Heard of HookeBio? Drug discovery start-up named as ‘One to Watch’

21 Jun 2017

From left: Carol Gibbons, director of ICT commercialisation at Enterprise Ireland; Finola Cliffe of HookeBio; Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan, TD; and Gearóid Mooney, divisional manager of research and innovation at Enterprise Ireland. Image: Colm Mahady/Fennells

At Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas showcase, drug discovery start-up HookeBio was named the One to Watch in front of an audience of investors.

Held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, the Enterprise Ireland Big Ideas showcase remains one of the biggest events on the sci-tech calendar for researchers and entrepreneurs, with the opportunity to take a potential breakthrough and turn it into a business.

Future Human

And so, after 10 start-ups delivered their four-minute pitch about their business, Limerick drug discovery start-up HookeBio was named this year’s winner of the One to Watch award.

HookeBio’s senior scientist and presenter on the day was Finola Cliffe, who explained that the company has developed a microfluidic system capable of combining biological material with compounds in a huge variety of combinations, making it ideal for drug screening.

Called Enigma, the system improves upon existing drug combination testing by screening large compound libraries at a rate that may exceed a few thousand compounds per day or per week.

Cliffe also said that Enigma can undertake such screening without the limitations associated with traditional methods, such as robotic arms, and could potentially be applied to other uses, such as chemical testing and disease modelling.

Other people pitching at the event included Colm Garvey, from a start-up called Selio, which has developed a novel medical device expected to transform lung biopsy procedures by eliminating pneumothorax, otherwise known as a collapsed lung.

Meanwhile, Seamus Morris from Latch Medical pitched the idea of a tissue anchor system that uses microneedle technology, allowing for rapid, robust wound closure in surgery and significantly reducing the risk of infection or scarring.

‘From bench to boardroom’

More broadly, this year’s Big Ideas participants came from the medtech, fintech, agritech and cleantech sectors, and all have been through the initial process of getting their products or services ready before pitching their innovations to investors.

“Our annual Big Ideas event is a key set piece for us in driving the innovation agenda, and this year’s event reflects the fantastic innovative work that is being done in our academic institutions,” said Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon.

“I would like to congratulate Finola Cliffe from HookeBio on winning the One to Watch award, and we look forward to working with the company to take their idea from bench to boardroom.”

Other pitchers on the day included:

Lucy O’Keeffe, CroíValve  A medical device to treat tricuspid regurgitation, a condition where the tricuspid valve does not close properly, allowing blood to leak into the right atrium.

Tara Casserly, Durrus Compliance Diagnostics  A new approach to reducing anti-money laundering (AML) risk, providing AML confidence and identifying appropriate investment priorities.

Barry Murphy, Electrical Analytics  A retrofit device that provides visibility to power grid operators and large power consumers so that they can monitor their electrical assets.

Eoghan Finneran, FarmEye  A software system allowing the user to easily maintain and analyse a digital record of the soil management and nutrition for every field on the farm.

John Garvey, FarmHedge  An online agribusiness platform allowing farmers to coordinate their purchasing activity with other farmers in a low-cost, flexible way.

Steven Davy, LiquidEdge  An enterprise Wi-Fi analytics platform that transforms business Wi-Fi from a costly black box into a revenue generating tool.

Jonathan Bouchier-Hayes, OmniSeal  A device that allows the safe and easy delivery of large diameter vascular devices into the vascular system through the femoral artery.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic