Three NUI Galway based organisations – The Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), the Centre for Cell Manufacturing in Ireland (CCMI) and Orbsen Therapeutics – will collaborate with a number of European groups in developing a stem cell therapy and new diagnostic tests in the area of corneal transplantation.
NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and Orbsen Therapeutics will lead a €6M EU FP-funded project known by the acronym “VISICORT” (Adverse Immune Responses and their Prevention in Corneal Transplantation), to develop new diagnostic tests and a cell therapy for the prevention of immunological complications in people receiving corneal transplants.
Corneal transplantation is the most common transplant carried out worldwide with over 100,000 procedures per year. It is often the only treatment available to restore sight to people who have lost vision due to diseases of the cornea – a layer of clear tissue at the front of the eye which allows light to pass through the pupil and lens to the retina.
The EU FP 7-funded collaborative research programme will be jointly coordinated by Immunology researchers Professor Matthew Griffin and Dr Thomas Ritter of NUI Galway’s REMEDI in partnership with Orbsen Therapeutics and 10 other academic and industry-based partners from a total of 5 European countries.
President of NUI Galway, Dr James Browne congratulated Professor Griffin and Orbsen on their success commenting, “The VISICORT project is a great example of how NUI Galway’s visionary approach to research and commercial entities housed side by side on campus, can deliver major European Union funding successes like this. The collaboration between NUI Galway, Orbsen Therapeutics and a number of European partners, demonstrates the ‘ecosytem of research’ that is part of a long-term strategy to enable the university to become a world player in the biomedical science area. I would like to congratulate all involved in this project and on this research success”
Ciaran Cannon TD Minister of State for Training and Skills at the Department of Education and Skills added his congratulations stating, “This is an excellent win for Galway and for Ireland and it underlines the benefits of combining university research excellence with commercialisation expertise in a single site. I am delighted to see this model in action on campus in NUI Galway. I want to congratulate President Browne, Professor Griffin, Dr Ritter and all at Orbsen Therapeutics on their success and wish them the very best with this project.”
Speaking about the successful funding of the project, Professor Matthew Griffin said, “It is extremely exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate in this way with such an outstanding group of researchers and experts from different parts of Europe. Our common goal of further improving the results of corneal transplantation for patients with loss of vision through a better understanding of the immune response can only be achieved by combining the skills and resources of all the partners.”
Dr Thomas Ritter added, “In recent years, our Immunology research programme at REMEDI has focused at a basic level on understanding the immune response to transplanted tissues such as the cornea as well as on the immune modulating effects of stromal stem cells. By combining our expertise with that of each of our partners in this project, VISICORT now gives us the chance to directly apply these research areas to people with severe eye disease who can benefit from new tests and cellular therapies.”
Laboratory studies for VISICORT will be carried out by Dr Ritter’s and Professor Griffin’s team at the REMEDI laboratories in NUI Galway’s recently-opened Biosciences Building. They will collaborate with leading researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Fios Genomics Ltd in the United Kingdom and at Nantes University in France as well as with Biostór, an Irish company specialising in the transport and storage of biological samples.
Clinical studies involving over 700 corneal transplant patients will be carried out by leading experts in eye surgery and tissue banking at the RCSI-affiliated Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, the Charité University in Berlin, Germany, the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and Nantes University Hospital in France.
Orbsen Therapeutics CEO Brian Molloy added “Orbsen are delighted to be a part of VISICORT and look forward to seeing our cell therapy product being manufactured here on campus in NUI Galway by the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI). Projects such as this highlight the continuing development of Galway as a global hub for Bioscience research and therapy development. Orbsen is very proud to be playing a significant role in this process.”
The VISICORT project is a strong validation of the research funding policy that has been adopted by Government and implemented by bodies such as Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the university sector. The CCMI and REMEDI are both SFI funded centres based on the NUI Galway campus. Orbsen Therapeutics is a privately held company founded and located on campus at NUI Galway. Within VISICORT these elements come together with a research plan lead by REMEDI investigators, a cell therapy product developed by Orbsen and clinical-grade cells to be manufactured for use in patients at CCMI.
The €6M EU funding for this project will enable additional high value jobs to be created and ultimately may aid the discovery of a new cell therapy to improve corneal transplant outcomes across the globe.