17 health sciences start-ups from Ireland to watch

27 Sep 2018

Image: ktsdesign/Shutterstock

Ireland is in rude health when it comes to technology innovation. Here are 17 Irish innovators in health sciences worth keeping an eye on.

More innovation is going to happen in the areas of biotech, life sciences, synthetic biology and medtech in the next few years than comparatively what happened in computing over the last 30 years.

It’s good to know that Irish-founded start-ups are among the best in the world at devising new technologies, treatments and processes that define the future of health.

Here are the 17 ones to watch in the year ahead.



From left: APC co-founders Mark Barrett and Brian Glennon. Image: Naoise Culhane

APC accelerates the development and delivery of quality, life-changing medicines to patients. It works with eight of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and five of the top 10 biotech companies worldwide. Founded in 2011 by Dr Mark Barrett and Prof Brian Glennon, the company employs 120 people in Cherrywood, Dublin, the majority of whom are chemical engineers, and process and biopharmaceutical scientists. The company is the largest employer in Ireland of PhD-qualified chemical engineers and one of the country’s largest employers of PhD-level scientists. It has just invested €10m in a major expansion that will create 50 new jobs to create a biologics plant in partnership with Bavarian Nordic.


Belfast’s BrainWaveBank builds tools for analysing brain health, especially dementia. The company says its machine-learning techniques detect cognitive decline at an early stage. It has created a wearable that pairs with a user’s smartphone and monitors their brain activity while playing video games. Founded by Brian Murphy, Ronan Cunningham, Siggi Saevarsson and Urs Streidl, the company has raised a total of £3m so far in funding from five investment rounds from investors that include Techstart NI, Kx Technology Fund and Clarendon Fund Managers.


Man and woman hold award.

Paul Mulvaney, executive director of innovation at ESB, with Rosanne Longmore, CEO of Coroflo. Image: Filipe Tombo/AFFP

Internet of things (IoT) player Coroflo claims to have developed the world’s first accurate breastfeeding monitor, allowing mothers to know how much milk their baby is getting. The company emerged last year as the winner of the ESB Spark of Genius start-up competition at the Web Summit in Lisbon. Using a sensor and a companion app, milk volume can be measured in real time, and feeding patterns can be examined over a number of days or weeks. Coroflo was founded by Rosanne Longmore, CTO Jamie Travers and chief medical officer Helen Barry. The company raised €650,000 in funding last year from unnamed investors to enable it to go to market.


30 Irish tech start-ups to watch in 2017

Cortechs, founder Áine Behan. Image: NDRC

Cortechs, which has developed innovative ways to improve the attention of kids with ADHD, was founded by Áine Behan, who achieved a BSc in neuroscience and a PhD in neuropathology en route to start-up success. Behan worked as a research lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and has more than 10 years’ postdoctoral experience in mood disorders and neurodegenerative disease. Now, Behan and Cortechs pioneer ‘Neurofeedback’, a treatment proven to alleviate the core symptoms of ADHD. Cortechs uses digital tools such as gameplay to retrain the brain using brainwaves. The beauty of this is that once the brain learns, it doesn’t tend to forget.


Man in grey jacket and white shirt.

Peter Keeling, CEO, Diaceutics. Image: Kevin Boyes/Press Eye

Dundalk-based Diaceutics is a diagnostics and data company that has experience in more than 300 precision medicine projects and works with 31 of the world’s top 35 pharmaceutical companies. The core focus is to ensure patients get access to potentially life-saving therapies. Each year, Diaceutics’ technology helps 48,000 cancer patients in the US and EU get biomarker testing and therefore potentially gain access to the right drug for their specific condition. Diaceutics was founded in 2005 by Peter and Ryan Keeling and, in April, raised €4.3m in financing from White Rock Capital Partners and Silicon Valley Bank.


Founded by Donal Devery, Dr Chris Thompson and Dr Marvin Ryou, EnteraSense has developed a capsule that can be ingested by patients after surgery to monitor for any subsequent upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The photonic system acquires data from the environment, and it is then processed by an algorithm to determine if blood is present. EnteraSense holds a worldwide licence for the technology, originally developed by Thompson, director of developmental endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Devery, along with his lead engineer Chiara Di Carlo, harnessed the groundbreaking solution and they are now pioneering a new age in diagnostic care from the company’s Galway base.

Genomics Medicine Ireland

Genomics Medicine Ireland is creating a scientific platform to examine the human genome, in order to better understand the role of genetics in disease and rare conditions, leading to new prevention strategies and treatments. The company was founded in Ireland in 2015 by a group of leading life sciences entrepreneurs, investors and researchers. Investors in the company include Amgen, Google Ventures, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ArchVenture Partners and Polaris Partners. In 2016, it raised $40m in Series A funding, paving the way for 150 jobs in Dublin.


Clockwise from left: Jim Joyce CEO, HealthBeacon; Terence O’Rourke, chair, Enterprise Ireland; Orla O’Gorman, head of Equity Listing Ireland, EuroNext; and Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly, TD. Image: Conor Healy/Picture It Photography

Dublin-based HealthBeacon’s Smart Sharps System helps patients adhere to their medication schedule. The digital platform, which recently received vital FDA clearance for the US market, not only ensures that patients keep up with their injectable treatments but also allows them to dispose of medication in a safe way, and keeps carers up to date with the patients’ progress. HealthBeacon last year revealed plans to create 20 new jobs in Dublin in roles spanning IT, software development, project management and customer service, to bring its headcount close to 40 people. It was founded by Jim Joyce and Kieran Daly in 2013 and the company opened offices in Boston last year. It has also just opened a newly expanded headquarters in Dublin 12.

Kite Medical

Man and two women at top of a stairs.

From left: Kite Medical CTO Paul Frehill, founder and CSO Sarah Loughney, and CEO Joan FitzPatrick. Image: Kite Medical

Kite Medical has created a novel device for detecting kidney reflux in children. The latest Start-up of the Week on Siliconrepublic.com, the company is developing a medical device that could be a game-changer in transferring the detection of kidney reflux from the hospital to an office-based primary care setting, and can even facilitate monitoring at home. The current diagnostic test requires a catheter, forced filling of the bladder and radiation exposure, resulting in pain and trauma for the children. In contrast, Kite Medical’s device will be a wearable solution where the child will wear sensors to detect possible reflux over normal urination cycles. The Kite Medical team is made up of founder Sarah Loughney, CEO Joan FitzPatrick and CTO Paul Frehill. The NUI Galway BioInnovate programme spin-out recently closed a €1.5m investment round.

Loci Orthopaedics

Pictured are Loci Orthopaedics founders Gerry Clarke, CTO, and Dr Brendan Boland, CEO, at their office in NUI Galway. Image: Aengus McMahon

From left: Loci Orthopaedics founders Gerry Clarke (CTO) and Dr Brendan Boland (CEO) at their office in NUI Galway. Image: Aengus McMahon

Loci Orthopaedics has developed a new clinically proven solution to address the increasing unmet need for thumb base joint arthritis. This need was identified by the co-founders of the company, Dr Brendan Boland, a clinician, and Gerry Clarke, a medical device industry veteran with more than 40 years of medical device experience, while they were Fellows on the BioInnovate Ireland Programme, which is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland. The company is developing the InDx Implant to meet this need and access a market estimated at more than €550m per annum. Loci Orthopaedics recently raised €2.75m in funding to bring its solution to market.

Neurent Medical

Pictured: David Townley and Brian Shields. Image: Michael Dillon

From left: David Townley and Brian Shields. Image: Michael Dillon

Galway-based Neurent Medical has developed a technology that allows doctors to treat the nasal condition rhinitis from offices rather than in a surgery. The single-use device is introduced through the nostrils into the nasal cavity under direct endoscopic visualisation, where it deploys a microelectrode array that delivers targeted energy to interrupt the autonomic function within the mucosal structures of nasal cavities, to reverse the inflammatory cascade. Neurent Medical was founded by Brian Shields and David Townley and originated from the BioInnovate Ireland programme at NUI Galway. The company recently raised €9.3m in a funding round led by Fountain Healthcare Partners including participation from Atlantic Bridge Capital, the Western Development Commission and Enterprise Ireland, as well as a syndicate of Irish medtech veterans.


