Prolego Scientific Scoops Top Prize at University College Dublin’s 2017 Start-Up of the Year Award

Prolego Scientific,an early-stage enterprise has won University College Dublin’s (UCD) 2017 Start-Up of the Year Award. The start-up won the Award, and a €20,000 prize, after being declared overall winner of the 2017 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.

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The founders of Prolego Scientific, a UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics start-up are, Dr Belinda Hernández, Associate Professor Andrew Parnell and Dr Mahdi Amina

Prolego Scientific offers proprietary artificial intelligence solutions that are used to improve the accuracy of genetic tests in many areas for example improving animal health and performance metrics.  These tests in turn improve the quality of the food chain and breeding values. The global animal genetic testing market has seen rapid growth in recent years and is currently estimated to be worth in excess of €3 billion. 

Prolego Scientific’s proprietary algorithms make use of genetic data and pedigree information to predict phenotypic traits of commercial value within the agri-food and biotech sectors.  Examples of applicability are the poultry and aquaculture markets, where this information can be used to predict metrics such as meat tenderness, resistance to antibiotics and protein yields. 

To date, the Irish equine industry has benefited from using the algorithms to predict horse race performance metrics of elite thoroughbreds in respect to optimum race distance, race surface and performance potential.  Currently, results have yielded accuracy increases of between 5 to 30% over industry gold standard tests used in the genetic testing industry. 

The founders of Prolego Scientific, a UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics start-up are, Dr Belinda Hernández*, Associate Professor Andrew Parnell and Dr Mahdi Amina. *(Dr Belinda Hernández is currently a Bio-engineer and Research fellow in Trinity College Dublin)

Dr Belinda Hernández said, “We are delighted to have come away with the accolade of UCD Start-up of the Year 2017.  This award is an honour for Prolego Scientific to receive and is a great acknowledgement of our work, success and progress to date.”

She added, “We are currently seeking to raise €500,000 in seed funding to enable the expansion of our services into high volume, high turnover industries such as poultry and aquaculture, piloting first in the Irish and UK broiler chicken breeding market before progressing into areas such as egg laying chickens, salmon, mussel and oyster breeding.”

She concluded, “Prolego Scientific is the result of collaborative research, funded by Enterprise Ireland I would like to acknowledge their contributions to our success to date.”

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Pictured (l-r), Eddie Buckley, Head, AIB, Dublin South, Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, the founders of Prolego Scientific, Dr Belinda Hernández, Associate Professor Andrew Parnell, Dr Mahdi Amina and Tom Flanagan, UCD Director for Enterprise and Commercialisation

The overall objective of the annual UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme is to support the creation, and to accelerate the launch, of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from UCD.

The programme aims is to equip UCD researchers with the knowledge, skills and understanding that is required to work as part of a team successfully leading a new commercial venture.

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “At University College Dublin we are strongly committed to delivering impact from our research and innovation activities which are essential drivers of a dynamic economy, an informed society and a vibrant culture. Through the VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme we are supporting our research community to deliver such impact by assisting them to accelerate the establishment of new spin-out companies which have global market potential.”

She added, “I would like to congratulate Prolego Scientific on being declared overall winner of this year’s programme and I wish Dr Belinda Hernández, Associate Professor Andrew Parnell, Dr Mahdi Amina and all the programme participants, every commercial success in the years ahead.”

The UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme, which is held at NovaUCD the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs, uses the Business Model Canvas approach to start-up development.

The programme consists of ten 3-hour workshops, delivered over a 3-month period, and a series of one-to-one sessions with external experts in areas such as finance, marketing and customer validation.

In addition to the 2017 UCD Start-up of the Year Award Prolego Scientific was presented with a cheque for €10,000 sponsored by AIB, and a professional services package to the value of €10,000 sponsored by Bryan Maguire Business Consulting and Deloitte.

The 2017 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme evaluation panel, which selected the overall winner, was chaired by Dr Helen McBreen, Investment Director, Atlantic Bridge. The other members of the panel were Dr Sharon O’Kane NovaUCD, Entrepreneur in Residence in Life Sciences, Eddie Buckley, Head of AIB Dublin South and Dr Edward McDonnell, Centre Director, CeADAR.


30 November 2017

For further information contact Michelle Doyle, Communications Manager, NovaUCD, e: or t: +353 1 716 3712.

Editors Notes

The UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme consists of ten 3-hour workshops, delivered over a 3-month period, using the Business Model Canvas approach to start-up development. Workshops consist of a mix of taught content and interactive sessions delivered by external experts and include talks from experienced entrepreneurs. The participating new ventures also receive expert mentoring on topics such as marketing, finance and funding, sales and pitching to investors.

The other participants on this year’s programme, in addition to Prolego Scientific, are profiled below.

En-Perium is developing a next generation building energy analysis software system for architects, engineers and educators. The proprietary software combines 3D modelling, climate and physics simulation technologies with specific green building codes and certifications, in one system.

Michael Mescal, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy.

PicoworX is developing disruptive, proprietary technology which provides a scalable continuous reel to reel process to enable the coating of large surface areas with vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. Such a coating is an ideal functional layer for next generation photovoltaic cells, enabling ultra-high radiation absorption to improve the efficiency of solar harvesting by an unprecedented 50%.

Professor Dominic Zerulla, Dr Pratheesh Nair and Dr Inbarasan Muniraj, UCD School of Physics.

PlasmaBound has developed a novel patented manufacturing technology which removes the need for bolts when joining structural composites, thus eliminating associated mechanical and fatigue performance problems. Applying this technology advanced composite manufacturers will have the opportunity to build stronger, lighter and leaner composite assemblies to meet environmental directives and regulation.

Dr James Nicholas Barry, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering.

trustalink helps banks protect consumers by finding trustworthy data on fintech firms online. trustalink's software is powered by artificial intelligence to collect, verify, link and explore a unique layer of social data in addition to typical financial data available on fintech firms. 

Dr Elie Abi-Lahoud, Paul-Emmanuel Raoul and Professor Cal Muckley, UCD School of Business.

At NovaUCD, the hub for new ventures and entrepreneurs at University College Dublin, we nurture and support new high-tech and knowledge-intensive companies as part of UCD’s research and innovation mission. At NovaUCD we provide purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facilities alongside a comprehensive business support programme for our client companies along with a series of programmes, such as the VentureLaunch Accelerator to assist researchers who are commercialising research outputs. NovaUCD has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.