News & Events

Launch of world first bone repair technology marks successful first year for AMBER

At its Industry Day to celebrate its first year in operation, AMBER unveils new technology that helps injured racehorse return to winning ways

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded materials science centre, hosted in Trinity College Dublin, has today unveiled a new bone repair technology, which has led to an injured racehorse returning to winning ways after successful jaw reconstruction. The announcement was made at AMBER’s Industry Day, held to mark its first anniversary, which was officially opened by Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English T.D. and which brought together a number of AMBER’s industry partners.

The patented bone repair technology was developed by a team of AMBER Researchers within the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) led by Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Director of AMBER. It consists of collagen and hydroxyapatite, components native to bone, formed into a 3D porous ‘scaffold’ which acts as a bone graft substitute. Bone cells and blood vessels ‘cling’ to the scaffold, allowing for new tissue regeneration.

This *bone repair technology (known as HydroxyColl) will be brought to market by RCSI spin out company, SurgaColl Technologies. Regulatory approval for human use is forecast in the coming months and implantation in patients suffering from large bone defects planned this year.

Speaking at the event, Damien English T.D., Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation said, “It has been a very successful first year for AMBER, this exciting technology is another example that shows that Irish research is at the leading edge of material science worldwide. Material science underpins a wide range of market opportunities that have the greatest potential to deliver economic return through enterprise development and employment growth in Ireland. I congratulate Professor O’Brien, his team and collaborators at AMBER for this breakthrough solution that could have real application in the veterinary sector and which could ultimately improve the lives of thousands of people also.”

The first clinical use of the HydroxyColl was on a 2 year old thoroughbred filly that had a large swelling in her jaw caused by a complex aneurysmal cyst. As a result of the cyst, the bone in the filly’s jaw was at risk of fracture and she was unable to chew adequately. The outcome is generally poor for aneurysmal cysts and euthanasia of the animal often necessary.

The procedure was carried out by Dr. Florent David at University College Dublin’s Veterinary Hospital who removed the cyst and implanted sheets of the scaffold. The procedure has enabled repair of the bone tissue followed by restoration of normal bone shape and function. Since surgery, the horse (Annagh Haven) has returned to racing and has won or been placed in 6 of her races to date.

AMBER Centre celebrates a successful year:

AMBER is one of the key drivers of Ireland’s growing international research reputation. Ireland has been ranked 3rd in the world for nanoscience and 6th in the world for the quality of materials science research. Since its launch in late 2013, researchers at AMBER have announced four world first discoveries in the areas of materials science which have been internationally recognised. Materials science is one of the fastest growing sectors globally, impacting electronics, medical technologies, and pharmaceuticals. Ireland exports approximately €80 billion worth of these products annually.

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Acting Director of AMBER, said, “Since launch, AMBER has grown significantly, the Centre now works with 21 industry partners, working on 31 targeted projects. We have won €10.5 million of non-Exchequer funding and published over 300 papers. Our researchers are delivering world first discoveries; in fact we had four world first discoveries since launch which shows that Irish research is at the leading edge of material science worldwide.”

“Today’s announcement on the new scaffold technology demonstrates our track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions for people and we will continue to carry out excellent research that has clear societal impact.”

At the event, AMBER was also joined by some of its many partners including Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. Harry Swan, MD of Thomas Swan said, “Thomas Swan has collaborated with AMBER since its foundation, in the field of materials science, and it has been a very productive relationship. Our partnership has delivered significant mutual benefit and we look forward to working with AMBER researchers in the future which we would expect to deliver further leading edge research and technology innovation.  Throughout this collaboration AMBER’s researchers have been a valuable asset to our business.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The SFI Research Centres Programme funds twelve centres of research excellence in Ireland and AMBER, through its materials science leadership has an important role in this Programme. Ireland has a significant opportunity to capitalise on the growth of the nanotechnology and materials science sectors globally and AMBER is key to this. In just over a year since it has been established, AMBER has delivered consistently on the targets which we, at SFI, have set and continues to demonstrate return on the investment made, by Government through SFI and by industry. I look forward to a successful year ahead for AMBER, in terms of new industry partnerships and new discoveries. The research carried out at AMBER is the type of impactful science which SFI aims to support, delivering solutions that can benefit both Irish society and the economy.”

Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast, said, “Trinity is committed to research excellence and translating this excellence to achieve economic and societal impact.  A year on, AMBER’s leading researchers drawn from all of its collaborating institutions have demonstrated this in a series of successes, including today’s breakthrough.  Marking its first year, it is important to acknowledge the commitment of SFI, Government and industry in this collaboration and establishment of AMBER headquartered at Trinity that will position Ireland as a leader in materials science creating high quality employment opportunities.”  

Some of the key milestones including world first discoveries from AMBER and its leading research team since its launch include:

  • World-first graphene innovation, research team led by Professor Jonathan Coleman discovered new research method to produce large volumes of high quality graphene. A licence agreement was signed with Thomas Swan Ltd. The discovery will change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured;
  • World-first graphene-rubber sensors: Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team discovered a method of creating wearable sensors by adding graphene to shop-bought rubber bands which could be used in medicine, automotive and aeronautical industries, or as early warning system for cot death and sleep apnoea;
  • Researchers discovered world-first new material which could revolutionise IT. Professor Michael Coey and his team created a completely new alloy of manganese, ruthenium and gallium, known as MRG, world first new material which could transform the way data is stored;
  • First researchers in the world to measure Poisson’s Ratio on the nanoscale, this breakthrough led by Professor John Boland and his team will have significant impact on development of flexible electronics;
  • First clinical use of a 3D porous scaffold resulting in regeneration of jaw tissue. The racehorse operated on with this novel implant has returned to successful racing and the research group led by Prof Fergal O’Brien are planning human trials soon.
  • Novel ‘in-theatre’ cell based approaches to cartilage regeneration: Prof Daniel Kelly’s lab have demonstrated that it is possible to use cells rapidly isolated from fatty tissue found in the knee to ‘engineer’ cartilage grafts for joint regeneration.
  • Professor Valeria Nicolosi’s research on 2D materials has resulted in the first ink-jet printed supercapacitor device for energy storage. The prototype device appears flexible, transparent and shows excellent storage behavior. Ink-jet printed energy storage devices produced by this method could be used in food packaging, electronics
  • AMBER researchers develop multilevel memory for consumer electronics, the discovery opens up a host of possibilities for the consumer - leading to smaller, cheaper and faster electronics;
  • AMBER spin-out, Adama Innovations Ltd, secured €750,000 in seed-funding to scale up their production of the nanoscale probe fabricated from diamond, which will provide a greater understanding of materials;
  • Active public engagement programme with over 9000 primary and secondary school students reached through programmes like NanoWoW, schools competitions and researchers nights.

*The bone repair technology case study has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine, a leading specialist journal in the field.


For further information please contact:

Aoife VanWolvelaere/Claire Keane


01 6789333 / claire.keane@edelman.comNotes to Editors:


AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) is a Science Foundation Ireland funded centre which provides a partnership between leading researchers in material science and industry to develop new materials and devices for a range of sectors, particularly the ICT, medical devices and industrial technology sectors. The centre is hosted in Trinity College Dublin, working in collaboration with CRANN (Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices), the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering and with University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.