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Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer announce exciting new R&D programme for Ireland

Funding awarded to researchers in Ireland to find potential new therapies for patients of unmet needs

Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer today announced the recipients of the 2016 SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme. The collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer provides qualified academic researchers with an opportunity to deliver important potential discoveries in the areas of immunology, oncology, cardiovascular and rare diseases.

Supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award programme has awarded funding to researchers from across three academic institutions in Ireland including the Royal College Surgeons (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC) and University College Dublin (UCD).

In addition to the funding, academic researchers will have the unique opportunity to work with the Pfizer Global Biotherapeutics Technology (GBT) group, at Grangecastle in Dublin, as well as Pfizer’s R&D innovation engine, the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation. The teams’ research will focus on the application of cutting edge technologies for next generation protein therapies.

Speaking at the announcement, Mr Damien English, TD, Minister for Research, Skills and Innovation, said: “The collaboration between Science Foundation Ireland and Pfizer is an excellent example of how government, industry and academia can work together and share knowledge that could lead to the development of new medical breakthroughs not only for Irish patients but for patients worldwide. The Government continues to encourage and welcome programmes that offer opportunities in research and development in Ireland. Innovative partnerships and meaningful collaboration between industry and academia like this also help to build Ireland's reputation internationally as a location for excellent scientific research."

Commenting at the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “We are delighted to continue this successful partnership with Pfizer to support innovative research and development that could help deliver significant advances in critical areas of medical need. The success of the award programme is a reflection of the quality and relevance of academic scientific research in Ireland – excellence and impact.”

Commenting on the announcement, Dr. Paul Duffy, Vice President, Biopharmaceutical Operations and External Supply, Pfizer said, “Pfizer are delighted with the continued collaboration with Science Foundation Ireland. As an organisation we are focused on delivering innovative therapies that significantly improve patients' lives and investment in early stage research is critical to achieving this. Collaborations between industry and academia remain key in helping to expedite the translation of scientific discoveries into breakthrough therapies that matter for patients in need.”

In 2015, five proposals representing four institutions across Ireland were awarded similar funding. Over the past year the researchers have worked in collaboration with Pfizer colleagues on potential new therapies for diseases including haemophilia, fibrosis, Motor Neuron Disease, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. A number of these programmes are advancing and are on track to reaching their goals.


The recipients of the SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award are:

  • Prof Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin – Prof Steinhoff leads a translational research team attempting to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying skin inflammation and associated chronic itch, for which there remains a significant unmet clinical need. The team hopes to generate targeting molecules that block the activation of key players in these inflammatory pathways.


  • Dr Anne Moore, University College Cork – The remit of Dr Moore’s group is to develop and translate innovative therapies that modulate immune function. Mounting evidence from recent clinical studies demonstrates that harnessing the body’s own immune response to kill tumour cells can be a very effective mechanism to treat cancer. This collaboration aims to develop a novel strategy that enhances the body’s natural anti-tumour response.


  • Dr Leonie Young and Prof Arnold Hill, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland – Dr Young and Prof Arnold Hill are interested in the underlying mechanisms that control breast cancer resistance to traditional chemotherapeutics. Their aim is to use pre-clinical models, clinical datasets and breast cancer patient samples to better characterize, and effectively target, treatment resistant breast cancers.




About the 2015 SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award.

The recipients of the 2015 SFI-Pfizer Biotherapeutics Innovation Award:

  • Professor James O’Donnell, Trinity College Dublin - Professor O’Donnell’s research focuses on the discovery of a therapy for Haemophilia A, an inherited disease which results in uncontrolled bleeding. It is hoped that the therapy will improve patients’ quality of life and improve disease management.
  • Professor Padraic Fallon, Trinity College Dublin - Professor Fallon is seeking to develop a therapy that will modify the immune response to prevent fibrosis or scarring of organs after an immune attack, which can occur from diseases including asthma, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and liver cirrhosis.
  • Professor Jochen Prehn, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland - Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating and fatal neurological condition with no cure. Professor Prehn’s research is focused on developing a new therapy that is hoped will increase patients’ lifespan and motor function, leading to an increase in quality of life.   
  • Professor Paul Moynagh, NUI Maynooth - Uncontrolled inflammation causes diseases like Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Moynagh’s research programme aims to develop potential new drugs that may treat some of these currently incurable inflammatory diseases.
  • Professor Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin - Professor Steinhoff’s research focuses on severe skin diseases caused by inflammation, for which he hopes to develop a new therapy that targets the immune response.


For further information contact:

Science Foundation Ireland

Niamh Bradley or Alva O’Cleirigh

01-6073228/086-0271744 or 01 607 3249/087-9152553 or



Caoimhe Graham

Direct: +353-(0)1-4676631 and Mob:   +353-87-206 2803



About Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy.  See

About Pfizer and R&D

Pfizer focuses R&D on core areas where we believe Pfizer is best positioned to bring unique, needed therapies to patients.  These areas include chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, vaccines, oncology, neuroscience and pain, cardiovascular and metabolic disease and rare diseases.  Key to our approach is collaborating in new and dynamic ways with other innovators across the health landscape, including academic scientists, patient foundations, governments, other biopharmaceutical companies and treating physicians. Pfizer’s pipeline currently comprises over 80 innovative therapies, including potentially first-in-class vaccines for two deadly hospital-acquired infections, new antibodies for lupus and high cholesterol and the next-generation of targeted therapies for cancer.

About Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI)

CTI is part of Pfizer’s Worldwide R&D division. It is an entrepreneurial group that partners with academic medical centers, foundations, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health with the goal of translating promising science into clinical candidates. CTI was founded on a collaborative model, with shared decision making and aligned incentives. The model brings together academic researchers, foundations, and Pfizer’s own scientists with a shared focus on making the discovery of medicines more efficient. The ultimate goal of each collaborative project is to identify and validate a drug candidate that can be moved into further clinical testing. To learn more, visit


About Pfizer in Ireland

Pfizer employs approximately 3,300 people at seven sites in Ireland across manufacturing, shared services, R&D, treasury and commercial operations.  Pfizer has invested $7 billion in operations in Ireland since opening the first site in 1969 and has invested $330 million in the Grange Castle and Ringaskiddy sites in the last two years.  Many of Pfizer’s leading medicines are manufactured for global export from Irish sites.  The Global Biotherapeutics Technology group at Grange Castle was established in 2006 and is part of a world-leading protein drug discovery unit within Pfizer Worldwide R&D.