Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Translation of an innovative microgel technology for improving swallowing in the elderly


Olivia Pabois, PhD | University of Leeds, UK; Prof Anwesha Sarkar, PhD; Dr Sarah Jarmin, PhD
Competition Sponsor: United Kingdom Research and Innovation
Awardee Year: 2022

Dry mouth, due to a reduction/absence of salivary flow/lubricity, affects at least 10 million people in the UK, predominantly elders. Largely driven by age-related chronic/neurogenerative diseases and polypharmacy, oral dryness significantly increases the risk of dental caries, periodontal diseases, candidiasis, oral ulceration, and dysphagia – all of which adversely impact the nutritional status and quality of life of elderly people. Numerous salivary replacers are commercially available, but none offers long-lasting relief due to their poor lubrication properties, thus forcing sufferers to use mouth spray repeatedly all day long to be able to eat. Subsequent malnutrition, which affects 1.3 million over-65s, results in a £7.3 billion annual loss.
We have recently patented an innovative, highly lubricating saliva substitute for dry mouth sufferers, which offers 95% more effective lubrication and a 50% longer relief period than both currently marketed saliva-replacing products and the naturally lubricating human saliva. Our technology forms a viscous fluid film that moistens/lubricates the mouth (lubricity-improving hydration thanks to the water-encapsulating biopolymeric hydrogel) and stays adsorbed onto the human tongue/palate following ingestion (long-lasting hydration thanks to the efficiently adsorbing proteinaceous microgel). Besides technical development, we have demonstrated up-scaling feasibility and regulatory compliance.
Our novel lubricant will overcome the bottleneck of the sub-optimal performance of marketed aqueous lubricants, and will surely contribute to addressing the long-standing swallowing issues faced by elders. This award will allow conducting further proof-of-principle work, including manufacturing a safety/regulatory-complying, patient requirements-meeting medical device, in a range of packaging formats.

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