New Irish drug company targets €6m turnover by 2016

29 Mar 2011

NUI Maynooth has spun out a new company called Cerebeo, which aims to boost the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of the €1bn outsourced drug research and development industry.

Cerebeo is a specialised outsourced research company using some of the most innovative models and techniques available in science and is the second company spun out from the research of Prof John Lowry, who was winner of the 2009 Enterprise Ireland Lifesciences Commercialisation Award.

The company is targeting a turnover of €6m by 2016 and will be recruiting two technicians by the end of this year.

R&D costs are currently one of the biggest hurdles in getting new drugs and treatments to market. In the current race to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, pharmaceutical companies have been repeatedly frustrated by years spent on unsuccessful trials and unfruitful directions of research.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Pfizer had spent US$71m on developing a ‘youth pill’ to stimulate the pituitary gland and counter the effects of ageing but had now abandoned the project.

Taking testing to the next level

Cerebeo offers drug companies bespoke testing for their drug compounds with faster feedback and early results on trial samples.

Among its testing models, Cerebeo will incorporate the technology from BlueBox Sensors, the company for which Lowry received his Enterprise Ireland award.

BlueBox Sensors provides implantable brain sensors that give real-time readouts of chemical changes in living brain tissue and have been used since 2009 by clients including Eli Lilly, GSK and Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

Cerebeo has engaged Dr Jennifer Craig, a sensor design specialist with a background in contract research, as chief executive.

“With Cerebeo we can take testing to the next level – pharmaceutical companies do not have the time or expertise to painstakingly validate what they do and rely on this outsourced model more and more,” said Lowry.

“By combining our expertise in sensor design and other models, along with providing highly personalised, tailored service to the researchers we can deliver a compelling proposition that is not easily found elsewhere,” Lowry added.

Cerebeo has established a standalone testing facility with ready access to NUI Maynooth’s expertise and equipment, with the support of the university.

“This tailored research model is the future of pharmaceutical research and Ireland is ideally positioned to take a leadership position in this, given the strength of the pharma and biotech sectors here in the country,” said Craig, Cerebeo CEO.

Faster results can literally mean the savings of millions of dollars in research budgets and speedier routes to market for vital, life-saving drugs. The fusing of university pedigree with industrial know-how is what will drive that – here at Cerebeo and elsewhere.”

NUI Maynooth has also extended an invitation to companies to attend Connect 2011 at Carton House on Wednesday, 6 April, where they will have an opportunity to ‘Connect + Innovate’, explore developing R&D ideas with university experts and network with the local business community.

Enterprise Ireland grants of €5,000 to €250,000 are available to companies to establish research collaborations with universities, and NUI Maynooth has assisted more than 15 companies over the past three years in this process.

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