Researchers get €250k for drug treatment and telecoms studies

23 Feb 2012

From left: Dr Ruairí De Fréin of the TSSG at WIT; Dr Willie Donnelly, head of Research and Innovation at WIT; the Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock TD; Professor Mark Ferguson SFI director-general; and Dr Peter McLoughlin of PMBRC

Three groups at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have been awarded almost €250,000 by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to progress their research around drug delivery technology and a new bio-inspired network monitoring technology.

The funding was announced today by the Government as part of SFI’s Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme.

Dr Willie Donnelly, head of Research and Innovation at WIT, spoke about how the institute was aware of its responsibility to ensure that its research creates both social and economic impact.

“These two projects are prime examples of how the outcomes of our research can be innovated with the aim of developing new products and services leading to job creation and economic development,” he said.

“It also reinforces the point that artificially constraining research investment to certain sectors of the third level sector would be detrimental to economic development. Investment criteria should only be based on the excellence of the research team and their ability to deliver real impact,” added Dr Donnelly.

Drug-delivery technology

So where will WIT’s funding injection be targeted? Over €145,000 will go towards the PRIDE (Prolonged Release Injectable Device) project, which is aiming to develop a long-acting drug delivery technology.  

This project is a collaborative effort between the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) and the South Eastern Applied Materials (SEAM) research centre at WIT. Both entities are working with Waterford-based GPs to progress the research.PRIDE is focusing on developing special formulations that can slowly release a drug treatment over a period of weeks and months.  

“Many patients with chronic medical conditions need to take medication over long periods of time and the success of their treatment depends on them consistently taking their medication as directed by their doctor. If GPs could administer a dose to the patient that would release slowly, over weeks or months, it could improve the effectiveness of the treatment. This is specifically what the project aims to develop,” explained Dr Peter McLoughlin, principal investigator of the PMBRC and leader of the research team.

Initially, he said the team will conduct laboratory-based experiments, but the ultimate goal is commercialise the technology.

TSSG’s network monitoring technology

Moving on to the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG), which was awarded almost €100,000. This funding will be used to develop new bio-inspired network monitoring technology.

This project will develop a prototype apparatus for scalable, adaptive, distributed and timely performance monitoring and in-network management, said the TSSG today.

The researchers believe the system will help mobile and internet operators to better manage their networks by delivering the appropriate alarms in a timely manner

Dr Ruairí de Frein from TSSG spoke about how mobile phone companies are now being faced with a new dilemma in that there are now fewer new customers, with each demanding access to more and more bandwidth.

“In 2009 alone, mobile data traffic grew 360pc but revenue grew by only 11pc.  This problem is affecting their profitability,” he said. “Global mobile traffic is predicted to increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015. To meet this demand operators are exploring new technology, namely small cells, to extend network capacity however, the scale of these deployments may cause network management problems for operators.”

De Frein said the TIDA funding award means that TSSG will be able to develop a prototype for a bio-inspired monitoring solution. He said the bio-inspired approach brings together concepts from the fields of biology, computer science and mathematics.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic