Victoria Chris
College: Keble College
Location: Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Site: Churchill Hospital & Old Road Campus
Research Building: Botnar Research Centre

Just before joining UCL for the EPSRC CDT programme, I graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2021 with an integrated Master’s in Natural Sciences (MSci), having specialized in Biochemistry. During my degree, I worked on two projects: in my 3rd year, the project was about profiling the antimicrobial resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa mutants that were able to bypass a response to stress (such as starvation) called the stringent response. For my Master’s project, I performed a mutational analysis of the HR1a domain of the PRK1 protein, to understand more about the protein’s structure, function and implications in cancer.

My current reserach involves using antibioic-loaded liposomes, microbubbles and ultrasound in a new way to treat biofilm infections. I am continuing my PhD at The Botnar Research Centre of the University of Oxford, project titled ‘Disrupt and Deliver: A Novel Approach to Biofilm Infections’.

Releasing and resensitising cells by dispersal of bacterial biofilm holds promise for restoring the activity of antimicrobials that bacteria have developed a resistance to. Because dispersing the biofilm alone using US and MBs requires subsequent antibiotic treatment to prevent spread of infection and re-establishment of the biofilm, I hypothesise that conjugating drug carriers to acoustically-active MBs will be a potent way of not only reducing biofilm formation but also killing the cells within it, whilst limiting the induction of further AMR.

As there are currently no approved anti-biofilm therapies, the main aim of this project is to integrate multiple techniques that both disrupt biofilm and deliver antimicrobials. This would involve producing a range of functionalised nanoparticles that contain previously ineffective antibacterial agents. Production of anti-biofilm MBs would be required as well as characterisation of MB activity against biofilms to test if they can be successfully conjugated to loaded liposomes without impairing each other.

In order to get an understanding of how well these constructs are able to combat biofilm and bacterial infections, biofilm models need to be used. Simpler, monospecies in vitro models are cheaper and easier to maintain but often do not accurately reflect heterogeneous biofilm behaviour in human infections. Another task in this project would be to develop more complex in vitro and in vivo models based off of clinical infection phenotypes (e.g. wounds and the CF airway) and assess the created liposomal constructs in these contexts.

BUBBL Group (Oxford)

μDRIP Group (Oxford, UCL, Southampton)

Hailes-Tabor Lab (UCL)

ULLA Summer School 2022, Uppsala University

Stall with BUBBL at Oxford Brookes Science Bazaar 2024

Best 2nd Year Poster in Organic category, UCL Chemistry Postgraduate Symposium 2023