Five researchers receive funding to examine potential for new biotherapeutic breakthroughs under the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme

Research and Innovation, Science

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) today announced funding of €1.9 million in a partnership with leading international pharmaceutical company Pfizer to encourage new biotherapeutic research in Ireland. Supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation (DJEI), the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme provides qualified academic researchers with an opportunity to deliver important potential discoveries in the areas of immunology and rare diseases. Five proposals in four academic institutions in Ireland have been identified to receive funding as part of the programme.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, and NUI Maynooth will have the opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology (GBT) group, including at the Pfizer site at Grangecastle in Dublin. Their research will focus on the development of the next generation of potential protein therapies for diseases including haemophilia, fibrosis, Motor Neurone Disease, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation, Mr. Damien English TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Professor James O’Donnell, Trinity College Dublin and Dr. William Finlay, Director of Global Biotherapeutics Technologies, Pfizer

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “At the heart of SFI’s Agenda 2020 strategy is the funding of excellent scientific research that may impact both society and the economy. Innovative partnerships between industry and academia are crucial if we are to continue to share knowledge that could lead to the development of new medical breakthroughs. This collaboration with Pfizer will enable the blending of expertise from five leading Irish academic researchers with Pfizer’s drug discovery and development capabilities and could help deliver significant, accelerated advances in critical areas of biomedical research.”

Dr. William Finlay, Director of Global Biotherapeutics Technologies, Pfizer, said, “At Pfizer, we recognise that key to delivering potential therapies for patients is collaborating with other innovators in the health ecosystem in unique ways. Seeking the best research and with flexibility in how we partner, we are more focused on identifying, developing, and securing innovation in creative ways such as our collaboration with SFI. By establishing and fostering partnerships with academic thought leaders through SFI, it is hoped that we can help to accelerate the development of innovative biotherapeutic concepts for patients with unmet medical needs”.

The recipients of the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award and research areas are:

  • Professor James O’Donnell, Trinity College Dublin – Professor O’Donnell’s research focuses on the discovery of a therapy for Haemophilia A, an inherited disease which results in uncontrolled bleeding. It is hoped that the therapy will improve patients’ quality of life and improve disease management.
  • Professor Padraic Fallon, Trinity College Dublin – Professor Fallon is seeking to develop a therapy that will modify the immune response to prevent fibrosis or scarring of organs after an immune attack, which can occur from diseases including asthma, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and liver cirrhosis.
  • Professor Jochen Prehn, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland – Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating and fatal neurological condition with no cure. Professor Prehn’s research is focused on developing a new therapy that it is hoped will increase patients’ lifespan and motor function, leading to an increase in quality of life.
  • Professor Paul Moynagh, NUI Maynooth – Uncontrolled inflammation causes diseases like Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Moynagh’s research programme aims to develop potential new drugs that may treat some of these currently incurable inflammatory diseases.
  • Professor Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin – Professor Steinhoff’s research focuses on severe skin diseases caused by inflammation, for which he hopes to develop a new therapy that targets the immune response.