Two Mayo medical researchers’ projects awarded funding

Posted in Connect on February 7, 2019.

TWO Mayo medical researchers projects have been granted funding through Science Foundation Ireland’s Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme.

The projects are headed up by Dr. Eimear Dolan of NUIG Galway, who is a native of Claremorris, and Ballina native Prof. Ed Lavelle, Trinity College.

Dr. Dolan was awarded €129,995 for the ImmunoCell project – a cell reservoir device for replenishable delivery of natural killer cells for ovarian cancer treatment.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most frequent cause of cancer death in women. Current standards of care include surgery and chemotherapy, however the mortality rates remain unacceptably high. Therefore, new disruptive treatment options are required.

Using the body’s own immune cells to fight tumours represents a new approach to treat ovarian cancer. However, these immune cells require local delivery to increase efficacy and reduce toxicity.

A device that can be implanted close to the tumour can enable ease of access of immune cell therapy. This device can also serve to reduce toxicity associated with delivery through the bloodstream.

Prof. Lavelle’s project is researching sugar coating immunity for enhancement of biomaterials: When an injury is so large that normal healing is compromised, medical implants can support and restore function to the wounded skin. Medical devices constitute a multi-billion euro industry that continues to grow; global medical device manufacturing currently exceeds $200 billion.

A major cause of implant failure results from the patient’s immune system attacking the foreign material. There is therefore a need to develop materials that are immune-friendly, as natural healing is a vital role of the immune system. By coating biodegradable scaffolds with a natural sugar, we aim to stimulate a healing immune environment to dramatically increase clinical success.

This project was awarded €95,811.

A total of €4.5 million in funding was announced for 38 research projects to support the commercialisation of government-funded research. A total of 47 research positions will be supported through the awards, in areas such as cancer research, preterm infant care, medical devices, agriculture, energy and food technologies, for a duration of 12 months.

The funding is provided through Science Foundation Ireland’s Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme, which has been running since 2009. The programme provides project development funding and training in entrepreneurship skills to third-level researchers, to support them in exploring commercial opportunities associated with their research.

Researchers will demonstrate if an applied research project (that is, research used to find practical solutions to everyday problems, cure illness, etc.) is technically feasible, and has potential for further commercial development.

Researchers funded through the TIDA programme will also participate in the new SFI Spark Pre-Accelerator, which is an intensive five-day programme delivered by the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. This will support STEM researchers to develop skills in areas such as evidence-based entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking and facilitates mentoring and networking.

The research projects supported by the SFI TIDA programmes will be funded through 12 research bodies, as follows: Trinity College Dublin (11), National University of Ireland Galway (5), University College Cork (4), University College Dublin (4), Dublin City University (3), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (3), University Limerick (2), National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (2), Tyndall National Institute (1), National University of Ireland Maynooth (1), Dublin Institute of Technology (1) and Cork Institute of Technology (1).

Source: The Connaught Telegraph, 7th February 2019

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