CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, has launched in Ireland. CÚRAM is a Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre based at NUI Galway, which is a unique symbiotic relationship of academia and industry partners that pushes the scientific frontiers in medical devices.
CÚRAM represents investment of €49 million ($55 million) over six years from Science Foundation Ireland and industry. In just over 18 months, this support has already been used to leverage a further €19 million ($21.3) in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, over €4.3 million ($4.8 million) of which has been awarded directly to indigenous Irish industry.
Some of the 24 indigenous Irish and multi-national companies partnering with CÚRAM include Aerogen, Arch Therapeutics, Aquila Bioscience, Boston Scientific, Collagen Solutions, Cook Medical, Medical Energetics, Medtronic, Mylan, Neograft, Neosurgical, Neuravi, Ocean Harvest Technology, Spraybase, Stem Cell Technologies, Stryker Instruments and Viscus Biologics.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., who officially launched CÚRAM, said, “The medtech sector is hugely important to the Irish economy with over 400 companies based here, it accounts for over 29,000 jobs and is responsible for €12.6 billion worth of exports. I am delighted to launch CÚRAM a world class research center, which will be very significant for our society and our economy. CÚRAM will also play a key role in ensuring that world class skills will be available to companies in Ireland as it is here to futureproof the medtech industry by providing access to unparalleled scientific expertise and innovation.”
Global demographic shifts mean we are living longer, but with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease. The research approach at CÚRAM is collaborative, multidisciplinary and informed from all perspectives so that it translates from basic research to clinical application as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Professor Abhay Pandit is scientific director of CÚRAM, which is based at NUI Galway, and heads up the 280-strong team. He said, “Chronic diseases are the particular focus of CÚRAM’s research. Working with industry partners and clinicians, we will better understand the ‘hostile environment’ of the body and advance medical devices to the next stage where they mimic the body’s biology. We want to launch devices which are more effective for the individual patient, but more affordable to lessen the burden on healthcare systems worldwide.”
CÚRAM brings together strands of biomedical science which have come of age over the last decade including glycoscience, biomaterials science, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, drug delivery and medical device design.
“Bringing together expertise from various fields leads to tantalizing possibilities,” continued Professor Pandit. “In the long-term we may have minimally invasive injections instead of operations for back pain, electrodes which degrade within the body over time, or 3D printed muscles and tendons. This will not happen overnight, but the unparalleled combination of scientific, industry and clinical and regulatory expertise which CÚRAM facilitates will get us there in the coming years.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “Ireland has a strong track record in all of the disciplines and industries that have been brought together in the CÚRAM Centre. CÚRAM has been at least fifteen years in the making and Science Foundation Ireland has been there supporting the research from day one. The Centre acts as a multi-disciplinary platform to discover new insights, develop new medical devices, and translate these research findings into clinical and commercial reality by a combination of commercial licensing and spinout company formulation. Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support CÚRAM—a world-class research center that has the potential to have a significant impact on both healthcare globally and the Irish economy locally.”
CÚRAM has six academic partners including UCD, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, University College Cork, The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and NUI Galway where it is based. CÚRAM has over 250 researchers engaged in current projects both in collaboration with industry and on blue-sky research.
“CÚRAM is already attracting new research talent into Ireland,” said Dr. Jim Browne, NUI Galway president. “A key part of its operation is to train the next generation of scientists, employees and entrepreneurs in this sector. The caliber of our graduates in this field is extremely high, and they are inspired by the exciting potential of the sector. One example of CÚRAM’s direct co-operation with industry is through MedTrain, a new industry–academic fellowship program which will see 31 researchers enroll with CÚRAM’s Investigators as fellows in the next four years with support from EU’s Horizon 2020 program.”
The establishment of a national research center like CÚRAM brings a huge advantage to the Irish medtech sector,” said Helen Ryan, chair of the governing board of CÚRAM and former CEO of Creganna Medical, Ireland’s largest indigenous medical device company. “Partnering with CÚRAM provides co-funding opportunities for research and development with access to world class scientists in a multi-disciplinary environment. Working with CÚRAM can help de-risks the R&D process and ensure that R&D becomes a much stronger part of the ecosystem for start-up businesses and SMEs. CÚRAM’s entrance into the Irish medtech space will give companies here a competitive edge and adds a huge amount of value to an Irish location for multinational medtech companies looking to invest in Ireland in the future.”