The biotech industry in Ireland has grown substantially during the past decade, and yet more growth is on the horizon. This
is due in part to the groundwork laid during the past 10 years by various organizations and agencies in Ireland, and to the
considerable increase in investments in Irish biotech research and development (R&D). Irish biotechnology in the near future
stands to benefit from financial support available from Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the Higher Education
Authority, the Health Research Board, the European Union and others. Indeed, the combined potential funding from these organizations
totals more than €1 billion. With these resources at its fingertips, Ireland is poised to create an extraordinary high-tech
research and industrial base in the biotechnology sector.
In February 2002, Enterprise Ireland (EI) — the Irish development agency focused on accelerating the development of world-class
Irish companies that are market focused and innovation driven — published its Building Biotech Businesses strategy. The strategy
is now fully operational and is contributing significantly to the development of Ireland's entrepreneurial-led biotechnology
industry. The strategy has a number of key elements, including applied research funding, commercialization and technology
transfer, international networks, bioincubation, venture capital, and fast-track company growth.
Applied Research Funding
EI's commitment to funding and commercializing high-quality applied research has led to the establishment of a range of supports
brought together under its Commercialization Fund. The fund consists of 3 elements: proof of concept, technology development,
and business development. Funding is provided on a competitive basis to researchers in all institutes and colleges, for projects
leading to technologies of commercial interest to existing companies in Ireland or having the potential to be the basis for
new Irish business.
Commercialization and Technology Transfer
Enterprise Ireland's Biotechnology Directorate (EI Bio) focuses on technology transfer and campus-based activities. It forms
a crucial link in the commercialization chain by connecting those who conduct the research, and the entrepreneurs, industrialists,
and companies who apply the fruits of that research.
So that EI Bio is best placed to commercialize the results of Irish biotech research, it has located staff as close as possible
to where the research happens. A number of biotech commercialization specialists and biotech project officers are embedded
at selected campus technology transfer offices. EI Bio commercialization specialists are assigned to Dublin City University,
Trinity College, Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland in Galway, University
of Limerick, and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. EI Bio also continues to forge strong new relationships with other
campuses involved in biotechnology.
In 2004 EI Bio added the TechMate module to its web portal at
http://www.biotechnologyireland.com/. TechMate showcases the latest life sciences and food technologies that have been developed in Irish universities and research
institutes and are now available for licensing, collaboration, and business development. Companies can also submit requests
for the technology or expertise they require. In addition, TechMate showcases technologies from the National Institutes of
Health in the US and has links to sources of European technologies. EI Bio also runs Next Wave technology showcase events
to highlight the applications and commercial potential of emerging technologies. For more information about this exciting
Paul Roben, Ph.D., is director of Enterprise Ireland's Biotechnology Directorate. In October 2005, to take this leadership
position, Roben returned from San Diego. Earlier in his career, he had worked with the Scripps Research Institute specializing
in antibody phage display. Roben has a broad background in the development of commercial opportunities from research activities
and has successfully negotiated licensing deals and collaborations with academic and commercial entities. He led the molecular
biology department at NovaDx International, Inc, and at Corvas International, Inc, he led the molecular biology section of
the vascular targeting group. In addition, in 1999 he founded Target Protein Technologies, Inc.
Roben recently noted, "The environment for starting and growing innovative biotechnology companies in Ireland is excellent.
Enterprise Ireland is focused on market and industry demands, and we are working proactively with the Irish biotech sector,
Irish universities, and research institutes to bring emerging high-quality technologies to market."
In association with the Irish BioIndustry Association, EI Bio is working on a project to stimulate bioindustry-relevant research
at Irish universities. This program brings leading scientists and business managers from industry together with leading university
researchers. The businesses involved include: Elan Corporation PLC, Wyeth, Biotrin International Ltd, Deerac Fluidics, Luxcel
Biosciences, BioClin Research Laboratories, Omega Research, and Life Scientific. Meanwhile, academicians from 6 universities
bring expertise in sensors, microfluidics, microelectronics, biodiagnostics, and process engineering. The project aims to
solve generic biological problems faced by the Irish bioindustry. Phase 1 of the project involves investigating quantitative
point-of-care test systems and in-line and at-line bioprocess monitoring.
In addition, Enterprise Ireland is tapping into the Irish Diaspora as a means of attracting entrepreneurs, as well as scientists
who have developed international experience. EI was instrumental in establishing networks in the US (Biolink USA-Ireland)
and in the UK (TechLink UK-Ireland), and it also supports the network for biotech professionals within Ireland (BioConnect