Minister Martin announces €14.6m joint investment into academic R&D programme fo

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Collaboration with world-leading pharmaceutical company will raise Ireland's international profile in new medical discoveries

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin TD today (Wednesday 3rd October 2007) announced that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with the support of IDA Ireland, is investing up to €14.6m in a collaboration with the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) and NUI Galway, on a major Research & Development programme for the discovery of new therapies to treat Alzheimer's Disease.

At present, drugs available on the market can only treat the symptoms rather than the causes of Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the gradual death of cells in the brain leading to brain malfunction, and is set to become one of the developed world's largest socioeconomic healthcare burdens over the coming decades.

An estimated five million Europeans of 65 years or more are currently suffering from Alzheimer's and related dementias, costing European Governments an estimated €55 billion annually.1 It is estimated that at present 1 in 3 eighty year olds suffer from Alzheimer's Disease2; and it is expected that about 11 million Europeans will suffer from Alzheimer's and related dementias in the next 50 years.3, 4 The prevalence of the disease is greater among women than men, because women, on average, live longer than men. The research programme announced today seeks to understand the causes of these diseases, and to develop therapies to assist in ameliorating these serious medical and social conditions.

Minister Martin said, "This high-level collaboration is yet another example of how Ireland is rapidly becoming a leading global location for drug discovery and translational medicine. The status, reputation and capabilities of the parties involved are well matched to the strategic objectives of this ambitious, indeed ground-breaking project. This programme represents unrivalled proof of confidence in the future of the biotechnology sector in Ireland." The Minister also commended the availability and level of technical expertise internationally and here in Ireland to undertake this project. "The work to be carried out through this collaborative programme is very sophisticated and complex in nature. The GSK scientists, academic researchers and clinical partners in this consortium in Ireland are all established and respected researchers, representing the finest minds available on an international platform. The resources and expertise of the local clinical management at GSK's existing R&D bases in Ireland will also be at the disposal of this programme, helping to cement the very highest levels of scientific confidence and competence in the project," the Minister continued.

Dr Neil Upton, Head of Translational and Pharmacological Sciences said "GSK is strongly committed to developing new medicines for neurological diseases. We currently have numerous research programmes across all phases of Research and Development for Alzheimer s Disease, some of which aim to alleviate symptoms and others to slow or halt disease progression. To turn these early projects into effective medicines for AD, we have increasingly invested in translational research and state-of-the-art technologies in order to support dose-prediction, identify novel pharmacodynamic end-points and aid selection of appropriate patient populations for clinical studies. This collaboration represents a meeting of minds, where all three institutions strongly believe that hypothesis driven research and translating preclinical discovery research into clinical assessment and investigation at the earliest possible time point is in the best interests of patients who are waiting for much-needed treatments."

GSK has a very strong heritage in Ireland, employing over 1,600 people in sites across Cork, Dublin and Waterford. GSK's manufacturing operation in Currabinny, Co. Cork, which employs more than 600 people, has invested significantly in R&D activity in recent years and will be closely involved in the project. This partnership is the second GSK/academic collaboration in Ireland, GSK having collaborated with the IDA and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in a joint investment worth up to €13.7 million last year with the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) into R&D in gastrointestinal diseases. GSK has eleven Centres of Excellence for Drug Discovery (CEDD) worldwide. For this collaboration, TCD and NUIG will work jointly with GSK's UK based Neurology CEDD on the development of tools designed to make future clinical trials in Alzheimer's Disease more efficient, employing 22 highly qualified medical professionals, PhD students and Post-Doctoral Scientists.

Prof. Nicholas Canny, Vice-President for Research at National University of Ireland, Galway said the university is delighted with the collaborative research programme with Trinity College and GlaxoSmithKline. "We hope that our studies into novel cognitive, electrophysiological and behavioural endpoints in patients with Alzheimer s disease together with the complementary investigations at our partner university Trinity College will lead to a better understanding of this devastating disease, ultimately leading to new approaches in disease treatment."

Neuroscience is one of the major research strengths of Trinity College Dublin. The Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience is the only dedicated research centre in neuroscience on the island of Ireland. Trinity has strategically built its core competence in neuroscience over the past years through a funding base involving the Higher Education Authority, Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board and international agencies via their support for outstanding quality science.

TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty said "With the support of IDA, this new venture with GSK cements Trinity College Dublin's position as a leading international reference site for neuroscience research. This model of strategic growth and partnership in areas of international research quality is at the heart of Trinity s research agenda".

"As a university we are committed to world class excellence in research. This new collaborative research programme will enable leading academics and experts in neuroscience develop pioneering new therapies in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. As the only dedicated research institute in neuroscience in Ireland, it is fitting that TCIN should play such a central role in this project," concluded Dr John Hegarty.

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