Two profs scoop NovaUCD Innovation Award for lung disease treatments

31 Mar 2023

Prof Stefan Oscarson and Prof Stephen Carrington. Image: Nick Bradshaw

Prof Stefan Oscarson and Prof Stephen Carrington won for their work on developing a new drug for mucus treatment for patients with lung conditions, such as asthma, CF and COPD.

The 2023 winners of the NovaUCD Innovation Award were announced today (31 March) at a ceremony held on the university’s campus.

The annual NovaUCD Innovation Awards recognises University College Dublin’s (UCD) talent in STEM and business.

This year’s top prize was shared by Prof Stefan Oscarson and Prof Stephen Carrington.

Oscarson works at UCD’s School of Chemistry, while Carrington retired from the college’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016.

They received the overall prize for a collaborative research project they did with a US-based professor.

The project focused on developing new treatments for patients with respiratory diseases, to help them breathe more easily.

The collaboration led to the filing of a patent application for a novel mucolytic drug to address a large unmedical need for patients with mucus-associated lung diseases, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD.

There were seven award winners at this year’s ceremony in total. Among them were the founders of Aer Therapeutics, a joint UCD and University of California, San Francisco spin-out.

Oscarson co-founded the company, which is now headquartered in North Carolina. His co-founder was the US-based academic, Prof John Fahy, with whom he and Carrington collaborated on the respiratory diseases project.

Aer Therapeutics was the company that licensed the patented novel mucolytic drug in 2022. It recently closed a significant funding round, which will enable initial safety studies in patients and a proof-of-concept clinical trial in patients with COPD.

Carrington and Oscarson first began the project in 2010. “It is hugely gratifying to see a novel inhaled approach to treating lung diseases with excess mucus being commercialised by Aer Therapeutics from the intellectual seeds planted nearly 20 years ago when I first met John Fahy,” said Carrington.

“This drug has the potential to meet a wide range of clinical need and make a difference to many lives. It has been a great pleasure to work with John and Stefan, and their respective teams.”

The recipient of the 2023 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award was Dr Joseph Sweeney, a research fellow in the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering.

Associate professor at UCD’s School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, Dr Siobhán McClean, won this year’s Licence of the Year Award for her work on a vaccine for a potentially fatal tropical disease called melioidosis.

This year’s NovaUCD Spin-out of the Year Award winner was digital health start-up seamlessCARE. The company was founded in 2021 by Dr Aviva Cohen, Ian Kennedy and Dr Çağrı Çubukçu as a spin-out from the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Aidan O’Neill, founder and CEO of insurtech DOCOsoft, scooped the 2023 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award, while Dr Stephen Davis won the Consultancy of the Year Award.

And the recipient of the 2023 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award was Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, who is associate professor in biomedical engineering in the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Past winners of at the NovaUCD Innovation Awards include Wayflyer, Zipp Mobility and Manna.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic