Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has pledged more than €46 million to medical devices research centre Cúram to back the next stage of its work in bringing new treatments from the laboratory to patients.
Based in National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), which is home to many medical device companies, Cúram focuses on treatments for cardio-vascular diseases, nervous system ailments and problems with soft tissue, ie muscles, tendons etc.
SFI is committing €46.3 million over six years to support the second phase of Cúram’s development. Prof Abhay Pandit, the organisation’s scientific director, says that it hopes industry and the EU will each match this amount also.
He says talks with industry partners make him confident that Cúram can continue to get funding from this source. “The EU piece of it will be more challenging, but not insurmountable.”
The centre’s researchers attracted €40 million in funding from the EU over the course of its first six years in operation.
Cúram works on “translational research”, according to its scientific director. He explains that this means getting basic research from the laboratory to the patient.
Its key aims include licensing new technology to companies, co-developing treatments with industry partners and to found spin-off businesses from the centre that can commercialise some of its work.
More than 100 researchers are working at Cúram at the moment as it nears the end of its first phase of development, which began when the centre was founded in 2015.
Prof Pandit says that around 500 researchers will be needed as it moves into the second phase. “We will be ramping up hiring again in the next three to four months,” he predicts.
Among the projects on which Cúram is working is a gel developed by US medical technology company Cerenovus to strengthen heart muscles after a heart attack.
Prof Pandit explains that heart attacks weaken the muscle. Cerenovus is working on a treatment that will restore some of its strength and ability to function.
Cúram’s research for this project focused on the types of clots that cause the heart attacks. “All the work was done in our lab here in Galway,” Prof Pandit says.
Similarly, it is working with Acuitive Technologies, another US company, which is working on getting regulatory approval for a treatment to aid bone healing.
Overall Cúram has worked on 57 research projects with 39 industry partners, including Irish and multinationals, start-ups and small companies to established big players.
SFI chose to locate the centre in Galway as the western city has one of the highest concentrations of medical technology companies in Europe, according to Prof Pandit.
He says Galway’s status as a leading centre for medical technology lured him to Cúram.
The organisation has completed 150 projects since it began work in 2015, when Prof Pandit notes that it had a number of existing legacy developments to help it get under way.
This has resulted in 43 patent applications, more than 1,700 journal publications, 10 licence agreements and five spin-outs, according to a statement from NUIG.