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Enterprise Ireland Awards €1.3m To Three Projects To Support The Commercialisation of Third-Level Research

Posted on about 2 months ago by Laurentina Kennedy

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Enterprise Ireland Awards €1.3m To Three Projects To Support The Commercialisation of Third-Level Research

10th August, 2020

Commercialisation Fund
Professor Sally Ann Cryan, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Enterprise Ireland today announced it has awarded €1.3m to three projects through its Commercialisation Fund. Each project will receive over €400k.

The Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund provides a mechanism through which researchers can transform their ideas into commercially relevant businesses. Enterprise Ireland has been working with third-level researchers for a decade on their journey as they seek to bring commercially relevant technology out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Commenting on the announcement, Eithne McShane, Senior Commercialisation Specialist with Enterprise Ireland, said: “The Commercialisation Fund is an avenue for Ireland’s brightest scientists to commercialise their research and bring it to the market. At Enterprise Ireland, we recognise that funding innovation is key to ensuring that the Irish economy remains competitive on the world stage through the creation of technology-based start-up companies and the transfer of innovations developed in Higher Education Institutes and Research Performing Organisations to the industry in Ireland.”

The three projects, all of which are led by women, which have been awarded funding are:

  • StarMAT Technologies - star-shaped polypeptide materials for biomedical applications, led by Principal Investigator, Professor Sally-Ann Cryan, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences;
  • Adjuvenate - A platform solution for improved subunit vaccines, led by Principal Investigator, Associate Professor, Aisling Dunne, Trinity College Dublin;
  • Development of gene therapies for common retinal disorders, led by Principal Investigator, Professor Jane Farrar, Trinity College Dublin. 

Eithne McShane, of Enterprise Ireland, continued: “We are delighted that the projects which have been awarded funding are all women-led. The medical research being undertaken by each of their teams will be looking at issues such as infectious diseases, adult blindness and drug delivery. We have seen in recent months the importance of medical research and look forward to assisting each on their journey to the marketplace with the ultimate goal of improving lives.”

Prior to the awarding of this funding, all three projects also received €15,000 from Enterprise Ireland to conduct commercial feasibility studies.

Previous awardees of the Commercialisation Fund include AudioSourceRE, Cala Medical and Senoptica Technologies. The fund comprises business resources as well as financial support.

 

Further Information on Research Projects:

Development of gene therapies for common retinal disorders, led by Principal Investigator, Professor Jane Farrar, Trinity College Dublin.

Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in the developed world. There are two distinct forms of AMD - Dry AMD and Wet AMD.

While there are several effective treatments for Wet AMD there are no licensed medical therapies for Dry AMD. The Dry form of AMD represents more than 90% of cases of AMD and affects approximately 150 million people globally.

The Team has developed novel gene therapy, based on a yeast-derived gene encoding mitochondrial complex I (Ndi1) in an adeno associated virus (AAV) vector.

The Team conducted a Commercial Case Feasibility study – also funded by Enterprise Ireland in 2019 which highlighted that the global market for Dry AMD is predicted to reach $8.9 billion by 2022.

Among the outcomes targeted through this approval from the Commercialisation Fund are:

  • Develop in vitro human Retinal Pigment Epithelial (RPE) cell-models and finalise in vivo preclinical data packs for Ndi1 therapies with associated study reports (Stage 1).
  • Initiate key commercialisation activities, finalise target product profile (TPP), the clinical development plan and first-in-human study design.

The research of the ocular genetics team in Trinity is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board, Fighting Blindness Ireland, Health Research Charities Ireland, the Irish Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie funding.

 

Adjuvenate - A platform solution for improved subunit vaccines, led by Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Aisling Dunne, Trinity College Dublin.

The rise in infectious disease and the need to develop new vaccines that are capable of eliciting effective and sustained immune responses is a significant global issue – as evidenced by the current COVID pandemic.

Another respiratory disease that exemplifies the need for better, more effective vaccines is whooping cough – which is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis.

This disease is on the rise due to the inability of current vaccines to provide sustained immunity.

Many vaccines employ adjuvants but there is a significant need to develop new, more effective adjuvants that enable vaccine makers to produce vaccines that elicit a sustained, lasting immune response.

The team at TCD has discovered and patented a new pertussis-vaccine component and this novel protein has the potential to be a 3rd generation stand-alone booster vaccine for whooping cough.

The Commercialisation Fund will support the further development of this novel adjuvant, in the first instance to develop a new, improved whooping cough vaccine.

Secondly, the team will continue to develop the adjuvant molecule as a novel adjuvant for combination with other new vaccines in development to help induce a more effective and sustained immune response.

 

StarMAT Technologies - star-shaped polypeptide materials for biomedical applications, led by Principal Investigator, Professor Sally Ann Cryan, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The multi-disciplinary team led by Prof. Cryan (pharmacist & pharmaceutical scientist) and co-led by Prof. Andreas Heise (polymer chemist) has developed a versatile, “star-shaped” polypeptide-based materials’ platform which may be used to overcome the delivery challenges associated with getting many emerging advanced biotherapeutics, including gene- and protein-based medicines, into clinical use.

The patented StarMAT technology developed at RCSI can be tailored to deliver specific drug payloads, be integrated with medical devices when required to target specific tissues and cells and may be particularly well suited to applications in biotherapeutic delivery in respiratory and regenerative medicine.

The team conducted a commercial feasibility study, also funded by Enterprise Ireland, which engaged with multiple Industry partners. The analysis highlighted the demand for direct-to-cell delivery technologies particularly for so-called Advanced Therapeutics Medicinal Products (ATMPs) including nucleic acid-based therapies (e.g. RNA-based therapies) – which includes some of the COVID vaccine technologies currently in development. A key highlight from the research was the need for better methods of delivering drugs via inhalation direct into lung epithelial cells for targeted treatment of respiratory disease.

Among the milestones that the Commercialisation Fund will support are development of scalable processes for drug payload incorporation & product refinement based on customer feedback and further toxicology studies on the StarMAT nanoformulations.

 

General information on the Commercialisation Fund and previous projects funded can be found at:

https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/researchers/research-commercialisation-supports/commercialisation-fund.shortcut.html