Past projects

Lead supervisor (33%) for Joana Stokniene- The design and assembly of tailored oligosaccharides as polymer therapeutics for improved treatment of chronic respiratory disease (awarded 2019)

Co-supervisor (33%) for Ernest Azzopardi - Bioresponsive dextrin-colistin conjugates as antimicrobial agents for the treatment of Gram-negative infection (awarded 2013)