December 2014

SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award to UCD Clinician Scientist

Wed, 17 December 14 11:20

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Mr. Damien English TD has announced funding of €1.9 million in a partnership between Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the 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.

Professor Martin Steinhoff, Director of UCD Charles Institute of Dermatology and Charles Clinic and Professor of Dermatology, UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science will investigate severe skin diseases caused by inflammation, for which he hopes to develop a new therapy that targets the immune response. His research proposal is one of five from four academic institutions in Ireland to receive funding as part of the programme.

Professor Steinhoff and his team will have the opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology (GBT) group, including those at the Pfizer site at Grangecastle in Dublin. 

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.

Professor Steinhoff commented

By using the complementary strengths of pharmaceutical and academic expertise, we hope to develop new antibody or protein strategies that will tackle treatment resistant or even potentially life-threatening skin diseases.

The funding award to Professor Steinhoff will provide €385,000 over a period of 36 months to conduct this collaborative research programme.

The other recipients of the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award are Professor James O’Donnell and Professor Padraic Fallon, Trinity College Dublin; Professor Jochen Prehn, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland; Professor Paul Moynagh, NUI Maynooth.

About SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award Programme 2014
This programme has been established arising from the strong focus of both Pfizer and SFI on adopting partnership approaches to translate scientific discoveries into new medicines. Under the terms of this unique collaboration, successful applicants with novel biological targets or pathways will gain access to Pfizer's drug discovery platforms and expertise in addition to accessing appropriate tools and molecules.

The specific purpose of each collaborative project will be to identify potential biopharmaceutical candidates (therapeutic and/or preventative) directed at novel disease targets or pathways of interest which are suitable to modulation by a biologic or antibody-drug conjugate. Pfizer scientists will work in collaboration with academic teams to blend the research expertise of academics in target biology with Pfizer’s developmental expertise and resources with the goal of validating a potential drug candidate that can advance into clinical testing and potentially bring truly differentiated medicines to patients in need. In this way, this partnership has potential for delivering significant economic and societal impact.

Pictured front row (L-R): Dr William Finlay, Director of Global Biotherapeutics Technologies, Pfizer; Professor Martin Steinhoff, UCD; Mr. Damien English TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation; Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland; Back row: Dr Alfredo Sheehan, project leader, Pfizer

Origninal artical by UCD Charles Institute