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Posted: 13 November 2007

UCD awarded over €25 million for SFI strategic research clusters

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin and Science Foundation Ireland’s Director General, Frank Gannon today announced four Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) awards valued at over €25 million with UCD as lead academic institution.

SFI Strategic Research Clusters help link scientists, engineers and clinicians in partnerships across academia and industry to carry out joint research activities in areas of strategic importance to Ireland, while also giving those clusters the time and resources to attract and cultivate strong industry partnerships that can inform and enhance their research programmes. Awards are for up to 5 years duration and are worth up to €1.5 million each per annum.

The four UCD-led clusters investigate a broad research spectrum that includes: pioneering the understanding of how nanoscale particles interact with living matter; developing novel drug delivery technologies; discovering and manipulating molecules to enhance fertility; and developing efficient low cost solar energy conversion technologies. All four clusters will focus on a research area that is of strategic importance for Ireland’s knowledge-based future.

The BioNanoInteract Strategic Research Cluster, under the directorship of Professor Kenneth Dawson of UCDs new NanoBio Institute, has received funding to the value of €7.2 million. It will pioneer the understanding of how nanoscale particles interact with living matter using some of the most advanced physical, chemical, biological and engineering tools currently available, as well as developing new approaches. It integrates the efforts of leading scientists from UCD, TCD, UCC, UL, NUIM, DIT, and UU. Industry partners currently include Intel, Biotrin, ThermoFisher, DePuy, Deerac Fluidics, Cellix, and Glantreo and will be expanded as the Cluster develops.

A Strategic Research Cluster grant of €5.2 million was awarded to The Irish Drug Delivery Network (IDDN). The IDDN will make oral and inhaled formulations of biotech molecules that normally require injection. The molecules will be protected from break-down by capping with novel shielding polymers formulated as particles. The cluster brings together the UCD Conway Institute along with the Schools of Pharmacy in Trinity College, Royal College of Surgeons, and University College Cork, creating a critical mass of expertise in the drug delivery area. David Brayden, Associate Professor of Drug Delivery in University College Dublin is Lead Principal Investigator. Industry partners include Genzyme Ireland, Sigmoid Biotechnologies and Warwick Effect Polymers.

The Reproductive Biology Research Cluster has been awarded a grant of €7.4 million over 5 years, with an additional €400,000 already committed from industry partners. Low fertility in dairy cows has a significant negative impact on the dairy industry, Ireland’s largest agricultural enterprise and the research aim of this Cluster is the discovery and manipulation of molecules to enhance bovine fertility. The results will also form the basis for new applications for assisted human reproduction. The cluster comprises a group of internationally recognised scientists from UCD and Teagasc, along with industry partners Pfizer and Biotrin Technologies. Lead Principal Investigator is Professor Alexander Evans, UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine and UCD Conway Institute.

The Advanced Biomimetic Materials for Solar Energy Conversion has received a Strategic Research Cluster grant of €5.3 million. It is investigating an emerging field called biomimetics, which seeks to develop efficient low cost solar energy conversion technologies which mimic natural photosynthesis. The cluster integrates expertise from UCD, UL and DCU, as well as industry partners Airtricity, OBD-Tec and Celtic Catalysts. The Lead Principal Investigator is Professor Don MacElroy, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering and Materials Science Centre.

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UCD awarded over €25 million for SFI strategic research clusters