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NUIG research projects receive €782,000

NUIG research projects receive €782,000

Eight research projects at NUI Galway have been awarded funding to commercialise their ideas, from renewable energy to treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Under European projects such as Horizon 2020, researchers across the EU have been funded to the tune of millions of euro to help turn their research proposals into fully fledged businesses.

Eight NUI Galway researchers have been awarded a total of €782,279 to commercialise their research for possible benefits to society, looking at the areas of renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, to name a few. The funding has been awarded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme run in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland.

TIDA’s aim is to get researchers to focus on the initial stages of an applied research project, and demonstrate the commercial and technical feasibility of their idea.

The eight researchers who have been awarded the funding are:

Dr Brian Ward, School of Physics: Development of an instrument to improve the characterisation of turbulence at tidal energy sites and assisting the tidal renewable energy industry in optimising turbine efficiency.

Prof James O’Gara, School of Natural Sciences: Evaluating new antimicrobials, biomaterials and therapeutic approaches for the treatment and prevention of antimicrobial resistant infections.

Dr Sara Farrona, School of Natural Sciences: The use of beneficial microorganisms to increase crop resistance and yield, using enhanced plant growth and resilience through mediated seed priming.

Prof Paul Murphy, College of Science: Designing and synthesising carbohydrate-based therapies for fibrosis.

Dr Daniel O’Toole, College of Medicine: Developing a nebulised recombinant SOD protein for acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Dr Thomas Barry, School of Natural Sciences: Culturing independent diagnostics technologies for the rapid detection of non-tuberculosis mycobacteria associated with water distribution system contamination.

Dr Andrew Flaus, School of Natural Sciences: Optimising chromatin substrates for epigenetic drug screening.

Dr Leo Quinlan, School of Medicine: Electrical stimulation cueing for freezing of gait correction in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Speaking of the funding, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, said: “I am delighted to announce this investment in research commercialisation and entrepreneurship training through the SFI TIDA programme. It will enable the research teams to take the first steps in developing new discoveries and inventions with commercial potential.”

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UL begins new project investigating tax and inequality in EU

UL begins new project investigating tax and inequality in EU

Researchers at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick are playing key roles in a major new project investigating tax and evasion in the European Union. The Horizon 2020 COFFERS project (Combating Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators) is one of the world’s largest research projects on tax and inequality and aims to discover how much tax revenue is being lost through avoidance and evasion. The €5 million project will involve researchers in Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

The team at the Kemmy Business School are focusing on the role of expert professional networks, tax advisors, wealth managers and the factors which can lead them to take ethical or aggressive approaches to their tax work. This builds on a considerable body of already published work by UL team members Professor Sheila Killian and Dr Philip O’Regan.

Professor Sheila Killian of UL Kemmy Business School explains: “Tax avoidance is a huge problem for the European Union, and creates inequality on many levels. Most obviously, when governments lose out on the revenue they should get from avoiders, they are less able to address issues like homelessness, educational advantage, and other basic elements of equality.

“Since tax avoidance is easier for multinational firms than it is for domestic companies, this creates inequality within industries, where start-ups and local firms struggle to compete with larger multinational firms which have more options to manage their tax. Tax rules and behaviours in Europe can have a devastating spill-over impact on developing countries, who annually lose badly-needed tax revenue due to the complex tax arrangements of Europe-based firms.”

“Researchers have in the past sought to address this problem in various single jurisdictions, but rarely in a large-scale internationally coordinated work plan. Previous research has focused on policy, or corporate behaviour, or spill-over effects, but rarely have all of these issues been tackled in a single harmonised project. The COFFERS Horizon 2020 funding gives us an unprecedented opportunity to address this in a really holistic way.”

Prof Killian added: “In this research we want to better understand the work of professionals, and how the public interest mandate of the professions translates to tax work, especially when it comes to the blurred line between avoidance and evasion. We are interested in what drives that behaviour, and how it varies in different cultures and situations. This issue is also of great interest to accounting and law firms, and many of the largest accounting firms have offered their support to our work. Together with the other partners in our work, we aim to offer comprehensive policy options to address this problem. ”

COFFERS – Combating Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators is a EU Horizon 2020 Project involving Utrecht University, Copenhagen Business School, City University London, Tax Justice Network, University of Limerick, University of Bamberg, Charles University, University of Leicester, Istanbul Kemerburgaz Universitesi, Warwick Business School.

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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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CÚRAM Awarded €150,000 to Tackle Major Global Health Problems

CÚRAM Awarded €150,000 to Tackle Major Global Health Problems

CÚRAM Investigator Dr. Martin O’Halloran has been awarded a second European Research Council (ERC) grant of €150,000 to support the development of a new medical device for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) that can lead to heart disease and stroke, NUI Galway announced on Tuesday.

