Dr Richard Williams BSc (Hons), PhD, MRSC

Dr Richard Williams

School of Chemical Engineering
Research Fellow, Healthcare Technologies Institute
Co-Deputy Director, University of Birmingham and Southeast University Joint Research Centre for Biomedical Engineering

Contact details

Address
Institute of Translational Medicine
Heritage Building (Old QE Hospital)
Mindelsohn Way
Birmingham
B15 2TH
Dr Richard Williams is a Research Fellow at the Healthcare Technologies Institute at the University of Birmingham. He is translating healthcare technology concepts to finished products ready to enter clinical trials, specialising in biomaterials and reformulated drugs. His work is driven by a basic science interest in the chemical characterisation of how materials behave under physiological conditions, and the general need for safer and more effective approaches towards healing the human body.

He is currently working on the development and commercialisation of several technologies for topical and minimally invasive delivery and retention of therapeutics in bone, skin and the cornea. His expertise is in product development strategy, clinical-grade manufacturing and regulatory compliance with a particular interest in borderline drug/devices. He also helps medical technology SMEs innovate faster, cheaper and with less risk via his role within the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) programme.

Richard has published over 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers in journals including Advanced Materials, Biomaterials and Scientific Reports. In 2018, he raised £2.7m to take new ocular and skin wound care products through Phase 1 clinical trials.

He is passionate about sustainable innovation and healthcare provision and is working extensively with healthcare stakeholders to help generate and drive cheaper, better and faster treatments to patients. He is also the co-Deputy Director of the University of Birmingham and Southeast University Joint Research Centre for Biomedical Engineering in Suzhou, China, where he oversees the co-development and commercialisation of healthcare technologies in China.

Qualifications

Fellow in bench to market translation of biomaterials and reformulated medicinal products:

  • PhD in Biomaterials (polymer-ceramic crosslinked composite materials), University of Birmingham, 2014
  • MSc in Physical Sciences of Imaging in the Biomedical Sciences, University of Birmingham, 2010
  • BSc (Hons) Physics with Nanotechnology, Swansea University, 2009
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)

Biography

Dr Richard Williams obtained his degree in Physics with Nanotechnology from Swansea University in 2009 and his PhD in Biomaterials from the University of Birmingham in 2014. His PhD research was on the chemical modification of ceramics commonly used as bone replacement materials to enable drug attachment or the formation of pliable ceramic-polymer composite materials. He stayed at Birmingham as a Research Fellow investigating how biomaterials behave under physiological conditions and the biochemical mechanisms of pathological mineralisation. Richard has significant expertise in chemical mapping of materials and human tissues using confocal Raman and micro-XRF methods.

His academic work was driven by the general need for safer and more effective approaches towards regenerating the human body. He later utilised his skills to help develop a GMP-compliant manufacturing process and quality control methods for two major projects involving the development of novel anti-scarring eyedrop and skin dressing products. Over this period, Richard developed a strong understanding of medical device / medicinal product regulation, along with first-hand experience of the product development process and phase 1 clinical trials.

In 2017, Dr Williams helped establish the Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI) at the University of Birmingham and is now based there to develop and translate biomaterials and reformulated drugs from concept to finished products ready for clinical trial and commercialisation. He manages a wider pipeline of topical and minimally invasive drug delivery platform technologies developed within the research group and assists translational projects from other academics and companies. Richard has strong clinical links in orthopaedics, burns and ophthalmology to provide ‘clinical pull’ on translational projects and a strong network of contract manufacturing, contract research and packaging companies to assist with delivering a finished medical product at scale.

In May 2018, he was appointed co-Deputy Director of the University of Birmingham and Southeast University Joint Research Centre for Biomedical Research in Suzhou, China. His role involves guiding the co-development of healthcare innovations and their commercialisation in Europe and China.

Teaching

  • Application of Biomaterials in Musculoskeletal Repair
  • Analysis of Bone Health in R&D (micro-CT)

Research

Translational science and industry-facing activities

Having helped develop and oversee the translation of therapeutic delivery technologies to Phase 1 trial, Richard has experience in product development strategy, IP protection, regulatory compliance and developing GMP-compliant manufacturing processes for biomaterials and reformulated drugs.

Key activities and interests within this area include:

  • Developing and taking an anti-scarring eye drop and skin dressing product through Phase 1 clinical trial
  • Providing development strategy for several technologies from industry including a novel treatment for persistent deep tissue infections and drug purposing
  • Developing enabling technologies that make current or future therapies cheaper, more effective or scalable e.g. creating allogenic versions of cell therapies that can be delivered in a minimally invasive manner
  • Design and validation of new resource-efficient quality control methods for assessing drug activity, material characteristics and safety
  • Strong interest in the development of in vitro toxicology testing approaches

Basic science: Chemical characterisation of biomaterials and human tissue

This theme focuses on understanding how the behaviour of materials we use to repair or regenerate the body change once inside the body. This is important because the body hosts a range of different chemical environments which can influence the physical and chemical properties of the material to the point where it no longer behaves as originally designed and/or triggers unintended biological responses in the body. Complimentary to this is the biochemistry of healing itself. For example, bone mineralisation involves a complex arrangement of ion transport (calcium, phosphate and pyrophosphate), precipitation and crystallisation events. The composition and crystal structure of bone mineral is representative of the local chemical environment of the surrounding tissue including pH and trace ion composition. We can, therefore, analyse the properties of pathological mineral, retrace how the tissue chemical environment may have changed from normal and then attempt to identify biological mechanisms that may have driven those local tissue environmental changes.

