Irish microbiota research centre to receive €50m boost

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

[Left to right]: Prof Gerald Fitzgerald, APC deputy director; Prof Gerry Boyle, director Teagasc; Sean Sherlock, TD, minister for science and innovation; prof Fergus Shanahan, director APC; Dr Sally Cudmore, APC general manager; prof Mark Ferguson, director General, Science Foundation Ireland and chief science advisor to the Irish Government; Dr Michael Murphy, president UCC
[Left to right]: Prof Gerald Fitzgerald, APC deputy director; Prof Gerry Boyle, director Teagasc; Sean Sherlock, TD, minister for science and innovation; prof Fergus Shanahan, director APC; Dr Sally Cudmore, APC general manager; prof Mark Ferguson, director General, Science Foundation Ireland and chief science advisor to the Irish Government; Dr Michael Murphy, president UCC

Related tags: Nutrition

The Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) in Cork, Ireland has received a €36m investment from the Irish government that will fund its research activities for at least another six years, its GM told us this morning.

A further €14m is expected to be invested in the centre by industry over the course of the next six years that performs research in areas like mood and food and the brain-gut axis.

General manager Dr Sally Scudmore told us the centre was one of seven that received funding from the Irish government via its Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), and the only one operating strictly in the food area.

“Some people would call us a probiotic centre but we are much broader than that,” ​she said of the operation that has about 140 researchers

“We have interest in everything from probiotics to essential fatty acids to antimicrobials. We have a very broad remit. We are also interested in animal nutrition for instance.”

Open collaboration

She said companies like Irish player the Kerry Group was already onboard, along with pharma and diagnostics companies, but noted membership was not restricted to Irish companies and new companies were welcome to join the project.

Kerry Group CEO Stan McCarthy said, “This research collaboration is consistent with our mission statement, and our emphasis on technology, which is critical for our global business in the long term.”

Other firms involved in the project include Wyeth Nutrition, Alimentary Health, Second Genome, Trino Therapeutics and Sigmoid Pharma.

One example of frontier research emerging from the centre was a probiotic strain that a study had shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects.

Dr Scudmore said the centre was about developing ingredients that could have commercial value, but that at the same time it did not ignore the regulatory climate that meant not a single probiotic health claim is approved in the EU at this moment in time.

"But where it gets to the stage where there is a strong benefit for a particular strain we would look at licensing the intellectual property rather than going after a health claim our self."

"We have also spun out a company called Atlantia Food CRO that also does clinical trials for companies specifically looking at winning health claims."

Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI said: “The APC is a world leader in the area of probiotics research and we are confident of its continued success. We expect that APC will expand and further leverage this initial investment through successful applications to the EU and by developing additional academic and industry partners in Ireland and internationally.”

More about the centre can be found here​.

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