The project is a collaboration between Investigators Dr Martin O’Halloran and Dr Conall Dennedy at CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway. The Investigators aim to bring the novel medical device towards first-in-man trials within the lifetime of the project.

The widespread presence of hypertension in European countries is currently 28-44%. This amounts to between 200 and 327 million Europeans. Excess production of the hormone aldosterone by the adrenal glands (primary aldosteronism) is the most common endocrine cause and accounts for 8-20% of all hypertension. Current treatment regimens are dissatisfactory and costly, involving either surgery or lifelong drug therapy. Therefore, a cost-effective, minimally invasive and definitive management approach for this underlying cause would present a potential cure for an often undiagnosed and unmanaged disease. This is what is being proposed with the new ERC ‘REALTA’ project.

“The REALTA project plan is very similar to that of a start-up medtech company, where as well as technology development, the team will also examine the competitive landscape, the clinical and regulatory pathway, and reimbursement opportunities”, O’Halloran said. “The overarching goal is to gather sufficient technical, clinical, regulatory and commercial evidence over the course of the next 18 months to be able to spin-out a company that is attractive to external investors. Such investment will be required to take the technology through to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and clinical trials.”

Dr O’Halloran secured his first ERC Starting Grant in 2015 to examine the electrical properties of human tissue, as a platform for novel medical device development in Europe. Supported by a Science Foundation Ireland ERC Support Grant, he established the Translational Medical Device Lab in Galway, the first medical device lab in Ireland to be embedded in a regional hospital, University Hospital Galway, and co-located within the Health Research Board’s Clinical Research Facility. Working closely with Dr Conall Dennedy, Consultant Endocrinologist at NUI Galway, he began to examine the potential of new technologies to treat primary aldosteronism, the most common endocrine cause of hypertension.

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said: “The objectives of CÚRAM are to carry out research on the development of innovative ‘smart’ implantable medical devices, which will benefit patients with chronic ailments such as cardiovascular diseases. I would like to congratulate Dr O’Halloran and Dr Dennedy on their continued research success, which is supported by the excellent multidisciplinary team of clinicians, translational scientists and engineers here at CÚRAM and NUI Galway, which reflects the interests and expertise of investigators in CÚRAM.”

Read the NUI Galway announcement here.

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Origin and UCD Form €17.6 Million Crop Science Research Partnership

Origin and UCD Form €17.6 Million Crop Science Research Partnership

Origin Enterprises plc and University College Dublin established a €17.6 million, five-year agriculture and crop science research programme, UCD announced on Monday.

The collaboration combines the leading expertise of UCD in data science and agricultural science with Origin’s integrated crop management research, systems capabilities and extensive on-farm knowledge exchange networks.

“The collaboration provides Origin with a development platform which accesses the very substantial intellectual capacity, advanced data analytics, sensing technologies and modelling resources of UCD Origin CEO Tom O’Mahony said. “The merging of conventional crop science and agronomic application with digital technology and prescriptive data analytics will enhance Origin’s knowledge-intensive offering along with improving the capacity to scale our service.”

A cornerstone of the partnership will be the creation of scalable, dynamic and integrated crop models which incorporate consistent and real-time data-driven and data-analytical approaches that optimise sustainable crop performance through enabling enhanced predictive intelligence capabilities at field level.

“The SFI Strategic Partnership Programme supports unique research partnerships with strong potential for impact on the Irish economy,” said Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland Mark Ferguson. “Combining the resources and expertise from these organisations will secure Ireland’s international position in the field of data-driven agriculture. The proposed integrated crop model will have global implications in the sustainable production of crops, addressing the challenge of food production for a rapidly expanding global population,” he said.

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Medicine Research Network Launched at UCC

Medicine Research Network Launched at UCC

The UCC School of Pharmacy-led PEARRL (Pharmaceutical Education and Research with Regulatory Links) Network officially launched this week. The network, funded by Horizon 2020 and Marie Sklodowska-Curie innovation programme, aims to achieve earlier patient access to new medicines, has been launched.

The PEARRL project brings together 18 leading European institutions, including Pharma industry, academia and regulatory agency partners to deliver a unique research and training programme.

Fifteen early stage researchers will be recruited in PEARRL, to focus on research into developing drug formulation strategies to enable accelerated approval and reduced cost of development, in turn facilitating earlier patient access to breakthrough therapies.

Project Coordinator of PEARRL Dr Brendan Griffin, from the School of Pharmacy, UCC, said: “Within PEARRL, our research will develop novel drug delivery technology, new screening methods and innovative models to forecast drug levels in humans, which will collectively streamline the development of new oral medicines. In addition, PEARRL will provide a unique training network for developing the next generation of leading pharmaceutical and regulatory scientists.”

