Contact: Dr. Nuno Faria, School of Veterinary Medicine
Mentor: Dr. Mark Priest, Harrogate Partners

Metals are known to have antimicrobial effects and silver has been used widely in recent years. However silver is an expensive material, and although silver dressings remain sterile for longer than normal dressings, they do not actively treat the wound underneath. In practise a copper surface is better at killing bacteria by contact than silver, as well as being much lower cost. The other advantage of copper is that it is already widely used in farming, and is the only chemical approved for use in organic farming.

Dr Faria and his team are experts in developing amorphous materials, and a previous iron-based product is already being trialled in Europe and the Gambia as a food supplement to address anemia.

More recently they have focused on copper-based amorphous materials and their potential to show antimicrobial activity when used in wound dressings and ointments.

The new materials have been designed to be low-cost and simple to manufacture in a low-tech facility. The copper-based amorphous structures (copper hydroxide) are doped with organic ligands such as tartaric acid to maximise their anti-bacterial effect. Maintaining a sterile environment for manufacture is the hardest step.

The first test implementation has resulted in a copper-based ointment for external application. This shows a greater release of metal ions over time than from commercially-available silver-based ointments.

The role of the Development i-Team will be to investigate and advise on the best way forward for this invention in the developing world. Would an ointment or a dressing be a more useful formulation? What are the possibilities of manufacturing products locally within the target countries? Which countries or regions would be the best places to work in as a first step? What regulatory hurdles would need to be overcome? Are there any cultural concerns that need to be addressed?