Funding secured for market validation of drug delivery technology

We have recently secured £30,000 in Innovate UK funding to explore commercialisation options for our drug delivery technology through the ICURe programme. The technology, developed jointly with Dr Katarina Novakovic (School of Engineering) and Dr Wing Man Lau (School of Pharmacy), can deliver drugs through a transdermal microneedle patch continuously for over a month. The ICURe programme provides the project team with opportunities for enterpreneurship training and market validation, with a view to commercialising the technology.

The back cover story

Our review article entitled ‘Microneedle-based devices for point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics’ has been published in the August 2021 issue (volume 11, issue 8) of Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, and features as the back cover story for that issue. The cover image, produced by yours truly, does not appear in the digital edition of the journal, so I am sharing it here for those who may otherwise not see it.

The cover story is available here.

EPSRC PhD Studentship Available

We’re pleased to announce that a PhD studentship is now available in our laboratory and open for applications. The PhD studentship, generously funded by the EPSRC, will fund the tuition fees, living expenses (stipend) and research support (e.g. consumables) for one PhD student for 3.5 years. The student will work under the guidance of Keng, Wing and Katarina to develop a microimplant for drug delivery.

Interested candidates should apply online by following any one of the links below, which also contain full details of the studentship:

Informal enquiries should be directed to

If you know anyone to whom this may be of interest, please forward this on.

Biosensors special issue: Microneedle diagnostics

I am guest-editing a special issue of the Biosensors journal with Professor Ryan Donnelly of Queens University Belfast. We would like to invite manuscripts from colleagues who work in this area. The submission deadline is 30 November 2021. Please see the special issue announcement on the journal website for details.

If your work concerns polymers for drug delivery or wound healing, then please also check out the Polymers special issue that I am guest-editing with Dr Wing Man Lau, which is still open for submission.

Review: Microneedle-based devices for point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics

We have published a review article on microneedles as a technological platform for diagnosing infectious diseases. In this review, we enumerate the infectious diseases that could potentially be diagnosed in the skin, examine the mechanisms of existing microneedle diagnostic technologies, and evaluate their applications in infectious disease diagnosis. This publication is timely given that we’re in the middle of a infectious disease pandemic.

Figure 1: Microneedles inserted into the skin may extract or detect disease markers in situ. Diagnostic tests for infectious diseases should ideally be both specific and rapid.

Any diagnostic test has to be specific to be useful (Figure 1). For a potentially deadly diseases, the more rapid the diagnosis, the better, because it buys precious time for the patient to seek early treatment, which could save lives. However, for infectious diseases that can be transmitted by close contact, it’s also desirable that the patient can administer the test themselves without too much discomfort. Many tests do better in meeting some of these criteria at the expense of other criteria. For example, I took the PCR test for COVID-19. I am sure the test itself was highly specific, but the nasal and throat swabs were uncomfortable. The diagnosis wasn’t exactly ‘rapid’ either — I got my result several days later (mainly due to limited test capacity at that time, but that has improved significantly since). Microneedle devices are painless to administer on the skin, and tests can produce real-time or near-real-time results. Not all of these studies have been on infectious diseases, of course. The technology is still nascent but the potentials are huge.

The review article is currently in press, but a pre-proof is already available for download from Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B. There have been a number of minor corrections to this pre-proof (mainly typographical and referencing error) which will appear in the final publication, but the pre-proof should satisfy the impatient for now.

Congratulations to everyone involved in putting this publication together.

Merry Christmas and happy new year

Photo by Lena Khrupina from Pexels

Today, our lab is open for the last time in 2020. We’re switching off the lab lights, and switching on the Christmas lights.

We’re still two weeks away from 2021, of course, but I’m sure we’ll remember 2020 as an extraordinary year filled with challenges. With challenges come opportunities to solve them. We took those opportunities.

Thanks to everyone in my team who’s worked tirelessly this year on the various projects to make a small but important difference in the world. Thanks also go to everyone who supported our research, including our collaborators, administrative team and technical staff, as well as all those who took an interest in our research.

We will reopen on 4 January 2021. Till then, merry Christmas and happy new year!

Image credit: Photo by Lena Khrupina from Pexels

We’re hiring

We’re looking for a Research Associate/Assistant to join our lab to develop a smart drug delivery system that empowers patients to self-care. Adverts are out on the University’s job site and

Closing date for applications: 5 December 2020.

We welcome informal enquiries. Please direct them to

Update 18 December 2020: Applications have now closed and we’ve entered the shortlisting stage. Thank you for all your interest.

Review: Silica nanoparticles in transmucosal drug delivery

Graphical abstract

Our latest review in drug delivery is about silica nanoparticles, published this week in the open access journal, Pharmaceutics.

This is a collaborative paper with Professor Vitaliy Khutoryanskiy (University of Reading, UK), Dr Twana M. Ways (University of Sulaimani, Iraq), and our own Dr Wing Man Lau (Newcastle University, UK). In the paper, we examine the applications of silica nanoparticles in transmucosal drug delivery. We discuss different types of silica nanoparticles and their methods of preparation, including surface functionalisation strategies to facilitate interactions with mucosal surfaces.

The paper is published under the very permissive Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which allows you to freely share and adapt the work as long as the source is appropriately cited. Please cite this work as:

M. Ways TM, Ng KW, Lau WM, Khutoryanskiy VV (2020) Silica nanoparticles in transmucosal drug delivery. Pharmaceutics 12(8):751. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics12080751

Perspective: The diagnostic potential of microneedles in infectious diseases

The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought the healthcare systems in many countries to their knees. One of the key problems that became evident early on was the lack of diagnostic tools that were rapid and readily accessible to the public.

Diagnostics is what we do as a research team. Naturally, we contemplated what we could do in a situation like this. The result is a perspective article published in Precision Nanomedicine, the official journal of the European Foundation for Nanomedicine.

The conclusion? Microneedle systems excel in many ways as a diagnostic tool. Various microneedle platforms have demonstrated advantages of portability, self-administrability, affordability and scalability over other diagnostic platforms. The potential is huge but the technology is still in its infancy. We need more research to turn that potential into tangible clinical benefits, but we can’t do it alone. Cross-disciplinary collaboration and stakeholder support will be needed to drive this effort forward.

The article is published under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence, so please feel free to distribute widely, adapt and reuse for non-commercial purposes, and share any derived work, citing:

Dixon RV, Lau WM, Moghimi SM, Ng KW (2020) The diagnostic potential of microneedles in infectious diseases. Precision Nanomedicine 3(4):629–640 .