The collaboration between SFI-Pfizer provides qualified academic researchers with an opportunity to deliver important potential discoveries in the areas of immunology, oncology, cardiovascular and rare diseases.
This year, supported by the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme has awarded funding to researchers from across three academic institutions in Ireland, the Royal College Surgeons (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC) and University College Dublin (UCD).
The recipients of the 2016 SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award are:
Prof Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin
Prof Steinhoff leads a translational research team attempting to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying skin inflammation and associated chronic itch, for which there remains a significant unmet clinical need. The team hopes to generate targeting molecules that block the activation of key players in these inflammatory pathways.
Dr Anne Moore, University College Cork
The remit of Dr Moore’s group is to develop and translate innovative therapies that modulate immune function. Mounting evidence from recent clinical studies demonstrates that harnessing the body’s own immune response to kill tumour cells can be a very effective mechanism to treat cancer. This collaboration aims to develop a novel strategy that enhances the body’s natural anti-tumour response.
Dr Leonie Young and Prof Arnold Hill, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
Dr Young and Prof Arnold Hill are interested in the underlying mechanisms that control breast cancer resistance to traditional chemotherapeutics. Their aim is to use pre-clinical models, clinical datasets and breast cancer patient samples to better characterize, and effectively target, treatment resistant breast cancers.
In addition to the funding, academic researchers will have the unique opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology (GBT) group, at Grangecastle in Dublin, as well as Pfizer’s R&D innovation engine, the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation. The teams’ research will focus on the application of cutting edge technologies for next generation protein therapies.
Speaking at the announcement on 13 April, Minister for Research Skills and Innovation Damien English said:
“The collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer is an excellent example of how government, industry and academia can work together and share knowledge that could lead to the development of new medical breakthroughs not only for Irish patients but for patients worldwide.
“The Government continues to encourage and welcome programmes that offer opportunities in research and development in Ireland. Innovative partnerships and meaningful collaboration between industry and academia like this also help to build Ireland’s reputation internationally as a location for excellent scientific research.”
Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said:
“We are delighted to continue this successful partnership with Pfizer to support innovative research and development that could help deliver significant advances in critical areas of medical need. The success of the award programme is a reflection of the quality and relevance of academic scientific research in Ireland – excellence and impact.”
Dr. Paul Duffy, Vice President Biopharmaceutical Operations and External Supply, Pfizer said:
“Pfizer are delighted with the continued collaboration with Science Foundation Ireland. As an organisation we are focused on delivering innovative therapies that significantly improve patients’ lives and investment in early stage research is critical to achieving this. Collaborations between industry and academia remain key in helping to expedite the translation of scientific discoveries into breakthrough therapies that matter for patients in need.”
In 2015, similar funding was awarded to five proposals representing four institutions across Ireland. Over the past year the researchers have worked in collaboration with Pfizer colleagues on potential new therapies for diseases including haemophilia, fibrosis, Motor Neuron Disease, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. A number of these programmes are advancing and are on track to reaching their goals.
The recipients of the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award in 2015 were:
Professor James O’Donnell, Trinity College Dublin
Professor O’Donnell’s research focuses on the discovery of a therapy for Haemophilia A, an inherited disease which results in uncontrolled bleeding. It is hoped that the therapy will improve patients’ quality of life and improve disease management.
Professor Padraic Fallon, Trinity College Dublin
Professor Fallon is seeking to develop a therapy that will modify the immune response to prevent fibrosis or scarring of organs after an immune attack, which can occur from diseases including asthma, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and liver cirrhosis.
Professor Jochen Prehn, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating and fatal neurological condition with no cure. Professor Prehn’s research is focused on developing a new therapy that is hoped will increase patients’ lifespan and motor function, leading to an increase in quality of life.
Professor Paul Moynagh, NUI Maynooth
Uncontrolled inflammation causes diseases like Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Moynagh’s research programme aims to develop potential new drugs that may treat some of these currently incurable inflammatory diseases.
Professor Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin
Professor Steinhoff’s research focuses on severe skin diseases caused by inflammation, for which he hopes to develop a new therapy that targets the immune response.