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Posted: 22 May 2008

Celtic Catalysts scoops NovaUCD 2008 Innovation Award

UCD spin-out company, Celtic Catalysts has won the NovaUCD 2008 Innovation Award. The award was presented to the company in recognition of its successful commercialisation of chiral synthesis research which took place in the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. This is the first time that a UCD spin-out company has won the award.

Celtic Catalysts has developed technology which enables global pharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs, particularly in anti-viral and anti-cancer therapeutic areas more cost effectively.

Pictured far right: Dr. Brian Kelly, co-founder and CEO, Celtic Cataysts

“Celtic Catalysts is a really exciting spin-out company established to commercialise the output of UCD research,” said Dr Hugh Brady, President of UCD, who presented the award. “The generation of new high-tech ventures, such as Celtic Catalysts, is seen as one increasingly important measure of the impact of our research output on economic development in Ireland.”

The company was co-founded in 2000 by Professor Declan Gilheany and Dr Brian Kelly. Its focus is on the area of chiral synthesis and it has developed a comprehensive intellectual property portfolio and carved out a uniquely strong niche for itself in the specialised area of “P-chiral” technology. This technology can be used in the production of a range of drugs which are particularly prevalent in anti-viral and anti-cancer therapeutic areas.

Since 2004, Celtic Catalysts has secured €2 million in investment from 4th Level Ventures, Enterprise Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Business Expansion Scheme (BES). In addition it has secured two European Commission grants under the prestigious Marie Curie funding scheme. The company currently employs 17 people and is headquartered in NovaUCD the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre at UCD.

In addition to product sales, Celtic Catalysts has already signed several research alliance agreements with a number of multinational pharmaceutical companies. These research alliance agreements enable Celtic Catalysts utilise their expertise and technology to solve problems being encountered by pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the manufacture of their drugs.

“Brian Kelly, a PhD student when the company was founded, is now the company’s CEO. He is an ideal role model for young researchers seeking the inspiration to establish and grow new knowledge-intensive enterprises,” said Dr Pat Frain, Director, NovaUCD.

Celtic Catalysts is currently in fundraising mode and plans to expand its workforce to over 30 people, mostly at PhD level, within the next two years, to occupy its own laboratory facilities to manufacture bulk quantities of its products in addition to securing alliances and to supply agreements with all major Pharma and fine chemical companies.


The NovaUCD Innovation Award was established in 2004 to highlight UCD’s commitment to innovation. The Award is presented annually to an individual, company or organisation in recognition of excellence in innovation or of success achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity. The previous award winners are Professor Ciaran Regan (2007), Professor Conor Heneghan (2006), Professor Barry Smyth (2005) and Professor Mark Rogers (2004). 

The Award has been designed by Colm Brennan, Sculptor of CAST Bronze Foundry. The award is a sculpture composed of a triangular form of polished Kilkenny limestone and a tapering spiral of bronze. The bronze spiral commences as a three-stepped path that resolves into a point as it ascends. The formal stone element represents existing knowledge while the dynamic spiral is a metaphor for research striving towards innovation.


Celtic Catalysts is a leading supplier of chiral products and technology to the Fine Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Biotech industries. Celtic Catalysts focuses on the area of chiral synthesis and it has developed a comprehensive portfolio of intellectual property and carved out a uniquely strong niche for itself in the specialised area of P-chiral technology.  The company is commercialising chiral technology, developed over many years in UCD’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

>> Celtic Catalysts

NovaUCD is University College Dublin’s €11 million Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre.  Twenty-four knowledge-intensive companies, including Celtic Catalysts are currently located in NovaUCD. NovaUCD has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.

>> NovaUCD

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Celtic Catalysts scoops NovaUCD 2008 Innovation Award