Dublin start-up gets €2.35m to help us see viruses like never before

9 Oct 2020460 Views

Image: © macondos/Stock.adobe.com

SiriusXT and two UCD researchers have been awarded €2.35m for a project using soft x-ray microscopy to better understand viruses.

University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out SiriusXT is to lead an EU Horizon 2020 project that aims to better understand the fundamental structure of viruses, such as SARS-Cov-2 (the novel coronavirus), hepatitis C and the herpesvirus.

The international four-year Compact Cell-Imaging Device (CoCID) project will see SiriusXT and two UCD researchers awarded €2.35m out of a total fund of €5.67m. The key component of the research will be the company’s commercial, lab-scale, soft x-ray microscope, called SXT-100.

The project aims to create 3D images of the substructure of cells to gain insights into the cellular origins of viral diseases, and to aid in the development of novel therapeutics for viruses.

3D imaging of the internal structure of whole and intact cells is playing an increasingly important role in helping scientists to understand diseases. Currently, soft x-ray microscopes are the only way to image the whole substructure of an intact cell.

‘Potentially game-changing technique’

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Two UCD researchers will join the project along with partners from Germany, Finland and Spain. Assistant professor Nicola Fletcher will use the soft x-ray microscope as one of the four CoCID use cases to accelerate research studies into understanding cross-species transmission mechanisms of the hepatitis E virus.

“Soft x-ray microscopy is an extremely exciting, potentially game-changing technique that will allow us to visualise virally infected cells in exquisite detail,” Fletcher said.

“We will investigate the mechanisms by which hepatitis E virus, an emerging infectious disease that is transmitted to humans from infected animals, infects cells from different species. The ultimate aim is to explore new treatment options for this important viral infection.”

SiriusXT, a NovaUCD supported company, was co-founded by Dr Kenneth Fahy, Dr Paul Sheridan, Dr Fergal O’Reilly and Tony McEnroe in 2015 as a spin-out from the UCD School of Physics. In the past five years, it has raised more than €12m in grant and equity funding.

McEnroe said the fresh investment will both fund the advancement of its SXT-100 microscope and allow the start-up to collaborate closely with European leaders in virology research.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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