UCD wins €1.4m SFI award to tackle micronutrient deficiency

7 Jun 2024

From left: Marigot Ltd head of innovation Shane O’Connell, SFI director of enterprise partnerships Dr Aisling McEvoy and Bio-PADT project co-lead Prof Kenneth Dawson. Image: Jason Clarke

Researchers at UCD have teamed up with Marigot Ltd to develop novel health products that can improve the delivery of micronutrients.

Researchers at University College Dublin (UCD) have been awarded €1.4m to develop reliable platforms for micronutrient delivery.

The researchers were awarded the funds through a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Strategic Partnership Award, which will fund the project over a four-year period. This project – called Bio-PADT – is a partnership between UCD and Marigot Ltd.

The project aims to tackle micronutrient deficiency, which can cause serious issues for human and animal health. For example, a lack of micronutrients such as iron, folate and vitamins B12 and A can lead to anaemia, a condition where there is a reduced number of red blood cells in the body, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness.

Marigot is a company that focuses on harvesting and producing seaweed minerals for nutritional value.  The project between Marigot and UCD aims to develop an understanding of marine-derived raw materials, including the company’s seaweed-derived product called Aquamin.

The Bio-PADT project will help researchers learn about the nutritional benefits of these raw materials and gain a better understanding of how complex particle materials function.

“This partnership between UCD and Marigot Ltd aims to understand the mechanisms via which naturally occurring substances in the diet aid micronutrient delivery, and to use that knowledge to develop novel ‘naturally inspired’ health products,” said project co-lead Prof Kenneth Dawson.

The SFI award was announced today (7 June) by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science Patrick O’Donovan, TD, who said the Bio-PADT project is an “excellent example of collaborative research bridging industry and academia”.

“The Government is committed to supporting cutting-edge research that will bring both societal and economic benefits, and I am excited to see the potential of the Bio-PADT programme to transform the bionanoscience industry,” O’Donovan said.

SFI’s science for the economy director Dr Siobhán Roche said the organisation’s Strategic Partnership Programme aims to build partnerships across academia and industry to “address key societal challenges and enhance the competitiveness of our economy”.

“The Bio-PADT programme will expand knowledge within bionanoscience which will lay the groundwork for advancements in micronutrient delivery,” Roche said. “I congratulate those leading the project and thank the partners for providing support.”

In 2020, SFI awarded €800,000 through a Strategic Partnership Award for the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology at Dublin City University to boost cancer research skills at the university.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic