Imperial College London has announced the first recipients of grants from the Excellence Fund for Frontier Research. It should come as no surprise to readers of 3D Printing Industry that two of three winning projects involve technology frequently reported on these pages.

The £1 million annual fund was first announced in 2016 by Professor Alice Gast during the President’s Address. In that speech Professor Gast earmarked funds for promoting innovative ideas in research and teaching. The projects were selected for their potential to achieve breakthroughs.

Each team will receive £250k to advance research in their particular subject.

Combining 3D printing and synthetic biology

A team led by Dr Guy-Bart Stan, Department of Bioengineering, Dr John Heap, Department of Life Sciences and Dr Connor Myant, Dyson School of Design Engineering will focus on Creating 3D materials using biology.

According to Imperial University the researchers intend to,

Create new types of materials in made-to-order shapes, sizes, biological functions and chemical properties. Their approach could open up new possibilities in manufacturing.

The approach combines 3D printing and synthetic biology. This is where scientists engineer cells with new designer DNA, which act like a computer program, instructing the cell produce materials on cue.

This research could open up new manufacturing possibilities in a range of areas. Products could include new types of sustainable building materials, wearable technology such as infection-detector sensors embedded in clothing, or technology useful in the development of new antibiotics. 

 

Imperial research into synthetic transcriptional circuits for the control of bacterial metabolism.

Imperial research into synthetic transcriptional circuits for the control of bacterial metabolism.

Medical imaging research

A second team will look at adapting oil and gas imaging for healthcare. Led by Professor Michael Warner, Department of Earth Science and Engineering, and Dr Mengxing Tang, Department of Bioengineering this research brings imaging technology from the energy industry into use as a medical imaging tool.

The team will adapt technology using in the search for, “new fossil fuel reserves deep below the ocean floor,” for medical imaging. Specifically full-waveform inversion that, “uses sound waves to search for oil and gas reserves,” will be investigated.  

This technology will be adapted to image the interior of the body potentially leading to cheaper, faster and more accurate clinical diagnoses.  The approach has many potential applications, especially for imagining the brain.

Speaking about the announcement,  Professor Nick Jennings, chair of the selection panel and Vice Provost (Research), said: “This scheme is an excellent example of the College acting courageously and funding high-quality frontier science.  These projects may be real game-changers and I look forward to seeing their progress in the coming months and years.”

3D printing advances research

As 3D Printing Industry has reported medical and bioprinting are areas where research continues to yield remarkable results. While these Frontier Research projects may not see commercial application for some years, 3D printing is increasingly advancing scientific progress.

A Regonova 3D bioprinter selecting a cell spheroid to place on Kenzan needles. Photo via Cyfuse Biomedical K.K.

A Regonova 3D bioprinter selecting a cell spheroid to place on Kenzan needles. Photo via Cyfuse Biomedical K.K.

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Feature image shows Imperial’s South Kensington campus. Photo via Imperial College London.

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