Irish clinical trials company Icon gets €4m State funding for R&D

23 Sep 2021

From left: Leo Clancy, Tom O’Leary, Nuala Murphy, Leo Varadkar, Steve Cutler. Image: Icon

Icon will use the multimillion-euro funding to enhance its digital health technology and data analytics capabilities.

Dublin-based Icon has bagged €4m in R&D investment from the Government to further develop its technology for decentralised and hybrid clinical trials.

The contract research organisation, or CRO, provides outsourced drug and device development and commercial services to pharma, biotech and medical device industries around the world.

The funding, which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland, is intended to help the company enhance its digital health technology and data analytics capabilities.

Icon is looking boost the uptake of clinical research participation by using tech to make human trials faster and easier for both researchers and participants. The company said that trial participants should be able to arrange virtual meetings with researchers to make the whole process more flexible, while wearables can be used to remotely report outcomes in real time.

Icon CEO Steve Cutler said that the need to increase patient access to clinical research by decentralising the trial process using technology “was never more apparent than in the last 18 months”.

“We have to accelerate the adoption of decentralised and hybrid clinical trials to meet participants wherever they are – on their mobile devices and in their homes – while also protecting data security, ensuring the integrity of all trial data, and adhering to regulatory requirements.”

The company plans to focus its research on additional data sources, advanced analytical systems, patient-focused mobile technology, and predictive tools that use AI and machine learning.

‘A real success story’

Founded in Dublin in 1990, Icon has become a global company with around 38,000 employees across 47 countries. Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, called Icon one of Ireland’s “best known and respected” life sciences companies.

“It is a real success story. I wish the team the very best of luck with this project, which I have no doubt will result in better outcomes for patients here in Ireland and worldwide,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy also noted Icon’s “exceptional track record” in delivering CRO services to some of the world’s leading biopharma and medical device companies, which includes conducting clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine last year.

“Today’s announcement further strengthens Ireland’s reputation in the global value chain of innovative medicines,” Clancy added.

In March, Icon announced its intention to acquire US rival PRA Health Sciences for $12bn, creating one of the world’s largest CROs. The deal integrated PRA’s mobile and connected health platforms as well as its real-world data and information solutions for more flexible hybrid trials.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic