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2011-07-05: Cancer researcher receives NovaUCD 2011 Innovation Award

Professor William Gallagher, a leading cancer biology researcher in the UCD Conway Institute, and the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, has been presented with the NovaUCD 2011 Innovation Award.

1 in 3 people in Europe and the US will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime, a rate which is expected to increase into the future. While the management of cancer patients has improved significantly, the availability of reliable biomarkers, or indicators, of the therapeutic response of patients to cancer treatments and their prognosis is a key outstanding issue.

Professor William Gallagher with his daughter Kate, aged 3, at the NovaUCD 2011 Innovation Awards

A major focus of Professor Gallagher’s research at University College Dublin has been on the identification and validation of candidate biomarkers of breast cancer and melanoma and the translation of his research results into clinically relevant assays or tests which can help to improve the quality-of-life of cancer patients.

Arising from his research, Professor Gallagher has 7 invention disclosures, 5 priority patent applications, 1 executed license with another license pending. In 2007, he established OncoMark, a UCD spin-out company, with Stephen Penney, to support cancer drug development through tissue-based biomarker development and validation. The company currently employs 12 people.

To date, OncoMark has secured over €3.5 million in research funding from European Framework 7 (FP7) Programmes and has embarked on its own biomarker discovery programme whilst also in-licensing technologies for validation and product development. OncoMark, which also provides digital pathology and tissue processing services to pharma and biotech industry, plans to double its workforce by 2013.

“William Gallagher is an absolute dynamo and epitomises everything this university is trying to achieve in terms of translating high-quality scientific discovery into patents and ultimately, commercial innovations,” said Dr Hugh Brady, the President of University College Dublin, who presented the award.

“The award acknowledges him as an excellent role model for young scholars and academics as he combines excellence in teaching and in research with a strong commitment to and track record in innovation and the successful commercialisation of his research-generated intellectual property for the benefit of society and the economy.”

Professor Gallagher has secured over €17 million in research funding as principal investigator within University College Dublin from Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, the Health Research Board of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the European Commission.

Professor Gallagher is co-ordinator of a large-scale FP7 collaborative project, entitled RATHER, which is focused on providing new rationalised therapy options for difficult-to-treat breast cancer subtypes. This €6 million project involves 6 academic groups and 2 industrial parties, including Agendia, a Dutch molecular diagnostics company, across 5 European countries.

“Given the strength of the pipeline of invention disclosures and patents that William is generating, it is reasonable to assume that his efforts will result in further commercial success in the years ahead,” said Dr Pat Frain, Director of NovaUCD.

Professor Gallagher is also co-ordinator of the Target-Melanoma consortium, which in 2009 received over €1.7 million in funding as part of the Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways Programme. The focus of Target-Melanoma, which involves 7 partners (5 academic and 2 industrial partners, including Cellix, a TCD spin-out company) from across 5 European countries, is to identify and validate novel molecular determinants of melanoma progression.

The NovaUCD Innovation Award was established in 2004 to highlight UCD’s commitment to innovation. It is presented annually to an individual, company or organisation or group in recognition of excellence in innovation or of success achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity

NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, is the hub of innovation and knowledge transfer activities at University College Dublin. NovaUCD is responsible for the commercialisation of intellectual property arising from UCD research and for the development of co-operation with industry and business. It has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.