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UCD to Lead €4 million European Research Network Developing Mental Health Services Technologies

UCD to Lead €4 million European Research Network Developing Mental Health Services Technologies

Technology Enabled Mental Health for Young People (TEAM), a new €4 million research and training network focused on developing new technologies to support the provision of mental health services for young people, was announced on Tuesday, November 22, at University College Dublin (UDC).

A UCD Press release said that numerous international studies have concluded that many people experiencing mental health difficulties do not have access to appropriate support. Young people have been identified as being particularly vulnerable and requiring specific attention. Research suggests that 50% of mental disorders emerge by 14 years of age. Untreated difficulties at a young age also triple the likelihood of further difficulties in later life.

TEAM, which brings together a multi-disciplinary network of mental health experts, computer scientists, designers and policy experts from five countries, (Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the UK) will provide a doctoral training and research platform for 15 PhD students.

The overall objective of the TEAM network is to train these researchers to deliver more effective, affordable and accessible mental health services for young people. The network will also focus on the design, development and evaluation of new technology enabled mental health services.

TEAM, led by University College Dublin, involves nine partners; four universities (Technical University of Denmark, Technical University Vienna, University of Glasgow and UCD); two university hospitals (Medical University Vienna, Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen (Region Hovedstaden)), two not-for-profit organisations (The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, ReachOut Ireland Ltd); and one industry research laboratory (Telefonica Alpha).

Dr David Coyle, TEAM project co-ordinator, and a researcher in human computer interaction at UCD’s School of Computer Science said, “We are not going to address all of the challenges in youth mental health in just four years. But we do aim to train a new generation of researchers, with a unique combination of skills, who will be at the forefront of this challenge in the coming decades.”

He added, “Technology can play an important role in improving mental health services, but only if we get the details right. It was critical that TEAM had an appropriate balance of mental health experts, computer scientists and designers. Throughout the project we will work in close partnership with mental health services and with people with experiences of mental health difficulties.”

The TEAM research programme is built around four key themes: assessment, prevention, treatment and policy. It aims to deliver new technologies that can support rapid, early and large-scale assessment, prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties in young people.

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EpiCor Therapeutics wins UCD Start-up of the Year Award

EpiCor Therapeutics wins UCD Start-up of the Year Award

Biotech start-up EpiCor Therapeutics won the UCD Start-Up of the Year Award 2016 on Thursday, November 17. It received a €20,000 prize as part of the overall winner award of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. The start-up is aiming to develop a treatment for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), a significant cause of sudden cardiac death.

HOCM is a disease in which a portion of the heart muscle is enlarged without any obvious cause resulting in impairment of the heart. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations. In the US alone, HOCM currently affects around 175,000 people with associated annual healthcare costs amounting to over $1 billion.

EpiCor Therapeutics is currently focused on repurposing an existing drug, 5-azacytidine, for the treatment of HOCM. It will also investigate the use of biomarkers to deliver targeted treatment for individuals.

EpiCor Therapeutics was founded by Dr John Baugh, Dr Nadia Glezeva, Dr Chris Watson, Dr Mark Ledwidge and Professor Ken McDonald, all of UCD School of Medicine.

“It is an honour for EpiCor Therapeutics to win the 2016 UCD Start-up of the Year Award,” said Dr John Baugh. “It is a great endorsement for us going forward as we work to develop treatments to target a variety of heart diseases, including our initial focus on hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

The disease has no approved disease-modifying therapeutics, is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death of individuals in any age group and a leading cause of such death in young athletes.

EpiCor Therapeutics is now seeking to raise €750,000 in seed funding to enable pre-clinical bridging studies. Following additional fund raising, it plans to proceed with a clinical proof-of-concept study to support its approval as a treatment for HOCM.

UCD’s annual VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme aims to support and accelerate the launch of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from the university.

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Irish research at Trinity College supported through 2.3 million Euro investment by Nokia & SFI

trinity-collegeThe materials science institute AMBER, headquartered at Trinity College in Dublin, will continue its cooperation with Nokia Bell Labs and the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for another 4 years. Both Institutions will invest a total of 2.3 million Euro to make future research projects possible. The sum will be divided, as Nokia plans to provide 1.1 million, in cash as well as in-kind, while the Science Foundation Ireland will found 1.2 million. A number of Nokia Bell Labs researchers are integrated in the work of research groups at AMBER.

AMBER, which is the abbreviation for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, has already been cooperating with Nokia Bell Labs for four years in research about novel energy storage technologies and advanced thermal management systems to allow extreme integration of optoelectronics devices. While Nokia provides the scientific and industrial Know-How, AMBER allocates fundamental materials science expertise and the facilities. The company was originally founded by one of the contributors of the investment, the Science Foundation Ireland.

