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New Patented Process of Producing an Antioxidant for Food and Cosmetic Industries Wins 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Award

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015 


An early-stage business idea to commercialise a new patented process of producing Hydroxytyrosol, an effective antioxidant, for use in the food and cosmetics industries, has been declared winner of the 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme.

The new process can produce this antioxidant more efficiently and more economically than the current process and in a form purer than occurs naturally.

The UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme is a 1-day initiative designed and delivered by UCD’s technology transfer and enterprise development teams at NovaUCD in collaboration with the UCD Earth Institute.

It aims to encourage the development of commercial outputs arising from UCD Life Science research by engaging with UCD researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process.

Antioxidants are molecules that block the activity of other chemicals known as ‘free radicals’ which are highly reactive and have the potential to cause damage to human cells leading to many types of cancer, brain and heart diseases.

Some antioxidants are made naturally by the body but others, made synthetically or in nature, can be obtained from external sources, such as in diet and dietary supplements.

Given the increased awareness of the potential health benefits of dietary and antioxidant supplements in disease prevention there has been a significant growth in the last decade in the market for antioxidants used in nutraceuticals, functional foods, food preservatives and cosmetics.

Hydroxytyrosol is a very effective antioxidant with significant commercial potential in the food and cosmetic industries. However the natural extract is not pure and the synthetic version, while pure, is highly priced. High purity is required in industry to allow control of product formulations.

Until now there has been no efficient and economical process to manufacture Hydroxytyrosol with high purity.

The winning business idea which has emerged from the 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme is based on commercialising a new patented process of synthesising Hydroxytyrosol significantly cheaper than the currently available method and significantly purer than the natural extract.

The promoter of this early-stage business idea is Dr Reeta Davis who is based at the UCD Earth Institute. Dr Davis is a post-doctoral scientist working under the supervision of Professor Kevin O’Connor in the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and UCD Earth Institute.   

Speaking at the presentation of the Award, Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “I would like to congratulate Dr Reeta Davis on winning the 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Award. This new process developed here at UCD of producing this antioxidant in a simpler, faster and more economical way than existing methods has the potential of making a significant impact on the antioxidant market for the food and cosmetic industry.”

“Our objective with the Sprint Programmes is to engage with UCD researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process and to use internal and external experts to assist them in understanding and defining more clearly the commercial potential of the outputs emerging from their world-class research activities.”

He added, “Our team at NovaUCD was delighted to have worked again in partnership with the UCD Earth Institute in the design and delivery of this Sprint programme, which is focused on testing new business ideas in an exciting and fun environment.”

During the 1-day UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme a number of internal and external technology and business professionals collaborated with the UCD researchers to explore the commercial potential of transforming their research ideas into early-stage life science business ideas.

At the end of the programme Dr Davis was presented with an award and a €1,000 prize fund to assist her to further develop the business idea, as it was judged to have the most commercial potential.

Speaking after the programme Dr Mairin Rafferty, CEO, OncoMark and a member of the judging panel, said, “I would like to congratulate all the participants who took part in the UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme, especially the overall winner Dr Reeta Davis. I was very impressed with the commercial potential of all the life science business ideas, which are emerging from UCD research programmes, and which were presented at this Sprint Programme.”

The 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme, which took place at NovaUCD, involved a total of 6 early-stage life science business ideas being developed by UCD researchers and scientists.

The other researchers, in addition to Dr Davis, who took part in the Programme were;

  • Professor Emma Teeling, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science - Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics
  • Dr Joanna Kacprzyk, post-doctoral researcher, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science - Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics
  • Dr Federico Cerrone, post-doctoral researcher, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science
  • Thawfeek Varusai, PhD student, Systems Biology Ireland
  • Laura Quinn, PhD student, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science
  • Dr Jens Rauch, Systems Biology Ireland. 

The members of the judging panel for the 2015 UCD Life Science Innovation Sprint Programme were Dr Mairin Rafferty, CEO, OncoMark; Dr Robert Williams, Chief Scientific Officer, Life Scientific and Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation.

This is the third 1-Day Sprint Programme delivered at UCD, the other two were held last year and focused on CleanWeb and Agri-Food business opportunities.



For further information contact Micéal Whelan, University College Dublin, Communications Manager (Innovation), t: + 353 1 716 3712, e: miceal.whelan@ucd.ie