13th April 2016
Funding awarded to researchers in Ireland to find potential new therapies for patients of unmet needs
Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer today announced the recipients of the 2016 SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme. The collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer provides qualified academic researchers with an opportunity to deliver important potential discoveries in the areas of immunology, oncology, cardiovascular and rare diseases.
Supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme has awarded funding to researchers from across three academic institutions in Ireland including the Royal College Surgeons (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC) and University College Dublin (UCD).
In addition to the funding, academic researchers will have the unique opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology (GBT) group, at Grangecastle in Dublin, as well as Pfizer’s R&D innovation engine, the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation. The teams’ research will focus on the application of cutting edge technologies for next generation protein therapies.
Speaking at the announcement, Mr Damien English, TD, Minister for Research, Skills and Innovation, said: “The collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer is an excellent example of how government, industry and academia can work together and share knowledge that could lead to the development of new medical breakthroughs not only for Irish patients but for patients worldwide. The Government continues to encourage and welcome programmes that offer opportunities in research and development in Ireland. Innovative partnerships and meaningful collaboration between industry and academia like this also help to build Ireland’s reputation internationally as a location for excellent scientific research.”
Commenting at the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “We are delighted to continue this successful partnership with Pfizer to support innovative research and development that could help deliver significant advances in critical areas of medical need. The success of the award programme is a reflection of the quality and relevance of academic scientific research in Ireland – excellence and impact.”
Commenting on the announcement, Dr. Paul Duffy, Vice President, Biopharmaceutical Operations and External Supply, Pfizer said, “Pfizer are delighted with the continued collaboration with Science Foundation Ireland. As an organisation we are focused on delivering innovative therapies that significantly improve patients’ lives and investment in early stage research is critical to achieving this. Collaborations between industry and academia remain key in helping to expedite the translation of scientific discoveries into breakthrough therapies that matter for patients in need.”
In 2015, five proposals representing four institutions across Ireland were awarded similar funding. Over the past year the researchers have worked in collaboration with Pfizer colleagues on potential new therapies for diseases including haemophilia, fibrosis, Motor Neuron Disease, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. A number of these programmes are advancing and are on track to reaching their goals.
The recipients of the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award are:
- Prof Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin – Prof Steinhoff leads a translational research team attempting to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying skin inflammation and associated chronic itch, for which there remains a significant unmet clinical need. The team hopes to generate targeting molecules that block the activation of key players in these inflammatory pathways.
- Dr Anne Moore, University College Cork – The remit of Dr Moore’s group is to develop and translate innovative therapies that modulate immune function. Mounting evidence from recent clinical studies demonstrates that harnessing the body’s own immune response to kill tumour cells can be a very effective mechanism to treat cancer. This collaboration aims to develop a novel strategy that enhances the body’s natural anti-tumour response.
- Dr Leonie Young and Prof Arnold Hill, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland – Dr Young and Prof Arnold Hill are interested in the underlying mechanisms that control breast cancer resistance to traditional chemotherapeutics. Their aim is to use pre-clinical models, clinical datasets and breast cancer patient samples to better characterize, and effectively target, treatment resistant breast cancers.
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.
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.