Our research is addressing major challenges that have arisen as a result of these successes – such as improving quality of life in line with this extended life expectancy. Healthcare technologies are changing beyond recognition, and we are at the forefront of this new revolution that is transforming the way we treat patients.
Tackling antimicrobial resistance
Our research is helping to fight one of the biggest global health threats we face by finding new ways to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The UN warns that without action, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and cause another global financial crisis. By 2030, AMR could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
Our Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces has links with eight corporate multinationals, including Boots, Unilever and DePuy Synthes, as well as a growing number of SMEs. Regional partners include Liverpool Health Partners, the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Alder Hey Children's Hospital and Gencoa.
The Hub’s vision is to create advanced, cross-disciplinary scientific platforms to develop smart antimicrobial strategies that inhibit spread and proliferation of hazardous microbes on surfaces in industry and healthcare. This in turn will stimulate growth and support innovation in the UK economy, deliver sustainable antimicrobial innovation and provide cross-disciplinary skills and training.
We are a core partner in the £26million National Biofilms Innovation Centre, which will establish a network of research and innovation capacity catalysing collaboration with industry .
Early diagnosis and treatment of cancers
Here at the University of Liverpool we are investigating rapid, real-time chemical and biological disease detection methods that will allow clinicians to make important decisions and improve long-term outcomes.
We will achieve this through innovative world-class research into detecting, treating and preventing a range of cancer types, and improving quality of life. Incidences of head and neck cancer diagnosed in Merseyside and Cheshire have increased by 40% over the last decade and there is a strong drive to push innovation in this area.
We are working with the University’s North West Cancer Research Centre to focus on the detection, diagnosis and treatment of this disease and have funded a PhD project to help understand the rise in instances of head and neck cancers on a regional basis.
We are leading the new Cancer Diagnosis Network, which is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. This multi-disciplinary community of academic, clinical and industry aims to address clinical challenges in the diagnosis of cancer collaboratively.
The Wirral-based Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s leading cancer centres providing highly specialist cancer care to a population of 2.3m people across Cheshire, Merseyside and the Isle of Man. The centre is the only facility in the UK providing low-energy proton beam therapy to treat rare eye cancers. The centre also plays host to the region’s Teenage and Young Adult Unit, which would not be possible without the support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. The Department of Physics has a long history of working with the Centre and investigators here have been involved in pushing for the upgrading of its cyclotron facilities. Research at the physics department along with the Mersey Head and Neck cancer oncology research group is supported by Cancer Research UK to develop a new diagnostic for oral cancer.
Improving cardiovascular health
Researchers in the School of Engineering are working to tackle aortic diseases, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). This work engages volunteers, patients and the public and has included participating in BHF events for fundraisers (for example the Wales BHF Supporters and a BHF Legacy Event in Penrith), community activism, taking part in sponsored events and raising awareness of the research through meetings with regional politicians and in regional media interviews.
3D printing PPE visors
The team are using their experience of 3D printing and laser cutting to produce PPE compliant visors for use in hospitals around the North West in response to the COVID19 pandemic. The protective visors have been developed in partnership with NHS staff, including the teams at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Broadgreen, Aintree University Hospital and Southport & Ormskirk Hospitals.
In order to create the visors efficiently the team used a mixed design with a laser cut top section and a 3-D printed bottom section. This reduced the production process to just half an hour from over six hours. Local industry helped us to scale up production further.
Transformative eye healthcare
Restoring vision and preventing sight loss is a significant challenge, so the University’s ophthalmic researchers have forged a unique, close-knit network with the Royal Liverpool University Hospital’s specialist St Paul’s Eye Unit. The result is a true example of effective cross-disciplinary research, addressing immediate eye-related healthcare needs for wide societal benefit. Vision loss and blindness are major global problems, with over two million people affected by vision and eye health problems in the UK alone.
Case study: Liverpool Biomechanical Engineering Group
The School of Engineering and St Paul’s Eye Unit are currently undertaking a clinical study on a contact lens device for glaucoma management. The device, developed by Liverpool Biomechanical Engineering Group with funding from NIHR, will enable continuous monitoring of the eye’s internal pressure, which is important for glaucoma management. Currently, no technique is available commercially. This work involved communication with patients and healthcare professionals.
The group has also facilitated discussions with patient groups on a new corneal implant to correct severe refractive errors. The aim here is to support the development of new corneal implants that can correct refractive errors in corneas with irregular shapes. The main benefit of these new implants is their use of a soft material that is comfortable to use. Patient feedback was very positive and they offered their help with the preparation of the funding proposal and the further development of the technology.
Development of new regenerative and rehabilitation technologies
Increasing fracture numbers are putting tremendous strain on healthcare systems worldwide. Osteoporosis-fragility fractures alone represent a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS, and for individuals it can have a detrimental impact on quality of life. Researchers within the faculty are part of the University’s healthy ageing network and are developing new innovative methods for tissue regeneration and manufacture with the potential to help repair bone, teeth and cartilage and the development of bespoke prosthetic devices. We are developing longer-lasting prosthetics so that patients gain function back sooner and maintain a good quality of life for longer.