A decade-long collaboration has won researchers at Dundee and St Andrews universities £2 million to revolutionise the technology of drug delivery.
Kishan Dholakia, professor of physics at St Andrews, and Paul Campbell, senior lecturer in physics at Dundee, have each won £1 million through the UK "Basic Technology" programme administered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
"This is an exciting blend of fundamental science and prospects for medical care," Professor Dholakia said. "Awards of this type should not just go to blue-skies research. We're seeing a need to link fundamental research to quality-of-life issues."
Dr Campbell and Professor Dholakia last year achieved a breakthrough in understanding how cancer cells can be targeted and destroyed by a single pulse of ultrasound energy.
In the new project, they hope to build on this to create a revolutionary technique of delivering genes, drugs and therapeutic molecules to single cells and tissue samples. They believe they can combine ultrasound and laser techniques into an automatic benchtop device that could be in labs in about five years.
"The ability to take a small number of cancer cells, put in the drug of choice and see what happens would be a big advance," Professor Dholakia said.
The universities jointly host the Institute of Medical Science and Technology, which unites researchers from biology, physics and engineering.
This interdisciplinary approach, which Professor Dholakia believes helped win the award, will underpin the project.