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Cork County Council & Cork Smart Gateway launch Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Challenge

Cork County Council & Cork Smart Gateway launch Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Challenge

Cork County Council together with the Cork Smart Gateway initiative and the Age Friendly Alliance have launched the €80k Small Business Research and Innovation (SBIR) Challenge with Enterprise Ireland.

Through this challenge call, Cork County Council wants to explore low cost, innovative and accessible solutions that will help all of its older citizens to maintain a good quality of life and enable them to remain and feel secure in their home. Solutions sought should address one or more of the effects of being/feeling isolated and insecure and in particular increase the resilience of older people to respond to the impacts of critical events.

The SBIR challenge is a joint initiative between Cork County Council and Enterprise Ireland and is open for applications from today 13th April until 2nd June 2017. Successful applicants will be selected by an open competition process run in two phases. The competition is open to any organisation, university and service providers.

Mayor of Cork County, Cllr. Seamus McGrath welcomed the Councils participation in this challenge; noting that “our primary objective as an Age Friendly County is to enable older people to live as independently in their own homes for as long as they wish. We want our older people to remain active and feel safe, secure and respected in their communities”.

James Fogarty, Divisional Manager, Cork County Council and Chair of the Cork Age Friendly County Alliance confirmed that: “This SBIR call complements the work of our Age Friendly County Alliance and reflects the advancement of our Age Friendly County Strategy launched last year which aims to make Cork a great place in which to live and grow old. One of the challenges highlighted through our work with the Age Friendly County Alliance is the sense of insecurity and isolation that some elderly people can experience; in particular at times of distress. This SBIR challenge will enable us to provide seed funding to explore innovative solutions that could help to alleviate this.

Kevin Sherry, Executive Director Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland said: “Enterprise Ireland is delighted to collaborate with Cork County Council as part of the SBIR Ireland process. While new to Ireland, this is an internationally proven mechanism to develop innovation that could ultimately have positive economic and societal benefits. Through this challenge call, we can harness the ingenuity of innovative companies and seek, in a systematic way, to develop unique solutions for particular challenges faced by Cork’s elderly population that can be applied in everyday life”.

Interested parties can apply on E-Tenders until the closing date of the 2nd June, 2017. An information session will be held on the 28th April, 2017 in the Cork County Council 2 – 4pm. 

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Izzy Wheels wins 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Competition

Izzy Wheels wins 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Competition

Ailbhe and Izzy Keane have won the 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition. Through their company, Izzy Wheels, the Galway sisters are on a mission to break down negative stigmas associated with wheelchairs and prove to the world that a wheelchair can be a work of art. Ailbhe is the Founder and Creative Director of the company, while Izzy acts as the Brand Ambassador.

The Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow programme (LOT), now in its 10th year, is designed to nurture and develop innovative ideas which may positively impact some of the challenges facing Ireland today. The competition asks students and graduates to pitch an idea or product, which is developed into a viable business plan over the course of the programme. The prize includes a €5,000 cash injection to the winner’s start-up, a place on the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad and a tour of one of Accenture’s Global Innovation Centres.

Izzy Wheels provides a range of waterproof, durable and creative spoke guards that can easily be fit onto any manual wheelchair, available through their online store at Izzy, as a wheelchair user, can identify what is needed to improve the chair while Ailbhe, as a designer, can address these needs and add her creative flair.

Izzy Wheels was born when Ailbhe was in her final year at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and was given a project brief to use design to enhance the life of someone living with a long-term health condition. Having seen how frustrated Izzy was by the very few options available for her to personalise her wheelchair, Ailbhe began designing creative spoke guards to allow wheelchair users to express themselves and feel empowered.

Commenting on the win, Ailbhe and Izzy said: “There are 40,000 wheelchair users in Ireland and 640,000 in the UK. Until now wheelchair users have been made feel ashamed or even embarrassed of their ugly equipment. Winning this competition will allow us to further break down the stigmas surrounding wheelchair use and allow more users to express themselves – our tagline is ‘if you can’t stand up, stand out!”

Eight finalists were selected to take part in the LOT programme and were mentored and supported through a series of development days before competing in the final pitch presentation, which took place in front of a judging panel comprised of Ireland’s leading industry and business representatives.

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Trinity’s new Immunology Research Centre seeks funding from SFI

Trinity’s new Immunology Research Centre seeks funding from SFI

Trinity’s newest research centre will find out in early May whether they will receive funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) after a round of interviews and applications that will determine the future of the ambitious immunology institution.

Trinity is currently seeking funding from the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to establish the INNATE Inflammation and Immunology Research Centre in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI).

In an email to The University Times, Prof Andrew Bowie, the Head of Immunology in Trinity, confirmed that the centre has a “final interview” on March 1st, and should receive SFI’s final decision in early May.

Bowie declined to comment further, due to the sensitive information involved in the application, which is still being considered by SFI. SFI funding would not only see the creation of the centre but also the refurbishment of a space in TBSI in which it will be housed.

The new centre will follow a similar model to that of other Trinity research institutes, collaborating with industry and integrating researchers from other Irish universities, including University College Dublin (UCD) and Maynooth University. The centre will specialise in research on the immune system and inflammation, a bodily reaction at the centre of many diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, cancer and bowel disease.

One of the key members of the new centre is expert in immunology Prof Luke O’Neill. O’Neill was recently granted a lab by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Stevenage, England where he will act as Trinity supervisor to two Trinity PhD students, whom GSK will fund to work with their scientists, researching immunology and inflammatory diseases. Elected as a Fellow in 2016 to the prestigious Royal Society, O’Neill is one of Trinity’s most successful researchers, and has attracted millions in researching funding over the years.

At a meeting of Trinity’s Finance Committee in December, the committee noted that the INNATE proposal has the potential to generate a number of “financial and strategic benefits” for Trinity. The establishment of the centre will also include refurbishment costs for a space in TBSI, with the committee noting that the costs for the space should come from Trinity’s funding contribution to the centre. Rental costs for any additional space will be met, however, by INNATE.

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Ireland-US research collaboration set to go ahead

Ireland-US research collaboration set to go ahead

Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded research centre for software, is set to join with Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering at the University of Maryland to collaborate on “extensive research” in the coming years.

Commenting on the new partnership, Lero researcher Prof Mike Hinchey said his group’s new partner offers “the global hallmark of excellence” in application-orientated research. “It is a tribute to our team of researchers in Ireland that the Fraunhofer Center is committing to this research partnership with Lero in areas of synergy. Fraunhofer research has been adopted by major US organisations, such as NASA and the Food and Drug Administration, amongst others.”

Prof Adam Porter, executive and scientific director at the Fraunhofer Center, said Lero’s “world class research centre” complements his own group’s areas of expertise.

Dublin City University has also said it is adding a new €5 million centre to develop ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology for the life sciences sector, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, Germany. The aim of the new centre will be to focus on contract and collaborative research and projects addressing cost-efficient design, development and manufacture of microfluidic lab-on-a-chip designs.

Technologies like these have increased in applications in recent years, thanks largely to their flexibility and the rapidly decreasing cost of producing them.

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KTI Annual Impact Award finalists include ground-breaking new technologies

KTI Annual Impact Award finalists include ground-breaking new technologies

Recognising and celebrating excellence in knowledge transfer in Irish Higher Education Institutes and publicly funded research organisations, the annual KTI Impact Awards will be held in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Thursday 30th March.

KTI (Knowledge Transfer Ireland) is the national office that helps business benefit from access to Irish expertise and technology by making it simple to connect and engage with the research base in Ireland. The KTI Impact Awards recognise excellence in industry engagement and commercialisation of research and they pay tribute to the businesses and research performing organisations involved in knowledge transfer.

Entrants included seven universities, four Institutes of Technology and a number of other research performing organisations from around the country. Finalists included a wide variety of projects with economic and societal benefits. For example, Teagasc’s new technology licensed to Ornua will transform cheese-making manufacturing, opening up significant export markets in the Middle East. DCU collaborated with Intel and Croke Park on an Internet of Things “Smart Stadium” initiative which has been expanded to include Microsoft and over 30 SME’s. One of the University of Limerick shortlisted entries was the license of technology to UK based Crescent Ops Ltd that has led to the development of a new low cost fingernail test for bone fragility which enables the more effective diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Speaking about the shortlist of finalists, Director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland Dr Alison Campbell said: “The Impact Awards are about acknowledging and celebrating Ireland’s knowledge transfer and research commercialisation successes and the people who make them happen – the on-the-ground staff in technology transfer offices and industry liaison offices around the country. This year we received a record number of entries across seven categories from Universities, Institutes of Technology and similar research organisations. The calibre of submissions reflects the long term investment to support knowledge transfer and to strengthen the technology transfer profession. Ireland is now home to the highest number of RTTP (Registered Technology Transfer Professionals) per capita in the world”.