Past projects between AMBER and Nokia Bell Labs already showed success and numerous possibilities for the growth of the research sector. For example, the number of common projects has increased from 2 to 4, allowing 7 full-time postdoctoral researchers to work on projects; 6 of them at Nokia Bell Labs Projects. The researchers were already able to introduce a new type of electrode for lithium ion batteries with high storage capacity as well as non-corrosive and magnetic shielding materials for Nokia’s technologies.

The joint research partnership was introduced during a visit of John Halligan, Minister of State with responsibility for Training and Skills, at Trinity’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory on the 18th of October. The Minister was delighted about the news: “We have a wealth of high quality researchers in our academic institutes and my Department, through Science Foundation Ireland, will continue to support industrial partnerships that promote research commercialisation and job growth.”

Furthermore, he welcomed collaborations with big companies like Nokia as a “testament” as well as a “commitment” to the important role of Ireland’s scientific research.

The Director of AMBER, Prof. Michael Morris, declared that the institute would be continuously looking for further European funding for the research projects.

Julie Byrne, Executive Director Nokia Bell Labs in Ireland, added: “Our joint research projects in the area of energy storage, energy harvesting and energy efficiency will provide key technologies to enable Nokia’s Future X Network vision, which will transform human existence through the digitization and connection of everything.” She spoke about the cooperation bringing together “world class researchers” from both Nokia Bell Labs and AMBER.


Journalist Isabel Riedel

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Royal College of Surgeons wins national award for Knowledge Transfer Initiative of the Year

Royal College of Surgeons wins national award for Knowledge Transfer Initiative of the Year

RCSI’s Innovation team as awarded with the Knowdledge Transfer Initiative of the Year Impact Award at the national Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards 2016. The award was presented to the team by Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD for their initiative “Building a Culture of Knowledge Transfer” at a ceremony held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.

The winning initiative was led by Dr Aoife Gallagher, Head of Innovation, RCSI and Dr Seamus Browne, Industry Liaison Manager, RCSI who have spearheaded the College’s commercialisation and industry engagement functions since the launch of the new RCSI Office of Research and Innovation (ORI) in 2014. The goal of the team is to work with RCSI Principal Investigators (PIs) to ensure that RCSI research is given the best opportunity to make economic and societal impact through the provision of customer-orientated industry engagement and research commercialisation services to researchers and industry partners. In 2015, the team launched a new strategic initiative “Building a Culture of Knowledge Transfer at RCSI” to maximize researcher engagement in knowledge transfer activities to achieve this goal.

Professor Ray Stallings, Director of Research at RCSI said: “I am delighted that the Innovation team of Dr Aoife Gallagher and Dr Seamus Browne in the Office of Research and Innovation at RCSI have received the KTI Knowledge Transfer Initiative of the Year Award. The award was made in recognition for building a Knowledge Transfer Culture in the College through their proactive engagement with both RCSI researchers and industry stakeholders. The knowledge transfer metrics speak for themselves, as the number of license, assignment and option agreements dramatically increased fourfold in 2015; invention disclosure forms submitted doubled; and industry agreements increased from three in 2014 to twenty one in 2015, a sevenfold increase”.

“It is clear that successful universities of the future will need to build much deeper relationships with industry, to support the funding and application of research, and the ORI is fully committed to this extremely important process,” Professor Stallings concluded

The initiative centred on three thematic areas: empowering RCSI researchers; recognising and celebrating research commercialisation and industry engagement success; and streamlining research commercialisation and the industry engagement process.

RCSI also had finalists in two other categories which included the Consultancy Impact Award for the RCSI and the HSE National Programme for Surgery led by Professor Frank Keane (Past-President, RCSI) and Mr Ken Mealy (RCSI Vice-President). SurgaColl Technologies Ltd and RCSI were finalists in the and Spin-out Company Impact Award with RCSI represented by SurgaColl’s Academic Founder, Professor Fergal O’Brien, Professor of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine and Deputy Director of Research (Applied Research) at RCSI.

The Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Impact Awards recognise and showcase the success in knowledge transfer carried out in Irish Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and publicly funded research organisations across seven categories. Submissions were judged by an independent panel comprising international and Irish leaders in the areas of technology and knowledge transfer.

RCSI is ranked 46th in the world for ‘International Outlook’ and #251 – 300 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2015-2016). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.



Knowdledge Transfer Initiative of the Year  – Our mission is to support business and the research base to maximise innovation from State funded research by getting technology, ideas and expertise into the hands of business, swiftly and easily for the benefit of the public and the economy.

In Ireland, and worldwide, the businesses with innovative products, services and processes set sector standards, grow sales and stay ahead of the competition. Ireland’s pro-business knowledge transfer eco-system is proven. The Irish Government’s €52M investment in technology transfer (2007-2016) focuses on providing a streamlined, predictable process that delivers effective commercialisation of research.


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