UCD Spin-Out Awarded €4.5 million in European Innovation Council Accelerator Pilot Funding to Help Tackle the Coronavirus Pandemic

SiriusXT's pilot soft x-ray microscope.

UCD Spin-Out Awarded €4.5 million in European Innovation Council Accelerator Pilot Funding to Help Tackle the Coronavirus Pandemic

SiriusXT, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out, has been awarded just over €4.5 million in blended (grant and equity) funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot programme which is part of Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme.

SiriusXT is one of 36 companies across Europe which together are receiving a total of nearly €166 million under this programme to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will enable SiriusXT to contribute to the fight against the coronavirus on a pioneering project to pilot its soft x-ray microscope at leading virology and disease research labs across the EU which are focused on coronavirus research and research on other diseases.

Changes in a cell’s shape and in the shape of its internal organelle, are important influencers on the cell signalling mechanisms that underpin disease causation. For this reason, 3D imaging of the internal structure of whole, intact, cells is playing an increasingly important role in helping scientists to understand diseases. The only technology that can image through the whole substructure of an intact cell, is low energy (or ‘soft’) x-ray microscopy, often referred to as a nano-CT.

The problem is that the illumination required for a soft x-ray microscope is currently only available at four football-stadium sized facilities, called synchrotrons, and scientists have to queue for up to twelve months to get access to these.

Despite this limitation, a small number of scientists have persisted with using the synchrotron-based microscopes and have made some very noteworthy breakthroughs in understanding disease causation, particularly in the areas of cancer, dementia and malaria research and more recently in understanding how the coronavirus modifies human cells in order to replicate itself and spread.

SiriusXT’s innovation, based on research carried out at UCD over many years, has been to develop and patent a miniaturised soft x-ray source, allowing it to build the first commercial, lab-scale, microscope. This breakthrough idea is revolutionising the cell imaging market by opening up access for a proven imaging modality to thousands of disease researchers, worldwide.

SiriusXT, a NovaUCD supported company, was co-founded by Dr Kenneth Fahy, Dr Paul Sheridan, Dr Fergal O’Reilly and Tony McEnroe in 2015 as a spin-out from the UCD School of Physics.

Tony McEnroe, CEO and co-founder, SiriusXT said, “Our success with our project called LiCENT will allow the company to pilot our soft x-ray microscope at leading labs and centres across Europe which are focusing on coronavirus research, before we launch a commercial product at the end of 2021. The EIC Accelerator Pilot support is crucial in funding the risky and costly phase in launching a high-tech product in transitioning from a working prototype to a full commercial product.”

The award-winning company, which is also an Enterprise Ireland high potential start-up, has now raised over €10 million in grant and equity funding.

Announcing the funding Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said, “The enormous talent and breakthrough ideas of innovative European companies give us hope. Our increased support to the European Innovation Council will unlock their potential so that we can better tackle the coronavirus and support our recovery. The EIC responded quickly to the coronavirus crisis and demonstrated the agility and impact of EU funding.”

In addition to the funding highlighted above, over €148 million will be granted to another 36 companies, set to contribute to the recovery plan for Europe, bringing the total investment from Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme, to €314 million in this round.

Enterprise Ireland leads the national support network for Horizon 2020, working to increase participation by Irish companies and academic institutions in the EU’s main instrument for funding research in Europe.

SiriusXT was awarded the InterTradeIreland ‘Best Early Stage Start-Up’ in 2015 and was the inaugural winner of Enterprise Ireland’s ‘HPSU Founder of the Year’ in 2017.


11 June 2020

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, UCD Research and Innovation, NovaUCD, e: miceal.whelan@ucd.ie, or  t: + 353 1 716 3712.

Editors Notes

The EIC Accelerator Pilot is part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council pilot (Enhanced EIC pilot). The Enhanced EIC Pilot will pave the way to a fully-fledged EIC; it builds on the les-sons learnt from the previous EIC pilot launched in late 2017. The Enhanced EIC Pilot serves as the umbrella for several EU funding instruments: the EIC Pathfinder (FET-Open and FET-Proactive) the EIC Accelerator (former SME Instrument): the Fast Track to Innovation (FTI), and Horizon Prizes, thus providing a 'one stop shop' for funding of breakthrough, market-creating in-novation across the EU.

The EIC Accelerator supports high-risk, high-potential small and medium-sized innovative enter-prises willing to develop and commercialise new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth and shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide. The EIC Accelerator pilot provides full-cycle business innovation support. The EIC Accelerator pilot also offers coaching and mentoring.