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R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

A worldwide technology leader, Cisco is celebrating 10 years in Co. Galway. The establishment of the Oranmore site in 2006 was the brainchild of former Senior Vice President Barry O’Sullivan, star of Dragon’s Den. Galway was recognised as posing a “big opportunity” for Cisco due to the fantastic skillset of workers in the region and the support of the IDA, according to R&D Site Leader Pat Hession.

Beginning with just four employees, Cisco employs just under 200 people. Now a major innovation hub and R&D site for Cisco’s Global Collaboration business, the site is home to leading innovations that remove barriers to accessing and using technology for work-based activities.

“We’re doing very high-end research and development here which is a very positive thing for the region. It says a lot for the skillset and the people we have,” says Mr Hession.

The US global leading technical company recently won ‘Best Workplace’ in Ireland for medium sized businesses at a ceremony in Dublin. Commenting on the company’s 10 year anniversary, IDA Chief Executive Martin Shanahan said, “Over the past 10 years Cisco has thrived in Galway and the company brand has since become synonymous with innovation. Cisco has contributed significantly to the local economy and enhanced the reputation of the county as a prominent tech hub.”

In the last three years, the company has placed a major focus on cloud computing including voice and video communications, new technology areas which are strategically important for the future of the business and which are now centrally developed in the Galway site under the brand name of Cisco Spark.

Cisco is also a major sponsor and presence at the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival and members of Cisco staff were instrumental in the establishment of the Atlantec conference. Cisco also help to support IT skills for all ages, including ‘Age Action’ complimentary computer classes for elderly members of the local community, provided by staff, supporting ‘Girls in Tech’ programmes with local secondary schools and engagement with university students across multiple initiatives. Its recent birthday celebrations also included a ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ event, attended by nearly 100 children.

The company and Cisco Galway site are “in a great position moving forward”, but Mr Hession stressed that there is a need to prioritise broadband services in rural areas, to enable more people to work from home. “We build technology that allows people to work from anywhere and as part of that, we need to continue to improve our broadband especially in the more rural areas.”

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What Needs to Change in Ireland if we Want to be a Real Global Leader in R&D

What Needs to Change in Ireland if we Want to be a Real Global Leader in R&D

Post written by Ian Collins, Partner at EY Ireland. Previously published on

The burden for small firms investing in research should be lifted.

Ireland’s tax regime already ranks among the best in class internationally and allows companies to claim significant cash refunds for their research efforts – in turn facilitating the creation of jobs and ultimately driving the economy.

The resulting cash benefits through this tax relief enables companies to increase their cash flows – something which is essential, in particular, for SMEs – and thus invest further in more research and development (R&D).

From the perspective of global multinationals operating in Ireland, the regime provides incentives for companies to bring their R&D activities here.

However, while the uptake of the R&D tax credit has grown significantly in the past decade, Ireland is still falling behind other developed countries in terms of the amount spent relative to the size of the economy – currently ranking 12th within the EU.

In tandem with this, there are likely big changes on the horizon such as Brexit, possible US tax reform and competition increasing within the EU.

It is imperative, therefore, that more must be done to ensure Ireland can continue to compete on the global R&D stage in order to become a world leader and a major hub for scientific and engineering research.

Steps to make Ireland an R&D hub

One of the key areas that must be examined is human capital. This means creating an environment where the very best, home-grown talent has incentives to stay in Ireland and move into areas of innovation and R&D, while foreign talent is also attracted to move here.

For Irish workers, this can be done by fostering the uptake of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in schools and universities so that we develop a pipeline of R&D talent.

Meanwhile, for experienced hires and senior executives both here in Ireland and those considering moving here, our domestic income tax rates are still far too high when compared to our European competitors.

We therefore need to put in place incentives and reliefs so that we can compete as a top destination for the best talent within Europe – in particular during a time when the employment market is becoming more and more mobile.

In addition to focusing on the area of human capital, Ireland must give companies further incentives to invest in R&D so that we can climb our way up the EU investment rankings.

To move this dial, there are a number of steps that could be considered:

Foster greater collaboration between industry and academia – At the moment, the cap on R&D relief for subcontracting to universities sits at 5%, compared to 15% for third parties subcontracted to carry on R&D on a company’s behalf.

A change to equalise this cap would avoid apparent discrimination and also help to drive the government’s commitment to create greater linkages between businesses and third-level institutions.

Lessening the burden on small companies – For SMEs, any delay in the issuing of R&D refunds by the Revenue can have a detrimental impact on their ability to trade.

Therefore, it would be a welcome development for SMEs to be given the opportunity to avail of their cash refunds immediately, as opposed to the current regime which sees this take place over a three-year period.

