Assoc. Prof. Siobhan McClean receives 2023 NovaUCD Licence of the Year award for melioidosis vaccine candidate


Associate Professor Siobhán McClean, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute has received the 2023 NovaUCD Licence of the Year Award in recognition of inventing a vaccine candidate for melioidosis, a potentially fatal tropical disease. There is no current approved vaccine available for melioidosis.

Assoc. Prof. Siobhán McClean was presented with the Award by Professor Mark Rogers, Acting UCD President as part of the annual presentation of the NovaUCD Innovation Awards which took place at the UCD University Club.

photo of Associate Professor Siobhán McClean holding a trophy

Associate Professor Siobhán McClean

Speaking at the Awards event Professor Mark Rogers, Acting UCD President said, “The NovaUCD Innovation Awards are a key annual event at UCD recognising and highlighting successes achieved by our research, innovation and entrepreneurial communities across the University and I congratulate all those who have received awards. I would also like to take the opportunity of wishing them ongoing success in the future as they continue to deliver economic and societal impact through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.”

Melioidosis is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei which is commonly found in the soil and surface groundwater of many tropical and subtropical regions. With an estimated 165,000 cases each year globally, the disease causes a diverse range of symptoms including pneumonia and severe sepsis with multiple organ abscesses, and is associated with a fatality rate of up to 45%.

Last year, Poolbeg Pharma, a clinical stage infectious disease pharmaceutical company, signed an exclusive licence agreement with UCD through NovaUCD, for the late preclinical stage vaccine candidate for melioidosis invented by Assoc. Prof. McClean and her team.

The melioidosis vaccine candidate is being developed by Poolbeg as POLB 003.

On receiving the 2023 NovaUCD License of the Year Award, Assoc. Prof. McClean said, “It is a pleasure to receive this Award on behalf of everyone who has worked on our vaccine candidates over the past few years. I look forward to seeing our licensed melioidosis vaccine candidate progress to human studies in the very near future.”

Assoc. Prof. McClean joined UCD in 2016 and her research interests focus on understanding bacteria that cause lung infections. As a result of her research on mechanisms of attachment of pathogens to lung epithelial cells, she and her team have identified a number of novel bacterial adhesins, which are potential vaccine candidates, including a vaccine for melioidosis.

While melioidosis is widespread in South-East Asia, Northern Australia and India, the warming climate is having a substantial impact on the spread of the disease to new areas such as Brazil and traditionally non-tropical areas. As a US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention designated biothreat, there is an increasing global need to develop effective vaccines to prevent and treat this disease.

Assoc. Prof. McClean completed some of the original research to identify the antigens associated with the melioidosis vaccine candidate at TU Dublin and she was a recipient of a Wellcome Trust Award to aid its development at UCD.

The annual NovaUCD Innovation Awards highlight successes made in areas of knowledge transfer, consultancy, entrepreneurship and the promotion of an innovation culture, by members of the UCD research, innovation and entrepreneurial community.

A total of 7 Awards were presented by Professor Mark Rogers, Acting UCD President during an event held in the UCD University Club, 2 of whom are also Conway Fellows; 

Professor Stefan Oscarson, UCD School of Chemistry with Professor Stephen Carrington, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine (retired) was awarded the 2023 NovaUCD Innovation Award. Dr Eoin O'Cearbhaill, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering was awarded the 2023 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award.