Battle to beat the bugs wins bio-firm top honour

A fledgling bio-business developing products to combat deadly hospital infections like MRSA has won a prestigious industry award.

Ai2, a University of Manchester spin-out company incorporated in April this year, took the Biotechnology Start-Up of the Year prize at the Northwest Regional Development Agency's Bionow awards.

The company, set up by Dr Curtis Dobson in the University's Faculty of Life Sciences, specialises in the development of novel antibacterial compounds.

"My work concerns chemicals called apolipovirs that have demonstrated both antimicrobial and antiviral qualities," said Dr Dobson, who last year won Bionow's Project of the Year for the same research.

"These compounds have been shown to be highly effective at killing bugs and so could have applications in the coating of medical devices and instruments.

"We also believe these chemicals could be developed into anti-fungal creams and barrier technologies in the fight against hospital infections like MRSA."

But, says Dr Dobson, the first application for the anti-infective compounds is likely to be in the coating of contact lenses to prevent eye infections.

Longer-term, the company hopes the compounds can be developed into antiviral drugs that could treat diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

"In the lab, apolipovirs have been shown to attack the HIV virus before it can attach itself to the cell and so, in theory, could kill off the virus completely.

"This way of fighting viruses outside the cell has been overlooked in the past and so a lot more research is needed.

"Whether antiviral drugs will provide a cure on their own remains to be seen but that will be a focus of the next stage of our work."

Dr Dobson's studies stem from work he originally carried out with colleagues at the University that looked at the role viruses play in certain forms of dementia.

"It was through studying the interaction of human proteins wi

Contact: Aeron Haworth
University of Manchester

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