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Thursday 15 September 2016 10:49am

An innovative new approach to developing bone grafting material with anti-bacterial qualities has been supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in their 2016 Endeavour Round. The 'Silverbone' approach, led by SJWRI Clinical and Translational Research programme leader Professor Warwick Duncan, combines the university's unique 'nano-silver' technology with New Zealand-developed bone grafting materials to produce artificial bone grafting materials that are resistant to bacterial infection. Professor Duncan and colleagues were awarded $999,804 over three years, with the eventual aim of developing Silverbone products that will encourage bone growth and repair in patients undergoing orthopaedic or oral surgical treatment.

"The project combines clever nanoscience, a detailed understanding of biomaterials, a great local company that has been producing world-class bone grafting products for many years, and specialist dental practitioners who want better products for their patients," says Professor Duncan, who in addition to working as an academic and researcher also runs a private specialist practice. "I routinely use bone grafting products to reconstruct people's jawbones following gum disease, after tooth extraction or when placing dental implants. Unfortunately our mouths are quite dirty places, and sometimes these grafts get infected, which can be both painful, disfiguring and expensive for my patients. Our plan is to develop a locally-produced grafting product that is resistant to infection and hopefully cheaper than equivalent products bought from overseas."

Professor Duncan leads a collaborative team involving Dr Carla Meledandri from the University of Otago Department of Chemistry, Associate Professor Neil Waddell and Dr Mike Smith from the SJWRI and Faculty of Dentistry, and Dr Nina Molteno from Molteno Ophthalmic Ltd, a specialist Dunedin company who are leaders in the development and manufacture of ophthalmic implants for treating glaucoma and other eye conditions.

"We are grateful to MBIE for supporting this initiative, which we think is good for science, good for Kiwis needing dental treatment, and good for New Zealand business," says Professor Duncan.

Otago researchers gain major science funding for innovative projects (University of Otago, 14 Sep 2016)

$12m for Otago researchers (Otago Daily Times, 14 Sep 2016)

"Silverbone" - Otago's nano-silver technology plus NZ-manufactured bonegraft produces unique antibacterial biomaterial

Bone grafting is often required when replacing damaged hip- and knee joints or replacing teeth that have been lost. Subsequent inflammatory disease around artificial joints or titanium dental implants or teeth may require additional bone grafting. Bone grafts may come from the patient themselves, which requires an additional surgical site and carries the risk of further complications. Alternatively, the surgeon may use use artificial bone grafting substitutes. Bone graft substitutes are commonly sourced from animal bone, particularly treated beef bone, which is known as bovine bone xenograft, or BBX. Infection of the bone-grafted site is a frequent complication, and there are increasing problems with bacteria resistant to the antibiotics used to prevent or treat these infections. Metallic silver is an alternative approach to killing bacteria that avoids the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Otago University has developed a nanoparticle medical technology that uses tiny particles of silver to prevent bacterial infection. Our new product SilverBone combines nano-silver with BBX grafts produced by a New Zealand firm from New Zealand beef bone, resulting in new bone grafting materials that are resistant to bacterial infection. These will encourage bone growth and repair when used in patients undergoing orthopaedic or oral surgical treatment.

The purpose of MBIE's Endeavour Fund is to invest in excellent research that is designed to have a positive impact for New Zealand economically, environmentally and socially. The Endeavour Fund supports both Smart Ideas initiatives and larger Research Programmes. Smart Ideas initiatives, such as the SJWRI's Silverbone proposal, catalyse and rapidly test promising, innovative research ideas.

More on the Endeavour Fund (MBIE website)

Ministerial announcement of the 2016 Endeavour Round results (

This is the second year in succession that Professor Duncan has been awarded MBIE funding for his innovative research, following the September 2015 award of $1.2 million in MBIE Targeted Research funding over three years, to a team led by Professor Duncan and Paul Harris of Callaghan Innovation, to develop novel ultrasonic dental diagnostic devices.

UltraD3 team awarded $1.2M in MBIE funding to develop new dental diagnostics (3 Sep 2015)

Meet the Ultras (Callaghan Innovation website, 23 Sep 2015)

Warwick Duncan 280x187
Professor Warwick Duncan research profile

UltraD3 team awarded $1.2M in MBIE funding to develop new dental diagnostics (3 Sep 2015)

Professorial promotion for SJWRI Clinical Research Director Warwick Duncan (29 Jan 2015)

Dr Carla Meledandri research profile
(Dept of Chemistry)

Earlier this year Dr Meledandri won the annual Emerging Innovator Award at the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, for her work harnessing silver nanoparticles to treat and prevent dental disease.
Otago academic wins national award (1 July 2015)

Associate Professor Neil Waddell research profile

Molteno Ophthalmic Ltd website

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