Trinity College opens €131m biomedical sciences R&D operation

17 Jun 2011

A €131m state-of-the-art research facility which redefines the scientific landscape in Ireland and will allow the country to take an international lead was officially opened today.

The Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute was officially opened today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

The Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute is to support these industries and underpin job creation.

Built around the areas of immunology, cancer and medical devices, and linked directly to both medical education and industrial collaboration, the institute will contribute to the improvement of the physical health of Irish society. Through a combination of innovation and regeneration, it will also underpin the longer-term economic health of the Irish economy.

The Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute is the university’s most ambitious capital project to date and represents the second phase of TCD’s Pearse Corridor Development. It reflects the degree of research prioritisation that has taken place in Trinity over recent years, from building up world-class staff to creating scale of an internationally competitive dimension. It is continuing the expansion of its research and education capacity outside its historic walls as Trinity works with government and with industry to restore Ireland’s economic potential.

A corridor of academic activity

The €131m, 11-storey development (35,000m²) creates a corridor of academic activity and public interaction along Pearse Street in Dublin’s city centre, providing new social spaces, commercial areas and improved access to public transport.

The facility received €80m in state funding under the Higher Education Authority Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), co-financed by the ERDF and National Development Plan 2007-13 medical education funding, with the balance financed by the college.

“This institute will help sustain Ireland’s position as an international leader in biomedical research,” Kenny said. “I am highly impressed by the enormous contribution Trinity’s bioscience researchers have already made to the improvement of human health and I am certain that this institute will be at the heart of further ground-breaking discoveries, with national and global impacts.”

Ireland is home to nine of the top 10 global companies in this sector and about 47,000 people are employed in indigenous and multinational companies in this area. Irish research in this domain is among the world’s best, with Trinity College Dublin researchers to the fore in key areas such as immunology and infection.

The new facility will bring more than 700 researchers together in one building with the common goal of addressing major challenges in health and disease through leading-edge scientific research.

“Trinity researchers have led world-class research in biomedical sciences, from developing the nicotine patch to identifying new genes for childhood eczema and increasing our understanding of major diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and arthritis. The university’s international rankings show its outputs are amongst the best in the world in immunology, neuroscience, microbiology and many other key fields.

“Building on this impressive foundation, the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute will drive 21st-century scientific research for the benefit of improved healthcare – ensuring the relevance of our research translates not only to patient benefit but to the creation of new ventures and enterprise in Ireland,” said TCD dean of research, Dr David Lloyd.

Research from across five schools

The new facility will consolidate and integrate pre-clinical bioscience research from across five schools: Medicine, Biochemistry and Immunology, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, Chemistry, and Engineering. The Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute is structured around interlinked research centres, the Centre for Study of Immunology, Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery and Centre for Medical Device Technologies.

Trinity’s scientists will collaborate in this multidisciplinary environment to push the boundaries of discovery, enabling the translation of this research into new products, innovation and enterprise. In a departure from the traditional university model, the TCD researchers will also work alongside industry through provision of dedicated industry-academic collaborative and commercial laboratory space.

The building includes 3,000 m² of dedicated post-incubation wet laboratory as recommended by the Innovation Taskforce, providing the research-ready infrastructure necessary to facilitate the growth of both the indigenous biotechnology sector and the attraction of new foreign direct investment in this field.

In the year that Trinity celebrates the tercentenary of the foundation of the School of Medicine, it is appropriate that the new facility will house all undergraduate pre-clinical medical education and training activities. In total, almost 900 undergraduate students will have the opportunity of benefiting from the creation of a multidisciplinary, educational environment embedded in a world-class research institute.

Training will form a key part of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and the institute will house a new HEA-supported graduate programme for PhD students in biomedical sciences, capitalising on the multidisciplinary environment, laboratory space and unique technologies provided in the building.

“The scale of this development is unlike anything undertaken in the history of Trinity or indeed in Ireland. It is a bold statement of Trinity’s confidence in the calibre of its academic staff in this area, and their capacity to build up a critical mass sufficient to compete with the best in the world and to help transform healthcare, education and job creation. It has innovation at its core and I predict that it will generate enormous dividends to Irish society in terms of health, wealth and wisdom,” said provost Dr John Hegarty.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years