Minister Martin TD announces Smith & Nephew and REMEDI R&D Collaboration at NUI

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin TD today (Wednesday 10th October 2007) announced that Smith & Nephew, the global medical technology company, and REMEDI, the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway, are to establish a four year R&D collaborative programme for the development of groundbreaking new treatments for bone and joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis. The investment, in excess of €6 million, is supported by IDA Ireland.

Smith & Nephew is a global provider of medical technologies, including orthopaedic treatments and implants for knees, hips and shoulders. REMEDI, recognised as the Ireland's primary centre for stem cell and gene therapy research, was established as a CSET (Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology) in 2004 by Science Foundation Ireland. It has a core expertise in arthritis research and a particular emphasis on the translation of its research findings in the delivery of new therapies in orthopaedics, cardiovascular and neural diseases.

Minister Martin, welcoming the collaboration, said "This is truly cutting-edge R&D and will be extremely important in the discovery of treatments for osteoarthritis, a common degenerative joint condition for which there is currently no cure. The management of osteoarthritis involves substantial cost to the healthcare system in every country and, because it is associated with ageing, these costs are expected to rise as the global population ages. This collaboration is in line with the Government's strategy of positioning Ireland at the forefront of R&D in emerging technologies and novel biotherapeutics."

The Smith & Nephew Research Centre in York (UK) will work in partnership with REMEDI to develop new therapies using adult bone marrow stem cells to promote the re-growth of healthy cartilage and repair damaged joints. Stem cells are known to possess properties which allow them to be programmed to create healthy new tissue to repair the damage caused by injury or disease.

Peter Arnold, Group Director of Technology for Smith & Nephew, said: "We are delighted to be working with the team at REMEDI, who are widely recognised and respected as world leaders in this field. There are currently no regenerative options available for people suffering from osteoarthritis and other similar musculoskeletal conditions. This would be particularly beneficial for younger patients, who often spend many years on high doses of pain killers before receiving a joint replacement."

He added: "The aim of the Smith & Nephew collaboration with REMEDI is to develop a new generation of orthopaedic therapies that will help people to remain active and pain free for much longer by harnessing the healing power of adult stem cells to promote the growth of new cartilage or bone."

Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI said: "This is a very significant milestone for us in our research programmes. We are delighted to be working with Smith & Nephew in the development of novel, cell-based therapies for osteoarthritis. In addition to this support from Smith & Nephew we acknowledge the critical support that Science Foundation Ireland has provided in the establishment of REMEDI and the funding provided now by IDA which will allow us to expand our efforts in developing a new generation of arthritis therapies.

The Smith & Nephew Research Centre has already developed early prototype cell technologies, including the ability to grow human cartilage from adult stem cells. The collaboration with REMEDI, who have extensive expertise in osteoarthritis cartilage repair, will speed up the process of producing viable new orthopaedic therapies. These therapies will have the potential to alleviate or delay the need for joint replacement and lower the need for long-term pain management.

Over 100 million people worldwide suffer from painful osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common causes of disability. Current treatments for the incurable condition largely focus on pain management and the eventual replacement of the affected knee or hip joint.

The project will be led by James Huckle, Programme Manager for Enabling Technologies at the Smith & Nephew Research Centre, and Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI and a leading expert in adult stem cell engineering. It will involve 10 researchers working at REMEDI. In addition, the project will receive support from the Smith & Nephew Research Centre in York which has strong management skills and expertise in running collaborative research involving academia and industry.

President of NUI Galway Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh welcomed this announcement, saying, "This partnership between REMEDI with Smith & Nephew is a wonderful example of academic - industry collaboration. On behalf of NUI Galway I warmly welcome this investment, from which scientific research and innovation will ultimately yield real benefits to those suffering from bone and joint disease".

The required facilities will involve the use of the REMEDI laboratories in NUI Galway and its manufacturing laboratory for the production of clinical batches of adult stem cells to be used in clinical trials.

ENDS

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