Woman with dark hair and patterned blouse.

Nuritas founder Nora Khaldi. Image: NDRC

Nuritas was founded by mathematician and bioinformatics expert Dr Nora Khaldi in 2014. Nuritas uses big-data techniques to sift through large amounts of data to discover peptides from food and food by-products, which provide unique solutions for the maintenance of health and wellness. These benefits include: anti-inflammatory activity, antimicrobial activity, muscle recovery enhancement, anti-ageing solutions, and the potential management of blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics and other glucose transportation-related areas. In December, it emerged that the company secured €16m Series A funding led by Chicago-based Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, bringing its total investment to date to almost €25m. Nuritas boasts some pretty well-known funders from previous rounds, including Bono and The Edge from U2, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.


Julie O’Donnell and Dave Albert, Medit. Image: Shane O’Neill/SON Photographic

Medit is a knowledge-sharing platform for medical professionals, connecting them to subject-matter experts and personalised and peer-recommended content on-demand to support inter-professional collaboration and improve clinical decision-making. Founded by Julie O’Donnell and Dave Albert, Medit bridges the gap between traditional face-to-face medical education and clinical practice, facilitating peer-to-peer learning at scale. Medit curates more than 4,000 medical journals, blogs, websites and social feeds, and uses machine learning to personalise these to the user.


PatientMpower is a digital healthcare company providing technology solutions for patients across a range of therapy areas including pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), dialysis and renal transplant. Based at Dublin’s Digital Hub, PatientMpower is focused on empowering better outcomes by enabling patients to better manage their care, and providing unique data insights for healthcare providers and researchers to improve treatments. The PatientMpower app allows patients to track data relating to their IPF remotely, using integrated monitors (including spirometry and pulse oximetry) as well as providing many other valuable features.

Think Biosolution

Think Biosolution CEO Shourjya Sanyal collecting his cheque after the company was declared one of four companies to win the first round of the Luminate NY accelerator. Image: Luminate NY

Think Biosolution, a previous Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week, is an original design manufacturer that has created privately labelled wearable devices and customised software using QuasaR sensor technology for telemedicine platforms, professional athlete monitoring platforms and sports brands. The QuasaR device allows users to track up to seven different health and fitness parameters (the maximum number of parameters a single wearable device can currently track) with the ease and price point of a wristband-based activity tracker. The Dublin-based start-up recently won $250,000 through Luminate NY, one of the world’s largest optical and photonics accelerators.

SilverCloud Health

SilverCloud Health provides effective, supportive programmes for a range of mental and behavioural health issues. These programmes are designed in conjunction with world-leading partners from academic and medical institutions. The content is designed to be motivational, easy to use and interactive, with relevance to the unique requirements of the service user. SilverCloud Health was established following a seven-year research project at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), before becoming a three-year translational research project through NDRC, TCD and Parent Plus. The company now employs more than 40 people in Ireland and the US, with more than $10m secured in follow-on funding to date, including an $8.1m investment round led by Facebook’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group.

SurgaColl Technologies

SurgaColl Technologies is based in Dublin, developing regenerative technologies. It is working on novel tissue regeneration products for the surgical treatment of diseases affecting bone, cartilage and other human tissue. SurgaColl has two products: HydroxyColl, which is a next-generation bone graft substitute; and ChondroColl, a biomimetic three-layer cartilage repair implant. Spinning out of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 2010, SurgaColl is one of Ireland’s high-potential start-ups backed by Enterprise Ireland. Its headquarters are in the Dublin City University Invent Centre. Earlier this year, it raised £3.1m in a Series A round, including investments from GM&C Life Sciences Fund and Julz Co.

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