SFI and Pfizer announce €1.9m fund for 5 Irish researchers

16 Dec 2014

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and pharmaceutical company Pfizer are to create a €1.9m fund for five academic researchers to develop research in immunology and rare diseases.

Dubbed the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme, the fund will be awarded to five researchers from Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, and NUI Maynooth, respectively.

Those participating will have the opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology group at the company’s Grangecastle facility in Dublin, where their research will focus on the development of the next generation of potential protein therapies for diseases including haemophilia, fibrosis, motor neurone disease, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of the SFI, said innovative partnerships between industry and academia are crucial if Ireland is to continue to share knowledge that could lead to the development of new medical breakthroughs.

“This collaboration with Pfizer will enable the blending of expertise from five leading Irish academic researchers with Pfizer’s drug discovery and development capabilities and could help deliver significant, accelerated advances in critical areas of biomedical research,” Ferguson added.

Partnerships between industry and academia

Pfizer employs about 3,200 people at six sites in Ireland across manufacturing, shared services, R&D, treasury and commercial operations. The company has investments of around US$7bn in Ireland, having opened its first site in the country in 1969.

Dr William Finlay, director of global biotherapeutics technologies at Pfizer, also spoke of the benefits of greater collaboration between industry and academia.

“Seeking the best research and with flexibility in how we partner, we are more focused on identifying, developing, and securing innovation in creative ways, such as our collaboration with SFI,” said Fry.

“By establishing and fostering partnerships with academic thought leaders through SFI, it is hoped that we can help to accelerate the development of innovative biotherapeutic concepts for patients with unmet medical needs.”

Virus in blood image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic