NUI Galway student’s cancer detection device scoops entrepreneur award

10 Jun 2019

Image: @studententrepr1/Twitter

Christopher McBrearty’s early cancer detection technology impressed judges at the Enterprise Ireland award ceremony.

Running for almost 40 years, the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards invite third-level students from across the country to showcase their entrepreneurial talent.

The 2019 awards ceremony took place in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) on 7 June, seeing NUI Galway student Christopher McBrearty crowned Student Entrepreneur of the Year.

One of 10 finalists, McBrearty has developed an early prostate cancer detection technology he dubbed NanoDetect. He received €10,000 as his prize and will also receive mentoring from Enterprise Ireland to develop the commercial viability of the concept.

“Our core goal is to reduce patient waiting time with quick test results and to help educate and raise awareness around prostate cancer,” said McBrearty, who hails from Co Donegal and is studying for an MSc in biomedical science.

“Our future goal is to be the breast check equivalent for men and to eventually bring our technology into other routine screen procedures for disease types.”

According to the elevator pitch, NanoDetect can provide GPs and hospitals with an advanced screening technology for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that will improve detection rates of prostate cancer.

Ireland’s future leaders

“Students are no longer just in the mindset of going to third-level education to help get themselves a job. Many are going to third-level education to shape their jobs and to create the businesses they want to work in,” said Richard Murphy from Enterprise Ireland. “We may be looking at some of Ireland’s future international business leaders and entrepreneurs today.”

More than 1,000 entries were received for this year’s contest, and three other finalists received a share of the total prize fund on Friday.

The €5,000 Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys’ High-Achieving Merit Award went to CIT’s John Colbert, David O’Connor, Elise Kenneally and Michael Goggin for StomAssure, an implantable alternative to the current treatment of stoma (a surgically created opening from the abdomen to the bowel or urinary tract).

Another €5,000 prize, the Grant Thornton Emerging Business Award, went to Ulster University’s Jenny Gregg for Crafted Equestrian, which creates products to positively impact the lives of horses and their owners.

The final €5,000, for the Local Enterprise Office ICT Award, went to TU Dublin’s Micron Agritech, created by students Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, Sean Smith, Tara McElligott and Jose Lopez Escobar. Micron Agritech targets farmers with instant on-site tests for animal parasites.

These prize-winners will also benefit from commercial consulting for their businesses.

An additional Academic Award was given to Colm O’Kane, mentor to the TU Dublin participants, in recognition of his involvement with the Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.