This would serve to encourage more small businesses to engage in R&D by easing any concerns they may have on the potential impact of a delayed refund – while, at the same time, creating a cycle whereby they have incentives to inject that cash back into further R&D investment.

In addition to this, there should be a reduced administrative burden placed on SME’s to encourage greater participation.

Encouraging FDI through Ireland’s R&D tax regime – Growing Ireland’s investment in R&D cannot solely rely on spend by Irish indigenous companies, but rather we must actively sell our R&D offering to the international business community to ensure that we are attracting FDI in this space.

As such, aligning the R&D tax credit regime with R&D grant relief offered by the IDA could offer companies availing of these grants greater certainty with respect to their overall cost of doing R&D in Ireland, thus making a compelling business case to house those projects on our island.

An essential contributor

R&D activity is an essential contributor towards the ongoing prosperity of the domestic and global economy. It is therefore essential that we as a country do everything in our power to facilitate increased R&D, both amongst our Irish indigenous companies and through the attraction of FDI.

In doing so, we will be better positioned to compete with our international counterparts who are also vying for their piece of the pie.

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ARCH Launches Remote Clinical Trials Study for Care Home Patients

ARCH Launches Remote Clinical Trials Study for Care Home Patients

ARCH, the Centre for Applied Research for Connected Health, announced on Wednesday the launch of a collaborative study to assess the feasibility of collecting clinical trial data remotely within a care home environment.

The findings from this connected health study could enhance the design of future clinical trials to make them more patient-centric, more engaging and more convenient for those who participate in them. Researchers will also assess if the remote trial places additional burden on care home staff and patients.

ARCH is undertaking this research study, called REACHES (REmote Assessment of older people in a Care HomE Setting), in collaboration with industry partners; ICON Clinical Research, Kinesis Health Technologies, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out company, and Big Cloud Analytics and supported by Dublin-based Physiotherapy Clinic, Fit for Life.

Clinical trials traditionally take place in a hospital setting, which often restricts participation from patients with limited mobility and independence due to problematic logistics and limited travel ability.

An alternative approach is to move the clinical trial beyond the confines of the hospital. Enabling this ‘place-shifting’ may result in wider participation and engagement in clinical trials.

Led by a team of ARCH researchers, this study will assess the feasibility of collecting clinical trial data remotely in a care home, Mount Hybla Private, in Castleknock, Dublin, using a selection of mobile and wearable solutions provided by the collaborating companies.

The QTUG device provided by Kinesis Health Technologies, will assess aspects of mobility, balance and fall risk of participants. The Aging Research App developed by ICON with mProve Health using Apple Research Kit, will be used to deliver an electronic version of the Age-Related Muscle Loss Questionnaire. The Covalence analytics platform from Big Cloud Analytics will allow visualisation and engagement messaging for trial participants and clinicians for overall health and wellness monitoring and improvement.


“I’m delighted to see this academic-industry-clinical multi-disciplinary collaboration taking place.,” ARCH Centre Director Michael O’Shea said. “Traditional clinical trial research is becoming financially unfeasible. Sponsors and clinical research organisations (CROs) are looking to decrease costs and improve efficiency. An important strategy is the use of technology in the design and execution of clinical trials. The promise and potential benefits of the ‘Patient Centric’ clinical trial design needs to be traded off against what is referred to as the ‘Patient Burden’.

“The importance of understanding the optimal level of interaction with technology and devices for patients is key to successful trial design and execution and projects like this are a fundamental step in answering this question.”

ARCH, the Irish national centre for applied connected health research, is headquartered at NexusUCD, the Industry Partnership Centre at UCD. As an industry-led technology centre, funded by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, ARCH provides access to world-class healthcare professionals, academics, patient cohorts and industry networks to explore and evaluate connected health solutions for the global market.

ARCH focuses on the adoption, deployment and sustainability of connected health solutions which will benefit the Irish and international economy and society.

Over 30 industry partners, from start-ups to multinationals, are currently steering ARCH’s research programme.

These industry partners; S3 Group, Vu2Vu, Hermitage Medical Clinic, Novartis, ADA Security Systems, Relate Care, Two Ten Health, Philips Healthcare, ResMed, ICON, SwiftQueue, HealthBridge Technology, Dolmen, PatientMpower, Nurse Buddy, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Salaso Healthcare, McGreal Group, Caragon, Evolve Technologies, nSilico Lifescience, Neuromod Devices, Odyssey Validation Consultants, Kinesis Health Technologies, Medaval, Insulcheck, Foundry Innovation & Research 1 (FIRE 1), 3rd Pillar Clinical, Big Cloud Analytics and IBM; are all actively involved in the connected health sector.

