Waterford researchers work on drug delivery technologies to benefit patients worldwide

A group of over 30 researchers at a state-of-the-art facility in Waterford Institute of Technology is working on new methods of delivering drugs to patients with a range of medical conditions requiring heavy doses of medication that normally create undesirable side effects.

Research work in progress and projects due to commence early in 2010 were showcased today (Wed, Dec 16) at the official opening of the Pharmaceutical & Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC).

The Centre has received State funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Enterprise Ireland which has designated it as one of its 16 Applied Research Enhancement Centres.

With 33 researchers using 700m² of dedicated research facilities, PMBRC has already built up an impressive track record of partnering with the pharmaceutical industry and works closely with indigenous companies such as EirGen Pharma and the Irish operations of multinationals including Genzyme.

Dr Niall O’Reilly, Manager, PMBRC, said: “A particularly exciting strand of our work looks at how patients receive drugs into their system – especially when their condition means they require large doses of medication that can have serious side effects for them or where the site of their medical problem is a particularly sensitive one such as the eye. Our ambition is to develop technologies that allow drug delivery that has minimal impact on patients and maximum impact on addressing their illness.

“As well as working with industry partners on projects ranging from feasibility studies right through to large-scale research, we are also active in the commercialisation of research outputs with a patent application already filed on some of our technology.

“Aside from drug delivery, we have researchers examining process and sensor technologies; materials characterisation; separations science; molecular biotechnology and biomedical research. Researchers work in multidisciplinary teams so that knowledge is effectively shared and applied.”

Dr Peter McLoughlin, principal investigator and founder, PMBRC, added: “The Centre has competed successfully over the last 12-18 months for funding from within Ireland and overseas which is an endorsement of the calibre of our research team.

“To ensure all we do remains relevant to fast-changing industry needs and priorities, we have an industry advisory committee whose members work in senior roles in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector. We also use very clear metrics with our funding agencies to measure our success and these focus on industry collaborations and patents, success in international funding and commercialisation of research.

“We focus on the research, development and innovation that support pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in Ireland to move up the value chain and become more strategically important in their corporations. As well as multinationals, we are also delighted to partner with ‘home’ success stories such as EirGen Pharma.”

Speaking at the official opening, Dr Keith O’Neill, Director of Lifescience Commercialisation at Enterprise Ireland, said: “The PMBRC’s research is important on several fronts and fits with Enterprise Ireland’s drive to support the creation of a more advanced, knowledge-based economy.

“The Centre also plays to an existing strength in Ireland with 12 of the world’s top 15 pharmaceutical companies having a substantial presence in this country. With companies like Genzyme, Teva, Merck, Bausch & Lomb, Eirgen Pharma, GlaxoSmithKline and others operating here, there is also the basis for a significant pharma/biotech hub in the southeast and PMBRC is already contributing to building this network with exciting research partnerships in place.”