Bioquell UK are global organisation that specialise in bio-decontamination: they develop specialist machines that eliminate microbiology. A company of approximately 250 employees, their main activities involve purifying the environments of hospitals and laboratories to reduce the risk of infection for people or biological samples.
One of the major obstacles to thorough decontamination are multi-drug resistant bacteria or “super bugs”, which have become a major problem in hospitals. A prime suspect in the resilience of bacteria against disinfectants and antibiotics is biofilms. A biofilm is a variety of microorganisms living in an ecosystem, within a ‘web’ of material that can act as protection against the substances produced to kill them.
Biofilms are a realistic representation of the communities of microbes that might be found on surfaces in hospitals or labs, making them harder to eliminate and potentially allowing the spread of superbugs. Fergus Watson, a young microbiologist working at Bioquell, expressed an interest in looking at biofilms in more depth. Following a funding opportunity from Innovate UK, he applied for the Industrial Fellowship programme of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. This gave him the opportunity to do a PhD researching biofilms and exploring Bioquell’s products, in particular Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) that is thought to be effective against biofilms.
Bioquell UK had already experienced the benefits of the Industrial Fellowship programme through their previous employee Jon Otter, now a world-leading expert in multi-drug resistant bacteria. He began his research career with the funding from the Royal Commission, and has gone on to represent the company globally as a key figure in the field of drug-resistant microbiology.
Following a funding opportunity from Innovate UK, Fergus applied for the Industrial Fellowship programme
This academic success for their employee is something they hope to emulate with Fergus. Since his Industrial Fellowship began, he has published a research paper in Nature, attended conferences and events for the field of biofilms, worked and studied in hospitals examining real-life microbiological conditions, and has been a great representative for the scientific legitimacy of Bioquell’s work. His Nature article can be used by the company to demonstrate the effectiveness of their products to consumers, as it shows that biofilms are killed by their HPV.
As a result of the opportunities that have arisen from the Industrial Fellowship, Bioquell has a new commercial perspective. Very few similar disinfectant manufacturers could claim such extensive scientific evidence behind their products, thus it has provided a major technical advantage in the market. Additionally, Bioquell were unlikely to have been able to release Fergus from his duties to focus on the academic research without the financial support of the Industrial Fellowship. He spends approximately half of his time completing his PhD at the University of Southampton, which appropriately now homes the National Biofilms Innovation Centre.
Bioquell is a company with a long history in providing the tools for decontamination where it is most critical, including in UK hospitals during potential outbreaks of Ebola and Monkey Pox. The advanced research of their Industrial Fellows allows them to stand out amongst the crowd, remain ahead of the competition, and keeps their name on the tongues of customers and competitors. John Otter, and potentially Fergus in the future, is a key opinion leader displaying Bioquell research to the world – a prosperous relationship enabled by the Royal Commission scheme.