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Ireland's $390M Program to Fund Newborn Screening, Gut Microbiology, Synthetic Drug Development

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Irish government plans to use €300 million ($393.1 million) to fund the launch of seven new research centers that will pursue a wide range of research projects, including the studies of human gut microbes, development of new screening and diagnostics for perinatal and neonatal conditions, big data research, bioengineering, and development of synthetic drugs.

The Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) said yesterday that the new initiative will include €200 million from the Irish exchequer and €100 million in cash and in-kind contributions from the collection of 156 industry partners that are supporting the effort.

Among the partners supporting the new centers, which will involve research by around 800 scientists spread across Ireland, are Roche, Second Genome, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, IBM, Microsoft, and many other firms involved in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and software development.

The centers also will involve partnerships with academic institutions throughout the country, including University College Cork; University College Dublin; Tyndall National Institute; Trinity College Dublin; University of Limerick; NUI Galway; Dublin City University; Cork Institute of Technology; the Marine Institute, and others.

“Each center will become a hub for platform research areas of national importance, for example, data analytics or renewable energy with an overall operations capability," SFI Director General Mark Ferguson said in a statement.

"This model enables the centers to add new industry and academic partners in ‘spokes’ or linked research streams to ensure that funding is used in a collaborative and consolidated way. This ‘hub and spoke’ model will allow every center to maximize the potential of the platform research provide flexibility and scalability by allowing new and existing multinational companies, SMEs and academic groups to partner in research projects and potentially create new research breakthroughs," Ferguson explained.

One of the centers, the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, will aim to fast-track the translation of new diagnostics and medical devices for screening newborns and monitoring pregnancies.

Another center, the Alimentary Pharmacobiotic Centre, will study the links between diet, the gut microbiota, and health. The partners hope to provide the scientific basis for the selection of health-promoting bacteria as potential foods and to develop bioactives to treat intestinal and infectious diseases.

The other centers include the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre; the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre; Ireland's Big Data and Analytics Research Centre; Marine Renewable Energy Ireland; and the Irish Photonic Integration Research Centre.

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