IRELAND is developing a high-level industry around its reputation as one of the world’s leading centres for research into precision nutrition and medicine, says Professor Paul Ross, director of APC Microbiome Ireland.
APC, the University College Cork-based gut-health research company, has plans to develop a dedicated research building to service a growing demand for its microbiome expertise. APC is also recruiting some of the world’s leading microbiome (gut health) scientists.
“Our people are our strength and we will continue our recruitment campaign to attract scientific stars in microbiome science,” said Prof Ross. “We are also on a journey with industrial partners and stakeholders to translate and exploit microbiomes, with a view to developing biological solutions, which will improve human, animal, and planetary health.”
APC’s research is focused on the gastrointestinal bacterial community (the microbiota). The field of microbiota research is of interest to all branches of human medicine and veterinary science, as well as health-food sectors.
The range of applications for the research means that APC’s scientists collaborate with large and small enterprises, indigenous and multi-national, and have extensive experience with the food, agriculture, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostic sectors.
Irish ambitions to build upon APC’s global reputation have been outlined in a new strategy document, unveiled at a recent virtual event led by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Simon Harris, further and higher education, research, innovation, and science minister.
Mr Martin said: “Since it was founded, in 2003, APC, as I have known, has played a critical role in the development of Ireland’s knowledge economy and job creation in the food, agriculture, biotechnology, diagnostics, veterinary, and pharmaceutical sectors.
“Scientific discoveries in this area have contributed to progress on a host of global health challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance, infectious diseases, obesity, mental health, successful aging, and inflammatory diseases.”
Mr Harris added: “APC Microbiome Ireland, as one of the 16 SFI research centres, has, since its foundation in 2003, been delivering excellent, world-leading research, engaging with enterprise, driving innovation, and, most importantly, training the next generation of researchers.
“APC has shown that with talent and investment, we, here in Ireland, can undertake cutting-edge, impactful research, competing with the very best internationally and equally contributing solutions to address society’s needs.”
APC Microbiome Ireland is a world-leading SFI research centre, with 300 researchers and clinicians in headquarters UCC and Teagasc, as well as partner institutes MTU, NUIG, UCD, NIBRT, UL, and TCD. It also has strategic partnerships with companies from the food, pharma, and biotech sectors.
Prof Ross said APC’s new innovation building will play a central role in the company’s growth through collaboration with industry partners. APC’s research has multiple targets for the development of functional foods, medical foods, and live biotherapeutics to improve human (and animal) health.
This research is focused on the development of microbiome solutions to microbiome-based challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), pathogen persistence, and methane production in developed and developing countries, as well as improved patient care.
Prof Ross said: “We have plans to develop a new, dedicated building, which will be a hive of innovation to position Ireland at the forefront of precision nutrition and medicine and a portfolio of thriving, high-potential APC spin-out companies across a range of microbiome fields.”
Collaboration with industry partners has been central to APC’s success in bringing its research work across multiple industry sectors. In the last five years, APC has hosted 35 collaborative projects with industry, securing over €20m in financing for its research around the microbiota.
Another key target outlined in APC’s new strategy document is to foster more spin-outs, new research companies feeding out of various aspects of gut-health research. This ambition was applauded by Science Foundation Ireland at APC’s recent virtual event.
Prof Mark Ferguson, SFI director general and chief scientific advisor to the Government said: “In their new strategy, I’m delighted to see ambitious targets, for example for a new innovation district to foster even more spinouts from the APC research.
“And to recruit outstanding, excellent individuals from around the world and put them in a supportive research culture, where they can do even more excellent research, which will have an impact in Ireland and beyond, for society and for the economy. I wish them very well in the execution of this strategy and I look forward to seeing the results.”