NO-Age member receives One million NOK for a new product against dry mouth, common in the elderly

Fellow Julie Frigaard is part of a SPARK project where liposomes can prove to be an essential ingredient in a revolutionary treatment offer for dry mouth.

For Julie Frigaard , the SPARK adventure started at about the same time as she started as a PhD fellow at the Faculty of Dentistry. She was asked if she wanted to be “the young hungry researcher”, a “SPARKee”, which Professor Marianne Hiorth needed. She wanted to!  

SPARK is an innovation program at UiO that is about putting ideas into practice. In addition to research funding, this program includes courses, networking, supervision and a mentor. However, the project did not receive research funding immediately. First, the Research Group had to convince SPARK that the product could actually come on the market. They managed this and were admitted as a SPARK project on 17 September 2021. Now they have one million kroner available to produce their product against dry mouth and try it out in a clinical examination!

Background as a dentist and bioengineer

Frigaard is originally a dentist, and graduated from UiO in 2016. She also has a past as a bioengineer. But after working for a few years as a dentist, she began to miss academia, and perhaps especially working in a laboratory.

– The reason why I am so fond of “lab work”, is that I get the opportunity to familiarize myself so thoroughly with what I work with. In addition, I get the opportunity to create something myself, says Frigaard.

– It is very meaningful to be part of this SPARK project. Dry mouth is a big and extensive problem. Today, there are no products that provide relief over time. Most products only work there and then. Our idea is to produce a product that provides relief over a longer period of time.

– We work with liposomes and polymers. Liposomes are small liquid-filled particles that can resemble cell membranes, while polymers are chain-shaped molecules that can absorb a lot of liquid. By combining these two, we can get liquid-filled particles that can release moisture over time, Frigaard explains.

– The idea is that these polymer-coated liposomes will stick to the inside of the cheek, attach to the tongue, gums and teeth and then leak fluid over time and keep the oral mucosa moist.

Good guidance from SPARK

The plans are that this will be a product that will be available within two years.

But it is demanding to get there, with many regulatory obstacles on the way, says Frigaard. That is why it is so great to be part of SPARK, which helps to overcome these obstacles. The group has already received good help from its mentor and from Inven2 .

In addition to Julie Frigaard , the SPARK group consists of professors Marianne Hiorth and Gro Smistad at the Department of Pharmacy and professors Janicke Liaaen Jensen and Hilde Galtung at the Faculty of Dentistry, as well as a mentor and a supervisor from Inven2.   

The SPARK project is in addition to Julie Frigaard’s ordinary PhD project, and means that she goes further than outlined in the project description. There, one had not dared to believe that one would get to try out the product during the PhD period, but thanks to SPARK, it now seems to be possible.  

On a daily basis, Frigaard’s working day consists of developing and producing this product at the Department of Pharmacy, conducting cell studies at IOB and examining patients who have dry mouth due to medication use at the Oral Dryness Clinic at IKO.

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Image: From left Marianne Hiorth, Julie Frigaard and Janicke Liaaen Jensen. Photo: Jarli & Jordan / UiO


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