7th February 2019 – Today, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, announced €4.5 million in funding for 38 research projects to support the commercialisation of government-funded research. 47 research positions will be supported through the awards, in areas such as cancer research, preterm infant care, medical devices, agriculture, energy and food technologies, for a duration of 12 months.
Dr Gerard McGlacken, Lecturer, Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University College Cork and SSPC Funded Investigator, received funding for the development of novel small molecule therapeutics targeting the ghrelin receptor to modulate appetite. Dr McGlacken will be working in collaboration with Dr Harriet Schellekens, APC Microbiome Ireland.
Ghrelin is a gut hormone which is key to the regulation of hunger and resulting weight gain/loss. Compounds that can mimic ghrelin would be of tremendous use in healthcare. Blocking ghrelin could curb appetite and be beneficial for weight loss, whereas enhancing the hunger signal would be hugely beneficial in clinical situations where muscle wastage can be fatal.
Commenting on the award, Dr McGlacken said:
“There are currently no commercial drugs targeting ghrelin. We have developed a compound which activates the ghrelin receptor and increases appetite in mice. Further chemical synthesis and biological studies are required to bolster our initial findings and move towards a viable drug.”
Researchers funded through the programme will also participate in the new SFI Spark Pre-Accelerator, which is an intensive five-day programme delivered by the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. This will support STEM researchers to develop skills in areas such as evidence-based entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking and facilitates mentoring and networking.
SSPC, the SFI Pharmaceutical Research Centre is hosted by the University of Limerick in partnership with University College Cork, National University of Galway, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Dublin, Athlone IT and Waterford IT.
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