Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Minister Quinn launches major university collaboration on disease research and control

04 October 2011

DCU/ RCSI/ NUI Maynooth link-up to boost biopharmaceutical and biomedical device industries

Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn T.D. today formally launched BioAT - a unique PhD collaboration between Dublin City University, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), NUI Maynooth and Institute of Technology Tallaght - which will add strength and depth to Ireland's important biopharmaceutical and biomedical device industries.  One of the first significant university collaborations in this area, BioAT (BioAnalysis and Therapeutics Structured PhD Programme) will help drive Ireland's push for cures to diseases like Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and cancers.

 A total of 29 doctoral researchers have commenced the four year BioAT doctoral programme which will deliver multi-disciplinary PhD projects with applications to cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, neurodegenerative and infection / immune diseases.  The programme is structured to ensure the highest level of transferrable skill and knowledge between academia and the needs of industry.  The course works to develop graduates' entrepreneurial skills as well as the highest quality of academic research. The programme will be further enhanced by the involvement of Dundalk Institute of Technology and Athlone Institute of Technology.

Pictured (l-r) are President Professor Brian MacCraith, President, DCU; Professor Philip Nolan, President, NUI Maynooth; Mr. Ruairi Quinn T.D., Minister for Education; Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/ Registrar, RCSI and Dr Christine Loscher, BioAT Programme Coordinator.

Commenting on the announcement, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn T.D. said, "Ireland is a recognised international leader in the biotechnology and life sciences field.  We have many of the world's top companies here and it is an area of strategic importance for the country.  Collaboration between academic institutions with complementary strengths is a key facilitator of this strategy and the 29 students embarking on their PhD careers at BioAT are the first of hopefully many leading scientists we will produce in the coming decades".

The structure of BioAT allows students to experience a number of areas of research before choosing their area of focus for their PhD. This is supported by the availability of scientific modules to enhance their learning in their chosen area. At appropriate stages of their research students will be offered training in commercialisation, IP management, entrepreneurial skills, leadership, business and ethics in order to effectively equip them with the skills for employment.

Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/ Registrar, RCSI said merging laboratory research with real life hospital case studies and data is crucial to the success of the programme.  "By linking cutting edge academic research with the clinical functions of some of Ireland's leading teaching hospitals, the students will receive top-class practical experience as well as the inspiration and resources to continue along their chosen paths.  BioAT will lay the foundation for future research partnerships between our colleges".

Mr. Ruairi Quinn, T.D., Minister for Education, with BioAT doctoral reserachers

Dublin City University President Professor Brian MacCraith said this was a real opportunity for Ireland. "Our reputation internationally in biopharmaceuticals precedes us and with BioAT, the first fully co-ordinated approach to supporting national endeavours in this area, we can secure this reputation far into the future. The programme is designed to increase the quality, quantity and entrepreneurial skills of Ireland's graduate researchers in the critical areas of biopharmaceutical and biomedial device industries, which are integral to Ireland's economy. Importantly, students will not only benefit from a broad and unique training and educational experience but they will also take part in a clinical or industrial placement - an essential and unique element of the programme".

Professor Philip Nolan, President of NUI Maynooth said the complementary strengths of the three institutions lent themselves well to the collaboration.  "Translational research where all multiple disciplines are fused together, and crucially have the rigour of industrial and entrepreneurial application, is what will lead to crucial scientific breakthroughs over the next 20 years.  We are charting a course to ensure Ireland's researchers continue to play a strong role in this area".

BioAT utilises DCU's proven strength in diagnostics and nanotechnology which provides ample platform for generating innovative solutions to clinical problems, along with NUI Maynooth's world-class expertise in immunology and biology which allows insight into the processes which drive disease.  RCSI, is home to the largest medical school in Ireland, and brings biomedical science expertise from its research institute, and clinical perspective and practice from its teaching hospital affiliations and the RCSI Clinical Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital.

The programme also offers collaborative research opportunities in hospital-based laboratories at Beaumont Hospital, James Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown and the Children's Research Centre at Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin.

Leading researchers from the three institutions are currently specialising in working in areas like C. difficile infection, paediatric brain tumours, muscle-wasting diseases and medical imaging.

The requirement for BioAT is strongly underpinned by research undertaken across the life sciences industry.  50% of biopharmaceutical, biotechnology, clinical, diagnostic and food industries said they foresaw increase in the recruitment of PhD candidates, while 32% stated that the lack of PhD graduates with bioanalytical skills had impeded the development of their industries.  Over 90% said they welcomed participation in the PhD programme and more than half welcomed the idea of hosting a student internship.