Changing the face of therapeutic imaging and antibiotics

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To celebrate International Women in Engineering day on 23 June 2021, we’ve put the spotlight on the work of Professor Eleanor Stride at the University of Oxford.

In 2005 the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) launched its flagship Challenging Engineering programme.

Challenging Engineering projects were grounded in the engineering sciences but also focussed on research that could be translated or applied in other areas of the physical, life or social sciences.

The programme helped identify and support individuals with the potential to become future leaders of engineering research. The scheme invested around £35 million in 38 individuals to establish themselves as the future leaders of research.

Professor Eleanor Stride is one such individual. Now based at the University of Oxford, Professor Stride has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, and in 2019 was named as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Engineering.

Professor Eleanor Stride said:

“Challenging Engineering gave me the flexibility to develop a multi-disciplinary team and collaborate not only with academic colleagues but also with several clinical teams to help translate the outcomes of the research. We now have two spin-outs as a result, and hopefully two clinical trials starting in the next couple of years. The award, for me, was transformative because it gave me the freedom to define a research programme from scratch, to build a fantastic team, to develop key collaborations and crucially to be able to adapt the programme according to the results of the research and as new opportunities arose.”

Professor Stride received the EPSRC Challenging Engineering award for research into combining technologies for medical imaging and therapy.

The research helped develop new systems for targeted delivery of minimally invasive treatments for a range of disease with simultaneous treatment monitoring. These include a formulation of microbubbles that can be magnetically targeted and is now being applied to the treatment of pancreatic cancer and blood clots; and a multi-layered microcapsule for delivering antibiotics to treat chronic urinary tract infections.

Stride said:

“The research centres around combining technologies for simultaneously detecting and treating disease. For example, we’ve developed microbubbles that can not only be used as imaging contrast agents but also to release or activate drugs at a particular target, such as the site of a tumour. We can track where those bubbles are in the body, and then localise the treatment to minimise side effects. We are working very closely with clinicians to develop better treatments for several types of cancer, stroke and chronic infection.”

In January 2021, she secured EPSRC funding of over £6 million for Beyond Antibiotics, research into antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes AMR as one of the greatest threats we face as a global community.

The research aims to develop new technology to enable better characterisation of bacterial infections, rapid point-of-care diagnostics and alternatives to antibiotics, and infection prevention strategies.

Professor Stride said:

“Antimicrobial resistance is now on a huge scale and extends beyond humans. We’ll be working with international teams to tackle antimicrobial resistance in agriculture and animals, too.”

Image: Professor Eleanor Stride (credit: Mark Mallett)