Key on-going work strands within this theme include:

  • Using Raman and micro-XRF mapping techniques to spatially resolve the chemical composition of bone cements under a range of physiologically relevant ageing conditions in vitro.
  • Tracking mineralisation in soft materials designed for implantation
  • Using chemical mapping to characterise the organic and inorganic composition of heterotopic bone from fresh human pathological tissue explants
  • Studying the impact of polymer implant manufacturing processes on the stability of incorporated drugs (development-stage quality control)

Other activities

  • Co-Chair Gordon Research Seminar on Collagen, New Hampshire (USA), 2017.
  • Co-Organiser of the RSC Biomaterials Chemistry Conference, Birmingham,  7th-8th Jan 2016.
  • Presented a live webinar on micro-XRF mapping and its potential in biomaterials and tissue regeneration research. Hosted by Bruker Gmbh (no fee). 2016.
  • Referee for Scientific Reports, Nanoscale Research Letters, RSC Advances, The Analyst, Journal of Biomaterials Applications.
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Iordachescu, A, Williams, R, Hulley, P & Grover, L 2019, 'Organotypic culture of bone‐like structures using composite ceramic‐fibrin scaffolds', Current Protocols in Stem Cell Biology, vol. 48, no. 1, e79. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpsc.79

Hughes, E, Parkes, A, Williams, R, Jenkins, M & Grover, L 2019, 'Formulation of a covalently bonded hydroxyapatite and poly(ether ether ketone) composite', Journal of Tissue Engineering, vol. 9, pp. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/2041731418815570

Hill, LJ, Moakes, R, Butt, G, Brock, K, Vincent, R, Williams, R, Barnes, N, Wallace, G, Rauz, S, Logan, A & Grover, L 2018, 'Sustained release of decorin to the surface of the eye enables scarless corneal regeneration', npj Regenerative Medicine, vol. 3, 23. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41536-018-0061-4

Snow, M, Williams, R, Pagkalos, J & Grover, L 2018, 'An In Vitro study to determine the feasibility of combining bone marrow concentrate with BST-CarGel as a treatment for cartilage repair', Cartilage. https://doi.org/10.1177/1947603518812564

Hughes, E, Cox, S, Cooke, M, Davies, O, Williams, R, Hall, T & Grover, L 2018, 'Interfacial mineral fusion and tubule entanglement as a means to harden a bone augmentation material', Advanced Healthcare Materials, vol. 7, no. 7, 1701166. https://doi.org/10.1002/adhm.201701166

Iordachescu, A, Amin, H, Rankin, S, Williams, R, Yapp, C, Bannerman, A, Pacureanu, A, Addison, O, Hulley, P & Grover, L 2018, 'An in vitro model for the development of mature bone containing an osteocyte network', Advanced Biosystems, vol. 2, no. 2, 1700156. https://doi.org/10.1002/adbi.201700156

Davies, O, Cox, S, Williams, R, Tsaroucha, D, Dorrepaal, R, Lewis, M & Grover, L 2017, 'Annexin-enriched osteoblast-derived vesicles act as an extracellular site of mineral nucleation within developing stem cell cultures', Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 12639 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13027-6

Burton, H, Williams, R & Espino, D 2017, 'Effects of freezing, fixation and dehydration on surface roughness properties of porcine left anterior descending coronary arteries', Micron. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.micron.2017.06.009

Nikravesh, N, Cox, S, Chouhan, G, Williams, R & Grover, L 2017, 'Calcium pre-conditioning substitution enhances viability and glucose sensitivity of pancreatic beta-cells encapsulated using polyelectrolyte multilayer coating method', Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 43171 . https://doi.org/10.1038/srep43171

Townsend, L, Williams, R, Anuforom, O, Berwick, M, Halstead, F, Hughes, E, Stamboulis, A, Oppenheim, B, Gough, JE, Grover, L, Scott, R, Webber, M, Peacock, A, Belli, A, Logan, A & De Cogan, F 2017, 'Antimicrobial peptide coatings for hydroxyapatite: electrostatic and covalent attachment of antimicrobial peptides to surfaces', Journal of The Royal Society Interface, vol. 14, no. 126, 20160657. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2016.0657

Hughes, E, Williams, R, Cox, S & Grover, L 2017, 'Biologically analogous calcium phosphate tubes from a chemical garden', Langmuir, vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 2059-2067. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.langmuir.6b04574

Wang, A, Williams, R, Davis, E, Sammons, R & Grover, L 2016, 'Development of tissue engineered ligaments with titanium spring reinforcement', RSC Advances. https://doi.org/10.1039/C6RA18005A

Bannerman, A, Williams, R, Cox, S & Grover, L 2016, 'Visualising phase change in a brushite-based calcium phosphate ceramic', Scientific Reports, vol. 6, 32671. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep32671

Eisenstein, N, Williams, R, Cox, S, Stapley, S & Grover, L 2016, 'Enzymatically regulated demineralisation of pathological bone using sodium hexametaphosphate', The Journal of Physical Chemistry Part B: Condensed Matter, Materials, Surfaces, Interfaces & Biophysical. https://doi.org/10.1039/C6TB00461J

Review article

Cooke, M, Jones, S, Ter Horst, B, Moiemen, N, Snow, M, Chouhan, G, Hill, LJ, Esmaeli, M, Moakes, R, Holton, J, Nandra, R, Williams, R, Smith, AM & Grover, L 2018, 'Structuring of hydrogels across multiple length scales for biomedical applications', Advanced Materials, vol. 30, no. 14, 1705013. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201705013

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