Biotech research must be commercialised, says EI

4 Jan 2006

There is an urgent need to commercialise technologies developed in third level institutions across Ireland according to EI Bio, Enterprise Ireland’s biotechnology commercialisation team, in its end of year statement. The current EI biotechnology investment portfolio of projects is valued at €23m, the team revealed.

“Creating an environment for vibrant levels of collaborative research between Irish-based companies and third- level institutions is vital in order to build indigenous technological and R&D capabilities,” warned Dr Paul Roben, director of EI Bio.

In its end of year statement, EI Bio – whose primary mandate is to support the transfer of commercially viable technology from research to the marketplace – revealed that it has already overseen the execution of eight deals between Irish firms and international firms in a variety of fields such as diagnostics, vaccines and medical devices. EI Bio also revealed that it supported the formation of two spin-out companies from Irish universities.

The team provides direct support to researchers in third level institutions in two ways: through funding and the availability of expertise.

In terms of funding, EI Bio revealed that current biotechnology investment portfolio of projects is valued at €23m. In addition, Enterprise Ireland has approved ‘Commercialisation Plus’ funding to bring two Class III cardiovascular medical devices through pre-clinical and regulatory stages. Enterprise Ireland also supports 100pc of patent costs to specified amounts and supplies advice on all aspects of the patent process.

In terms of expertise, EI Bio specialists work through the technology transfer offices in third level institutes to provide support on all aspects of commercialisation. This support is critical to ensure the timely development of a commercial plan around a technology. To augment this capability three new specialists, in different universities, were hired in 2005.

Enterprise Ireland has already confirmed plans to commit a budget of €2m towards two key fields of biotechnology research identified by an industry advisory board. In 2005, EI Bio and the Irish BioIndustry Association (IBIA) worked in partnership on a pilot project to stimulate Bio-industry relevant research in Irish universities.

An Industry Advisory Board comprising of leading scientists and business managers from this sector (including Elan, Wyeth Biopharma, Biotrin International, Deerac Fluidics, Luxcel, Omega Research and Enfer Scientific) in consultation with academic leaders from across Ireland identified research priorities in two key areas of Bio Diagnostics and Bioprocessing.

An initial six-month phase has been completed leading to the submission of two proposals of collaborative research. Starting in 2006, Enterprise Ireland will commit an estimated budget of €2m over an 18-month timeframe in these two areas and the work will be completed with continued guidance from the Industry Advisory Board. Enterprise Ireland intends to support further collaborations that arise from this network through other funding programs such as its “Innovation Partnership” scheme.

EI Bio also revealed that Enterprise Ireland has invested €4m over the last two years to establish six bioincubators in Dublin, Cork and Galway, effectively doubling the on-campus bioincubation space available in Ireland today. With the increasing number of start-up companies being established, these bioincubation facilities are now at 70pc capacity.

By John Kennedy