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Heart Pumping Robotic Sleeve Developed by Galway Researcher

Heart Pumping Robotic Sleeve Developed by Galway Researcher

An innovative soft robotic sleeve that helps hearts to beat has been developed by researchers including Dr. Ellen Roche of National University of Ireland Galway, according to research published on Thursday. The soft robotic sleeve wraps around the organ, twisting and compressing in sync with the beating heart, potentially opening new treatment options for people suffering from heart failure.

Roche is the paper’s first author and former PhD student at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and The Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The research took place at Harvard and at Boston Children’s Hospital.

While other therapeutic systems known as ventricular assist devices (VADs) are already used to sustain end-stage heart failure patients awaiting transplant, they extend lives albeit at a high risk due to the number of complications that can occur resulting from their design. Complications include the risk of clotting requiring patients to take potentially dangerous blood thinner medications. Unlike VADs, the soft robotic sleeve does not directly contact blood, avoiding that risk.

With heart failure affecting 41 million people worldwide, the hope is the device may one day be able to bridge a patient to transplant or to aid in cardiac rehabilitation and recovery. “This research demonstrates that the growing field of soft robotics can be applied to clinical needs and potentially reduce the burden of heart disease and improve the quality of life for patients,” explained Roche, now a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Peter McHugh in biomedical engineering at National University of Ireland Galway, where she also previously studied for her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering.

To create an entirely new device that does not come into contact with blood, the researchers took inspiration from the heart itself. The thin silicone sleeve uses soft pneumatic actuators placed around the heart to mimic the outer muscle layers of the mammalian heart. The actuators twist and compress the sleeve in a similar motion to the beating heart. The device is tethered to an external pump, which uses air to power the soft actuators.

“The sleeve can be customized for each patient”, said Roche. If a patient has more weakness on the left side of the heart, for example, the actuators can be tuned to give more assistance on that side. The pressure of the actuators can also increase or decrease over time, as the patient’s condition evolves.

More research needs to be done before the sleeve can be implanted in humans but the work is an important first step towards an implantable soft robot that can augment organ function.

“This research is really significant at the moment because more and more people are ending up with heart failure,” said Roche. “Soft robotic devices are ideally suited to interact with soft tissue and give assistance that can help with augmentation of function, and potentially even healing and recovery.”

Senior authors on the study are Professor Conor Walsh, director of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, and Dr. Frank Pigula, who was at Boston Childrens Hospital when the research was conducted. The study was co-authored by Markus A. Horvath, Isaac Wamala, Ali Alazmani, Sang-Eun Song, William Whyte, Zurab Machaidze, Christopher J. Payne, James Weaver, Gregory Fishbein, Joseph Kuebler, Nikolay V.Vasilyev and David J. Mooney.

It was supported by the Translational Research Program grant from Boston Children’s Hospital, a Director’s Challenge Cross-Platform grant from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Science Foundation Ireland.

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UCC Awarded Gold Medal for Potential Tropical Disease Vaccine

UCC’s Limited Lactis team was awarded a gold medal recently at the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston.

More than 600 teams from top universities across the globe, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford took part in the competition, which is held up as the gold standard for “research-led education”.

The only Irish entrants in the competition, Limited Lactis used the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, a generally recognised as safe bacterium, commonly used in food production, to develop a potential new vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical disease that is increasing in geographical distribution.

Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

Leishmaniasis affects some of the world’s poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. An estimated 900,000–1,300,000 new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths occur annually. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanisation.

The UCC team worked voluntarily, engaging with people in disease-affected regions such as Honduras, where diseases like Leishmaniasis is a serious problem. Team instructor, Yensi Flores, a PhD candidate at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and APC Microbiome Institute, travelled to Honduras to gain an insight into the realities of developing a suitable treatment for Leishmaniasis. She connected the team with various stakeholders on the ground. The team also engaged in significant outreach work, teaching Cork school pupils about synthetic biology and conducting charity fundraising activities.

The team, which was comprised of students from UCC Pharmacy, Medicine, Genetics, and BioMedical Science andhosted by the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork Cancer Research Centre and the School of Biochemistry, received financial support from the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC College of Medicine & Health, Fyffes, the EU, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

Mark Tangney of Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute, sadi: “I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students, and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology.”

Posted in Food, Healthcare, Innovation, Medical Research, News0 Comments


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